The courts are now strongly encouraging parties to try to resolve disputes without involving the court. If it appears that either party has not taken sufficient steps to try to resolve the dispute before it goes to court, the judge can penalise that party, even it wins the case. From a claimant’s point of view, it is therefore invariably necessary to write a letter before action, which should, in general terms:
- include a summary of your claim, including any important facts upon which you rely;
- set out what you wish the other party to do as a result of your letter (e.g. pay compensation or do or refrain from doing certain actions);
- if you are claiming compensation, provide a summary of the loss that you have suffered as a result of the problem;
- enclose copies of any documents that will help the other party to understand your claim and which might support your claim for compensation;
- include an invitation to the other party to consider using mediation if they are not prepared to negotiate;
- give a reasonable time period for the other party to respond – usually 14 days – sometimes longer;
- if the other party has documents which you need to see, include a request for copies;
- give a warning that, if no satisfactory response is received, you intend to issue court proceedings.
In more complex or specialist cases it may be necessary to include other information in order to comply with the "Pre-Action Protocol" set out in the Civil Procedure Rules. For further help and a sample letter for a straightforward claim, see the the CAB website.