Just Because You Can, Doesn’t Mean You Should!
In her latest blog post, Liz Ward of UK200Group member firm Virtuoso Legal, outlines some of the potential pitfalls of self-filing claims.
It is very tempting sometimes to do things yourself as a business owner... Armed with a little knowledge and the internet - it's amazing what you can learn! But in reality, litigation is truly a dark art and can go disastrously wrong quite easily.
We've seen a big increase in people self-filing claims (or in receipt of claims) using the Court's money online issue service. The online portal is intended for people to recover money themselves, rather than pay for lawyers or debt recover people to advance a claim. However, don't be fooled. Whilst it's quite a straight forward thing to use, it often remains a difficult way to actually get paid. We've even seen debt recovery companies get it wrong.
So here are a few common mistakes to avoid.
1. Suing the wrong entity. Before you make a claim ensure that you or your company are the right claimant; and that whoever you intend to recover money from is the right defendant. It may seem obvious, but it is by far and away the most common mistake we see.
2. Making the right claim. We've seen all kinds of claims made by people which have no legal basis. For example, you can't normally claim for losses that you haven't actually incurred because someone hasn't paid you. Also, if you're relying on contract terms then you must attach a copy of the relevant contract and invoices. NB – your contract terms should be professionally drafted. That way you maximise the chance of recovering what is due without argument!
3. Claiming the right amount. Check whether or not you've included all the invoices your claim should include. Check when payment became due under your contract terms. Double check that you've written a proper debt collection letter in line with the CPR - and that any claims are fully set out in such a letter.
4. Is the claim suitable for the money online service? We have seen some IP claims issued using this service (although to be fair - it is rare), What is more common is debt collection agencies threatening this route after they've issued a letter claiming fixed fee for usage (e.g. for a photograph from a stock library). There are multiple problems in agencies doing that - not least of which is that it is rarely a liquidated damages claim as they make out in their letters before action.
Many years ago I was given some sound advice in business which was: "always get a good lawyer or account to help you make the right decisions in business". Of course, like most of us, I ignored that advice until it bit me! It cost me dearly, and my education was an expensive one. I now have a fantastic accountant, and if I need a good lawyer, I'll go to an expert (tip: not just a lawyer friend, but an objective outsider). We see non-experts' sub-par attempts in the IP field every day. But it means we get excellent results, where other lawyers have failed (and even where our case is less than solid). Good advice often costs less than you think (and can save you a small fortune in the long run). So, if you need about intellectual property in business help, then do let us know!
Elizabeth M Ward
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