COVID-19 And Ongoing Disputes During The Pandemic
As the UK and the rest of the world fights the COVID-19 pandemic, many aspects of everyday life have changed for many of us – but where does this leave those with any ongoing disputes to deal with?
Many aspects of life have to continue, even during this difficult time. The UK Government has designated access to justice as key work which must, as far as possible, continue.
Whilst there are some areas of the law which have been temporarily restricted, such as residential tenant evictions, other aspects of the civil court process are continuing.
Therefore, if you had already issued a claim at Court (or been served with a Claim issued against you by someone else) prior to the start of the pandemic crisis, your legal case will be continuing. It is important that you continue with the case otherwise it might be struck out by the Court meaning that you cannot continue with your claim. If you are currently defending a Claim issued against you, it is important that you continue with the litigation otherwise a Judgment might be entered against you if you miss an important step.
If the Court has issued you with a timetable of Directions you must comply with those steps and file and serve on the Court and the other party whatever documents the Court has ordered you to file such as your List of Documents and your Witness Statement. It is possible to agree an extension of time to complete those tasks with the other party if you need a little more time.
If you have a Court hearing coming up this might be heard by the Judge on paper or by telephone or other forms of media to avoid the need for you having to attend in person at Court. Some hearings, including small claims hearing which are not urgent, might however be postponed by the Court.
If you were planning on starting a Claim but haven’t done so by the time the UK Government’s ‘stay at home’ measures began you can still continue with your planned litigation. The Courts are still processing claims and it might be that you will lose the right to start a claim if you wait until the pandemic has passed if your case has an up and coming limitation date.
The Courts are likely to be dealing with a backlog of cases as staff may not be able to work for being ill with the virus or having to self-isolate if someone in their household is ill and this backlog is likely to delay the processing of existing and new cases for a period of time even after life returns back to normal, whenever that might be. One view is therefore to continue with your planned litigation but expect the process to be a little bit slower than usual.
It may be that the financial impact of the crisis will make your opponent more inclined to reach a suitable negotiated settlement of the dispute than they might otherwise have done, and therefore there may be merit in beginning the process now rather than later. It is of course a matter for you whether you feel it is appropriate for you to embark upon the litigation process at this time. Jordans Solicitors can assist you with your current and new Claims if you feel you need some assistance navigating the litigation process.