Under Part 6 of the Civil Procedure Rules 1996 (CPR) when a Claim Form has been served on a Defendant, the Defendant has 14 days to respond from the date of service. The Defendant must either:
1. Admit the whole of the claim; (for example agreeing that a payment should be made)
2. Dispute the whole of the claim; (e.g. disputing liability for the claim) or
3. Dispute part of the claim (e.g. admitting liability but disputing the sum of the claim)
If the Defendant intends to dispute any part of the claim but does not respond to the Claim Form by either filing an Acknowledgement of Service or Defence within the 14 days, the Claimant may obtain Default Judgment against the Defendant (Part 12 CPR).
For example further to a road traffic accident the Claimant may issue Court proceedings to recover his damages, if the Defendant does not respond to the Claim Form within 14 days of service the Claimant can enter Judgment in default against the Defendant regardless of whether liability for the accident is admitted or disputed by the Defendant.
Where a Defendant has not responded and Judgment has been filed by the Claimant, the Court will automatically find in favour of the Claimant, without a trial taking place. If the Defendant wants to contest liability he will then have to make an Application to the Court to get Judgment set aside (Part 13 CPR).
It is therefore extremely important if you receive a Claim Form to respond to the Court within the given time. If you are not legally qualified you should consult a Solicitor or your local Citizen's Advice Bureau (CAB).
Where an Acknowledgement of Service is filed, the Defendant is given a further 14 days to submit a Defence to the Claimant's claim. Filing the Acknowledgement therefore gives the Defendant 28 days in total from the deemed date of service to file a Defence. This is particularly a good option where the Defendant needs to seek legal advice or a solicitor needs to take further instructions from their client before finalising the Defence.
When is the deemed date of service?
This may differ in certain cases so it is worth checking what information is included with the Claim Form and in practice on receipt of a Claim Form a Solicitor will telephone the Court to confirm this.
Prior to the implementation of The Civil Procedure (Amendment) Rules 2008, the deemed date of service for a Claim Form served by post was the second day after posting. i.e. if the date of posting was 25th June, the Claim Form would be deemed served on 27th June.
The rules as amended in 2008 however now provide that service does not occur until two “business days” after dispatch and therefore weekends are no longer counted. i.e. if a Claim Form was issued on a Thursday, the deemed date of service would not be until the following Monday. This rule applies regardless of the means used to serve a Claim Form. Documents other than a Claim Form are deemed served 2 days after dispatch regardless of the method.
One particular case I have come across that is slightly different to the above is where the Claim Form has been issued by the County Court Bulk Centre. In this case the included information provides the date of service as 5 days after the issue date detailed on the Claim Form. Proceedings issued from the Bulk Centre are usually simple debt collection matters which in the main is undefended.
Further information can be found on HMCS's website