England and Wales ‘Court Tracks’
The Difference Between the Small Claims, Fast and Multi Track
When you issue a claim and the defendant responds, the court has to allocate a "track" that will deliver it to trial efficiently, expeditiously and having regard for proportionally.
A track represents a process that your case must go through before you get to a hearing.
There are three types of tracks referred to in the civil procedure rules; small claims, fast track, and multi-track.
Should the case involve sums below £10,000 in England and Wales, it is likely to be allocated to small claims track, as these types of cases are usually simpler to deal with. In some cases (dependant on how busy the courts are) a hearing will usually take place within the first 6 months. The court can also attempt to settle the dispute by way of mediation which is often done over the phone (this service is free of charge).
Mutual exchange of the witness statements with the supporting evidence is required and they should be exchanged at least 2 weeks before the hearing. The hearing usually lasts half a day. When it comes to small claims track, no costs are generally awarded to the successful party except the court fees.
Fast Track is reserved for claims between £10,000-£25,000 and the hearing generally only lasts for 1 day and usually it takes up to a year to reach it.
Multi Track [MT]
In the Multi Track system claims are dealt with which exceed £25,000. However should the issue be complex they may be moved to this track to ensure justice is given every opportunity.
Usually MT cases take more than a day to hear and depending on the complexity of the case, it can take anywhere between 1 and 3 years before it gets to court.
Nowadays the courts encourage mediation, however in MT both parties share the costs and mutually settle for a venue and mediator. Sometimes courts can suspend the proceedings for a month or two in order to assist the parties to reach a settlement.
Both parties are required to submit documents, witness statements and provide the opponents and the courts with the anticipated costs. When these costs are agreed upon, usually both sides are limited to claim the sums, declared.
Also, parties are required to disclose all case-related documents, witness statements and expert reports before the hearing. A pre-trial checklist that confirms compliance to the rule will be delivered to the court and a Case Management Conference will take place to ensure compliance and readiness for the impending trial.
Only after all these steps are taken a hearing can take place. After the hearing, a successful party gets the costs; however, that's usually an average of 70% of their costs.