Saturday, 12 November 2016

Sleepwalking into disaster - never ignore a claim form

The Prankster has received the following email (edited slightly for clarity)

I have received a Claim Form from the count court. I was therefore wondering what to do?? Given the number of these that BW Legal must send out monthly, how can they possibly pursue all of them - the courts must be totally overloaded with them!?

I am happy to go to court and argue the case, mainly because I trust that a judge will uphold the law and apply some common sense to the matter. However, I am simply trying to ascertain the likelihood of that actually happening, and whether I am wise to continue to ignore their letters on these grounds, or whether I should formally acknowledge their contact and refuse to pay?

Sadly this is typical of many such emails. Many people also say they do not believe the claim form is valid because the paper quality is poor, or that it has not been affixed with a proper seal from the courts.

Parking companies love people like that. The sad truth of the matter is that if you ignore the claim form, the parking company will apply for and get a default judgment. This is then enforceable and if you do not pay, fees rack up and you have a CCJ against your name for 6 years.

What to do?

You should therefore either pay up, or defend the claim. Typically costs only go up by £25 hearing fee if you defend, so if you believe you have a case defending is often the sensible way forward, and you are not risking much. Even though you are up against legal 'professionals', parking companies use firms such as Gladstones Solicitors and BW Legal who have been proven to be incompetent, slapdash, and to have a poor understanding of the law.

The more disreputable parking companies and solicitors will also pad the claim with amounts they know will not be allowed in court. This is because if they a default judgment, the motorist will have to pay these.

This means that if say, one of the more disreputable firms like Gladstones Solicitors file a claim for a charge of £150, if it goes to a hearing and the motorist lose most judges will only allow £100. Thus, it is financially better to defend the claim rather than pay up as although you will have incurred a £25 hearing fee, you will get £50 knocked off the amount.

Alternatively, if you believe the £100 parking charge is valid, you can admit that part of the claim, but dispute the artificial charge which Gladstones add. In that case any hearing would be only about the validity of the extra charge.

Lastly it is worth pointing out that you cannot add defence points later. Your initial defence should therefore raise all points of dispute. You can expand on these at a later time, but not add new points. For instance, if you claim the signage is poor and therefore no contract was in place, you can at a later time add evidence such as maps, videos and photographs to back this up, plus references to codes of practice and signage requirements, and also transcripts of court cases relating to signage forming a contract.

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster