If you find yourself involved in a small claims dispute in the civil courts, you may be interested in a free service known as the Small Claims Mediation Service.
Introducing the Small Claims Mediation Service
As its name suggests, the Small Claims Mediation Service exists to help parties to attempt to resolve a small claims dispute without it going to court. For these purposes, a small claim is defined as a money claim for below £10,000.
It is important to appreciate, first of all, that a mediator is not a judge. They are not responsible, in other words, for deciding who is right or wrong, and they do not take sides.
They may not be very knowledgeable about the claim, and are often not trained in law or possess any particular legal expertise. Instead, mediators are known for their negotiating skills, which enable them to assist the parties in disputes to reach settlement terms.
The mediator will seek to break down barriers between the parties and encourage them to outline what it is that each of them is seeking. This will then allow the mediator to explore whether any middle ground exists that could create scope for a deal to be struck.
Mediation is a route with a proven track record of helping parties involved in small claims disputes to resolve their disagreement and reach terms of settlement, as an alternative to going all the way to trial. While it is by no means guaranteed that any given claim will settle at mediation, many claims do.
When should you consider using this service?
It is best for mediation to take place at the earliest opportunity, for the benefit of everyone concerned. The settlement of a case after a defence has been filed will mean there is no need for witness statements and documents to be prepared, as well as – of course – the trial itself.
Successful mediation will therefore save time and expense for not only the two parties, but also the court service.
While judges cannot force parties in a small claims case to use the service, they can encourage the parties to take advantage of this alternative dispute resolution procedure.
As a general rule, it is recommended that the parties involved in a small claims dispute try this court-provided mediation service, not least given that it is – after all – free.
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4 March 2020