Civil claims concern any dispute going before a court or a tribunal other than crime, matrimonial, family and employment disputes. These commonly arise where someone accuses someone else of acting unlawfully rather than illegally. There are two main civil courts in England and Wales, the County Court and High Court. The vast bulk of civil disputes proceed through the County Court, the High Court only dealing with ?? (gap) or high value claims.
The County Court is divided into three parts known as tracks. Normally for claims up to £10,000 in value where there is no particular complexity the case will be dealt with in the small claims track. This involves simpler procedure leading to a one or two hour hearing before a District Judge who makes his or her decision and any orders on the day. Claims worth between £10,000 and £25,000 normally proceed in the fastrak where a timetable is set for relevant documents to be disclosed, statements to be exchanged, any experts to provide their reports and then a final hearing of up to a day. Claims which are more complex, of higher value or likely to require significantly more than one day are normally dealt with in the multi-track. This involves a similar procedure to the fastrak but the proceedings will tend to take twice as long. Often these cases are heard at the end by a Circuit Judge rather than a District Judge. Once a defence has been filed the court will decide which track is appropriate and will set deadlines accordingly.
In practice the County Court deals with almost all personal injury claims, neighbour and boundary disputes, mortgage and tenancy repossessions, building disputes, nuisance and consumer matters and bankruptcy.
Cases concerning Wills and Estates, trademark and copyright, commercial contracts, defamation and libel, judicial review as well as particularly high value and complex matters are generally dealt with in the High Court.
The way that the courts operate is primarily governed by the Civil Procedure Rules which are updated each year. There are also practice directions and specific guides for certain courts all of which are generally available on the internet.