When you think you’re in the right about something it’s natural to want to stand up for yourself. Disagreements do happen; sometimes people fall out and can’t sort things between themselves.

Taking a problem to court can be a way of sorting things out. If you start a court case and it goes all the way through court proceedings, a judge will listen to both sides of the story and decide what should happen.

Trying to resolve problems before going to court

Court proceedings can be expensive, take a long time and many people find them stressful. It is sensible to always try to sort out your problem in a different way first before you start court proceedings.

You can try writing or speaking directly to the person or organisation you are unhappy with. You should explain your point of view and be clear about what you would like to happen to sort out the problem. If your issue is with an organisation, they might have a formal complaints process that you can use to help resolve the matter.

Alternatives to going to court

There are other things you could try before starting a claim in court. You can find out more about these other things on the Advice Nowwebsite.

If you are a consumer and have an issue with a business, there is more information available on the Citizens Advice website.

You may also want to talk through your situation with a lawyer and get some advice about the best way to sort out your situation. Sometimes lawyers may be able to contact the person or business you have the problem with on your behalf. They might be able to get things sorted without the need to go to court.

Before you start court proceedings

Before you start a court case, there are important things to think about and find out. Going to court may look easy enough to handle on your own, but you may feel differently when you realise what is involved.

You should always consider if your issue is serious or complicated enough to require professional help. See our Types of lawyers section for more information on who you might turn to for advice.

Taking court proceedings on your own

If you decide to take court proceedings on your own you can find more information on our I want to represent myself in court section. You can also find out what you have to do at each of the main stages in the court process from this Citizens Advice guide Going to court without a solicitor or barrister.


Starting court proceedings

There are different courts that deal with different types of claim. For information on starting a claim, please follow the relevant section:

  • Making a personal injury claim
  • Making a low-value claim
  • Making a high-value claim

The Citizens Advice guide to Before You Take Someone to Court can help you.

After thinking about the alternative ways to try and sort out your problem, if you decide to start court proceedings, essential information you need to understand can be found in the Citizens Advice guide to making a small claim.  There are some matters where there is a time deadline that you must meet to start a court case. There can also be more time deadlines during the court proceedings.

Even if you start court proceedings you may be able to sort out your problem without the proceedings going all the way through to a final hearing before a judge. Or, you may find that you can agree on some parts of the dispute even if you can’t agree on everything. If you can do this then it will probably cut down the time and costs involved.

The Government’s guide ‘Make a court claim for money‘ is another good place to start.

If you do not understand any part of the court proceedings, or what you need to do, then get legal advice straight away. To learn about the ways you could get free advice, look at our information about getting free legal advice.

If you decide to use a lawyer to help you with the court process, they will explain exactly what will happen and when. You can find out more about the different types of lawyer on our  types of lawyers page.

You can also find out more about court hearings and making appeals against a court decision in this Advice Now guide Going to Court: Hearings, the trial and appeals.

More on taking someone to court