Have you received a "statement of claim" in the mail and are not sure what to do with it? This could well be a valid legal document, and you should never simply ignore the situation but should get in touch with a lawyer for their advice instead. What is this statement, and what should you do?
Understanding the Statement
The statement of claim is normally the next step when another party has not received a satisfactory answer to their outstanding debt. In this case, they may have sent you invoices or a letter of demand, but these have not been satisfied for whatever reason.
Contract law does allow an organisation to pursue the matter through a court by launching a statement of claim. It is typically filed in court by a lawyer, and a hearing date is set to discuss the matter. Then, documentation will be sent out to the defendant, and there are certain rules about how these documents must be delivered or "served."
Within the Document
A statement of claim is broken up into separate sections but must outline the particulars or the reasons for the claim in the first place. The document will then claim that you have not satisfied your obligations and will set out what the plaintiff seeks in the form of relief. Usually, this will include the original amount, any interest due, their lawyer's fees and court costs. Various rules dictate how much they can actually claim, over and above the original amount.
Paying the Dues
You can take various courses of action here. If you agree with the amount and want to settle things right away, you can simply pay the amount claimed, which will automatically stop the proceedings.
Alternatively, you can inform the court that you would like to pay but that you need time in order to do so. They may then agree to set up an instalment arrangement, but this will also generate a judgement against you, which will be in the public record.
If you still feel that you have a reasonable relationship with the plaintiff, you may try to negotiate something else. For example, you may agree to pay a certain amount without fighting the case, so long as the statement of claim is technically withdrawn. In this case, you could avoid having a judgement against your name.
Defending the Claim
If you dispute the facts of the matter or believe that you don't owe the money (or part of it), you can set up a legal defense. You will need to include the grounds behind your claim and do this within a certain amount of time to avoid the risk of a default judgement.
You may also have other options, such as filing a counterclaim, but you may want to get legal advice about this before going ahead. Also, if you have any questions about the statement of claim that you simply cannot answer, or would like to discuss other legal options, talk with a debt collection lawyer.