How to work out the size of your small claim

If you want to make a small claim but you're not sure how much to claim for, then overestimate slightly. Always issue your small claim for damages which are a little higher than you believe they are worth. This is because small claims judges have the power to award you less than you request, but they will never award you more.

It's easy to work out the exact amount you’re entitled to. Here are some examples of how the exact figure of a small claim may be calculated:

Contract disputes

To arrive at the exact figure for a contract small claim, work out the difference between the amount you were supposed to receive under the contract and what you actually received. For example, if 'A' was to paint 'B's house for £1,000, and 'B' only paid 'A' £750, 'A' has a claim against 'B' for £250.

Interest

You can claim interest on all money which is due to you, whether your small claim is for a fixed amount or for damages to be assessed. The interest rates are as follows:

  • If you have a contract which specifies how interest is charged, then you can rely upon this.
  • Otherwise, all debts carry interest at the judgment rate, which is currently eight per cent per annum.
  • Damages, once assessed, are awarded interest at a rate that the judge at the small claims court decides is reasonable.

Property damage

The exact amount of your small claim for property damage is usually the amount of money it would take to fix the damaged item. For example, if 'A's car was dented by 'B', 'A' would sue 'B' for the amount it would cost to repair it. To be safe, 'A' should get several estimates.

If the cost to repair the damaged item exceeds the value of the item, you may only be entitled to the value of the item. If the cost to fix 'A's dented car exceeds the market value of 'A's car before the accident, 'A' may only be entitled to sue 'B' for the market value of the car. This will depend upon other factors, such as whether the item is easily replaceable.

If you're only entitled to the fair market value of the item, you must deduct the value of the object after the injury. If the fair market value of 'A's car is £3,000 and it would cost £3,200 to repair the dent, 'A' may make a small claim for £3,000 (the value of the car). But the value of the car after the dent must be deducted from that amount. If 'A's car is now worth £500 with the dent, that amount must be deducted from the £3,000 fair market value of 'A's car. This means that 'A's damages are £2,500.

Damage to clothing

If your damaged clothing was new or almost new, make a small claim for its cost. For example, if your dry cleaners damaged your new £200 suit, make a small claim for £200. If your clothing wasn't new, make a small claim for the percentage of value of the clothing which reflects how worn it was when the damage occurred. For example, your dry cleaners damaged your suit which cost £200 two years ago. You have been wearing the suit fairly regularly and feel it would have lasted another two years. Since the suit had lost half of its useable life, you should make a small claim for £100.

Personal injury cases

Personal injury matters rarely make it to the small claims court because they can only be dealt with as a small claim where the total claim is less than £5,000. And, out of the £5,000, no more than £1,000 should be claimed for the pain and suffering caused by the injury. So, your small claim could be dealt with by the small claims court, for example, if you claimed £2,000 for loss of earnings, £250 for damage to your clothing and £1,000 for a broken leg.

Pain and suffering

Pain and suffering is the discomfort and inconvenience caused as a result of your injury. The court calculates the amount of compensation by considering other cases of a similar nature.

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Published on: June 9, 2008

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