How to Sue a Company in the UK
By Joanne Hue, Updated: 2023-10-18 (published on 2023-09-14)
Legal action against a company means lodging a formal claim against the company or an employer.
Individuals may file a claim for various reasons, such as breach of contract, discrimination, or infringement of their rights. Regardless of the reason, the process can be complex and intimidating for many.
Companies often employ tactics to dissuade individuals from taking legal action, including job-related threats or using their financial clout to intimidate.
As a result, many people choose to abandon their legitimate claims. This article will explore the reasons for suing a company, the steps involved, and whether or not you should consult a solicitor.
Reasons to sue a company
If you need help with how to take legal action against a company, there are numerous grounds for doing so. Some of the common reasons are as follows:
- Unlawful termination of employment by the company.
- Experiencing harassment whilst employed by the company.
- Suffering harassment while visiting the company as a customer.
- Failure to pay salary or return owed funds.
- Infringement of intellectual property rights.
- Breach of contract or warranty.
Below, some of these reasons are discussed in greater detail:
Taking legal action for negligence
Negligence could cover a vast array, but the most common forms of negligence in court are the following:
- Employer Negligence: In the UK, all employers must comply with Health and Safety Executive regulations and other UK laws that protect employees. If an employer neglects to take reasonable precautions, they may be negligent in ensuring a safe working environment. Reasons for this negligence could include faulty equipment, inadequate training, or insufficient background checks. In such cases, a standard lawsuit is usually not the proper channel for redress; instead, a worker’s compensation claim should be filed.
- Professional Negligence: Companies providing professional advice or services have a duty of care to adhere to industry standards. If they fail to do so and consumers suffer, they could be liable for professional negligence. Examples include legal, medical, or financial negligence. Establishing liability requires proving the company had a duty of care, breached that duty, and caused foreseeable damage.
Taking legal action for product liability
When a consumer purchases a product, they expect it to function as advertised and not cause harm.
However, consumers sometimes take legal action for unsafe and defective products.
According to the Consumer Rights Act, products must meet the following criteria:
- Satisfactory Quality: The goods should meet a reasonable person’s standard.
- Fit for Purpose: If a specific purpose for the goods has been indicated, they must be fit for that purpose.
- Match the Description, Sample, or Model: The product must conform to any description, sample, or model provided.
These rules also apply to digital content like games and apps.
Liability for faulty products
Companies are responsible for ensuring their products meet safety standards before production. If a product fails to meet any of the above criteria, the retailer is in breach of the Consumer Rights Act. The action will be against the retailer, not the manufacturer.
Date of purchase
- For goods bought on or after 1 October 2015, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 applies.
- For goods purchased on or before 30 September 2015, the Sale of Goods Act 1979 applies.
The 2015 Act provides various remedies, including the short-term right to reject, repair or replacement, price reduction, and the final right to reject.
How do you sue a company? The legal steps
If an out-of-court settlement isn’t viable, the steps below outline how to proceed with legal action:
- Identify who is liable: The first step is to establish who is legally responsible for your claim, whether it’s the employer, the company, or a third party involved in the case.
- Research and Document the Issue: Gather all pertinent information and evidence about your claim. This could include emails, contracts, or any forms of communication, photographs, and witness statements.
- Determine the jurisdiction: This refers to the geographic area where the claim can be filed. This may be where the company operates or where the incident occurred.
- Consult Pre-Action Protocols: Before taking a case to court, it’s often required to follow specific pre-action protocols which include sending a formal “Letter Before Action” to the opposing party outlining your claim.
- Estimate the compensation amount: Calculate the amount of damages you’re looking to claim. This can include the cost of legal fees, loss of earnings due to the issue, and any psychological or physical harm suffered.
- Draft a demand letter: Write a formal letter to the defendant outlining your case and the damages you claim. This letter serves as a final offer to settle the matter before taking it to court.
- Consult Legal Advice: Although this step is optional, consulting a solicitor can offer you valuable insights into the strength of your case and guide you through the complex legal process.
- Complete court forms: Depending on your jurisdiction and the nature of your case, various court forms will need to be completed. This often involves filling out a Claim Form and Particulars of Claim.
- Pay the court fees: There is typically a fee associated with filing a court case, which varies depending on the type of claim and the amount claimed.
- Register the case with the court: Once the appropriate forms are completed and fees are paid, you’ll need to officially file your case with the court.
- Obtain a court date: After the case is registered, a date will be set for your hearing.
- Serve the documents: All the legal documents related to the case, including your claim form and particulars of claim, must be formally served to the defendant. This usually must be done within a specific timeframe and in accordance with court rules.
- Await Response: The defendant has a period to respond to your claim, either admitting fault and agreeing to the damages or contesting the case.
- Prepare for court: If the defendant disputes the claim, you’ll need to prepare for a court hearing. This involves collecting all your evidence, possibly hiring expert witnesses, and maybe even conducting pre-trial depositions.
Engaging a solicitor to sue the company
If you decide that the complexities of your case warrant legal representation, the following steps are often involved:
- Identify who is liable: Just like in the first scenario, determine who is responsible for the damages you’re claiming.
- Research Potential Solicitors: Look for a solicitor who specializes in the area of law relevant to your case.
- Initial Consultation: Many solicitors offer a free or low-cost initial consultation to discuss the basics of your case and whether it has merit.
- Agree on Fees: If you decide to proceed, discuss and agree upon fees or other payment arrangements.
- Provide Evidence: Give all the relevant information and evidence to your solicitor, who will then go about building your case.
- Draft a Letter Before Action: Your solicitor will typically draft a “Letter Before Action” as a formal first step in the legal process.
- Negotiation and Mediation: The solicitor may attempt to negotiate a settlement with the opposing party. If this fails, third-party mediation may be explored as an option before going to court.
- File the Claim: If a settlement can’t be reached, your solicitor will file the necessary paperwork to initiate a court case.
- Court Proceedings: Your solicitor will represent you in court, making the case for your claim and examining witnesses if necessary.
- Post-Trial Steps: After judgment, your solicitor can assist with collecting damages or filing for appeals, if applicable.
Do I need a solicitor?
Although you have the right to represent yourself, navigating the legal process can be daunting. Companies usually have extensive resources, including a legal team, which can put you at a disadvantage. Consulting a solicitor can level the playing field and improve your chances of a successful claim.
Cost of taking legal action
The cost of taking legal action varies widely based on several factors. These include the type of claim, whether or not you engage a solicitor, court fees, and potentially the costs of expert witnesses or additional evidential support.
As such, giving a one-size-fits-all estimate for the cost is impossible.