The pre-action protocols set out the requirements with which the court will expect each party to potential litigation to comply before proceedings are issued.

The protocols are designed to:-

  • Focus the attention of the parties on resolving disputes without court proceedings.
  • Enable parties to exchange information about a prospective claim which might allow them to:-
    • Understand the issues in question and make informed decisions about next steps; and
    • Make appropriate offers to settle.
  • Support the efficient management of proceedings by the court and the parties to potential litigation where settlement cannot be achieved.

There are pre-action protocols for a limited number of specific types of claim, including Defamation, Personal Injury and Judicial Review. However, if a specific protocol does not apply, the parties must comply with the provisions of the Practice Direction on Pre-action Conduct and Protocols.

The Practice Direction sets out a timetable for the preliminary steps which claimants and defendants are required to take before civil proceedings are commenced, including the requirements of the letter before claim and the defendant’s acknowledgement and response.

There are consequences for failure to comply with the pre-action protocols. The court may stay the proceedings pending compliance with the pre-action protocol, make an adverse costs order against the party in default or deprive a party at fault of interest due on a sum of money subsequently awarded.