- Review what was initially agreed between you, and how clear that agreement was. Scope of works, programme & costs
- Clarify how the other party has failed to live up to the agreement; consider to what extent you may have contributed.
- Accurately assess the costs you have incurred as a consequence; consider any loss they may claim to have suffered.
- Prepare and collate written evidence (e.g. contracts, correspondence, meeting minutes and witness statements). What happened and when.
- Where possible, always try to negotiate an amicable resolution. Keep accurate records of negotiations including copies of letters, e-mails etc and file notes of conversations held.
- Assess the other party’s ability to pay the sum involved, for example, by running a credit check (including records of outstanding county court judgments).
- Take legal advice unless the dispute is straightforward.
- Assess whether on ‘the balance of probabilities’ you have a strong case. How clear is the legal position and the evidence? Assess the risks of a counterclaim or losing in court.
- Clarify and understand the costs and timescales involved in taking the recommended form of legal action. Is it is worth pursuing?
- Consider how far you are prepared to compromise either by accepting stage payments or partial payment for a quick resolution.
- Either abandon the claim, or inform the other party in writing of your intention to take legal action; always follow the appropriate procedure.
- Always track progress and legal costs as the case proceeds.
- Always be prepared to compromise. Accept any sensible or reasonable offers to avoid further protracted delays, further disruption to your business, the risk of court action and the inevitable rising costs.
- After a successful court case, be prepared to enforce judgment to obtain payment if necessary
The Cardinal Rules
- try to negotiate an amicable resolution where possible
- assess whether you have a strong case
- decide whether you need legal and professional advice
- be prepared for a protracted and costly process if you pursue legal action.
- accept a reasonable offer rather than going to court
- consider the effect on your business.
- waste time and money pursuing someone who cannot pay
- refuse to compromise
- ignore the risks of losing any legal action