Defended claims are assigned to one of three tracks according to their value and complexity. Different sections of The Civil Procedure Rules govern each track and there may be significant differences between the tracks. Perhaps the most important refers to costs, which, with few exceptions, are not normally awarded on the small claims track.
The three tracks

In accordance with CPR 21.6, claims are allocated to one of three tracks, depending on a number of factors that are taken into account when the Court receives a defence. The amount claimed is usually the key determining factor.

Track allocation based on claim value

  • claims under £10,000 will normally be allocated to the small claims track;

  • claims between £10,000 and £25,000 to the fast track;

  • claims over £25,000 the multi-track.

Part 26 of the CPR

Scope of this Part


(1) This Part provides for –

(a) the automatic transfer of some defended cases in the High Court;

(a1) the circumstances in which defended cases may be sent from one County Court hearing centre or court office to another; and

(b) the allocation of defended cases to case management tracks.

(2) There are three tracks –

(a) the small claims track;

(b) the fast track; and

(c) the multi-track.

The Court also considers the complexity of the case, which means a claim under £10,000 may be allocated to the fast track. CPR 26.8 sets out the allocation criteria.

Matters relevant to allocation to a track


(1) When deciding the track for a claim, the matters to which the court shall have regard include –

(a) the financial value, if any, of the claim;

(b) the nature of the remedy sought;

(c) the likely complexity of the facts, law or evidence;

(d) the number of parties or likely parties;

(e) the value of any counterclaim or other Part 20 claim and the complexity of any matters relating to it;

(f) the amount of oral evidence which may be required;

(g) the importance of the claim to persons who are not parties to the proceedings;

(h) the views expressed by the parties; and

(i) the circumstances of the parties.

(2) It is for the court to assess the financial value of a claim and in doing so it will disregard –

(a) any amount not in dispute;

(b) any claim for interest;

(c) costs; and

(d) any contributory negligence.

Provisional allocation and directions questionnaire

In accordance with CPR 26.3, every defended claim gets provisionally allocated to the track that appears most suitable and the court will send each party a notice of proposed allocation and a directions questionnaire (this document was formerly known as “allocation questionnaire” (AQ)).

Directions questionnaire


(1) If a defendant files a defence –

(a) a court officer will –

(i) provisionally decide the track which appears to be most suitable for the claim; and

(ii) serve on each party a notice of proposed allocation; and

(b) the notice of proposed allocation will –

(i) specify any matter to be complied with by the date specified in the notice;

(ii) require the parties to file a completed directions questionnaire and serve copies on all other parties;

(iii) state the address of the court or the court office to which the directions questionnaire must be returned;

(iv) inform the parties how to obtain the directions questionnaire; and

(v) if a case appears suitable for allocation to the fast track or multi-track, require the parties to file proposed directions by the date specified in the notice.

The directions questionnaire will specify a date for returning the questionnaires and any other documents specified by the court. A copy of the completed questionnaire (and any additional documents if applicable) should be sent to the claimant or their legal representatives. There is no option to vary this date by agreement between the parties. The dates specified will usually be at least 14 days after the date of service for small claims track and at least 28 days for fast track or multi-track.

(a) each party must file, and serve on all other parties, the documents required by the notice by no later than the date specified in it; and

(b) the date specified will be –

(i) if the notice relates to the small claims track, at least 14 days; or

(ii) if the notice relates to the fast track or multi-track, at least 28 days, after the date when it is deemed to be served on the party in question.

(6A) The date for complying with a notice served under rule 26.3(1) may not be varied by agreement between the parties.

There are two versions of the directions questionnaire:

  • N180 for the small claims track

  • N181 for the fast track and multi- track.

Filling in directions questionnaires

The N180 questionnaires should be fairly straightforward to fill in. See the embedded file below with a few pointers.

Scope of each track

CPR 26.6 sets out the scope of each track:

Scope of each track


(1) The small claims track is the normal track for–

(a) any claim for personal injuries where –

(i) the value of the claim is not more than £10,000; and

(ii) the value of any claim for damages for personal injuries is not more than £1,000;

(b) any claim which includes a claim by a tenant of residential premises against a landlord where –

(i) the tenant is seeking an order requiring the landlord to carry out repairs or other work to the premises (whether or not the tenant is also seeking some other remedy);

(ii) the cost of the repairs or other work to the premises is estimated to be not more than £1,000; and

(iii) the value of any other claim for damages is not more than £1,000.

(Rule 2.3 defines ‘claim for personal injuries’ as proceedings in which there is a claim for damages in respect of personal injuries to the claimant or any other person or in respect of a person’s death)

(2) For the purposes of paragraph (1) ‘damages for personal injuries’ means damages claimed as compensation for pain, suffering and loss of amenity and does not include any other damages which are claimed.

(3) Subject to paragraph (1), the small claims track is the normal track for any claim which has a value of not more than £10,000.

(Rule 26.7(4) provides that the court will not allocate to the small claims track certain claims in respect of harassment or unlawful eviction)

(4) Subject to paragraph (5), the fast track is the normal track for any claim –

(a) for which the small claims track is not the normal track; and

(b) which has a value –

(i) for proceedings issued on or after 6th April 2009, of not more than £25,000; and

(ii) for proceedings issued before 6th April 2009, of not more than £15,000.

(5) The fast track is the normal track for the claims referred to in paragraph (4) only if the court considers that –

(a) the trial is likely to last for no longer than one day; and

(b) oral expert evidence at trial will be limited to–

(i) one expert per party in relation to any expert field; and

(ii) expert evidence in two expert fields.

(6) The multi-track is the normal track for any claim for which the small claims track or the fast track is not the normal track.

Failure to comply with directions

The court will impose a sanction to anyone who fails to comply, for example, by not returning the directions questionnaire by the date specified. The court will start by sending a further notice requiring compliance within seven days.

Non compliance with this further notice will result in an automatic strike out of your defence.
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