Issuing and serving your claim in time

25 Oct 2021

Jon Mahony

When bringing a claim, there are strict time limits imposed upon:

  • Filing the claim at court and commencing proceedings, known as issuing the claim. This is done via a claim form.
  • Sending the claim form to whom you are suing so that they may respond, known as serving the claim.

It is important to abide by these time limits to avoid the risk of your claim becoming statute barred or being dismissed.

Time limits for issuing your claim
The law places time limits upon a claim. The claim remains capable of being issued at court before the time limit expires. These time limits, called limitation periods, exist because the justice system requires that trials are conducted with some certainty (which very old claims cannot provide) and without unnecessary delay. The Limitation Act 1980 therefore provides limitation periods for most types of claims. 

Limitation periods commence when a cause of action accrues.  The question of when the cause of action accrues is often not straightforward and will depend upon the facts of the individual case.  Examples of common limitation periods include:

Type of ClaimLimitation Period
Breach of contract (not contained in a deed)6 years
Breach of contract (contained in a deed)12 years
Recovery of rent6 years
Recovery of land12 years
Negligence6 years
Defamation1 year

Time limits for serving your claim
Once the claim form has been issued, the court will give the claim a number and stamp the claim form (known as sealing). As of the time of writing, you then have four months from the date of issue to serve the sealed claim form if the defendant is within England. 

Serving further documents – the deemed service rule
Whether you are the claimant or defendant, any document other than a claim form that you serve to the counter party will be deemed by the court to be received by them on a certain date, whether or not that document was actually received. This is known as the “deemed service rule”. These dates are given in Part 6 of the Civil Procedure Rules.

The deemed service rule is a double-edged sword, as the other party will not be able to make arguments such as not receiving the document due to the postal service not running correctly. On the other hand, if you are the claimant you will need to make sure you send your document to the defendant a sufficient number of days before any deadline so that it is deemed served by the court within that deadline.

Please note that the limitation periods set out in this article are provided for general information only and do not take into account judicial interpretation of time limits set out in the Limitation Act 1980.  If you are concerned about the limitation period which may attach to any claim you may have then you should, seek urgent legal advice upon the same.

For more information, please contact Jonathan Mahony, Partner and Head of Dispute Resolution & Litigation on +44 20 8872 3056 or email