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Overview of pre-action protocols

This content applies to England & Wales

The aim of a pre-action protocol is to ensure that all reasonable steps have been taken to avoid the necessity of litigation.

A pre-action protocol outlines specific procedures to be followed before issuing proceedings. The protocols do not amend any statutory time limits that apply. A practice direction on pre-action conduct of cases forms part of the Civil Procedure Rules. This covers cases, with certain exceptions, where a protocol does not apply.


The objectives of the pre-action protocols are:

  • to encourage the early exchange of information
  • to help parties to potential proceedings avoid legal proceedings, by agreeing a settlement of any claim before the start of litigation
  • to support the efficient management of proceedings where legal proceedings cannot be avoided.


The court will expect parties to have complied with any pre-action protocol applicable to their claim. The court can consider compliance when making any order for costs and/or giving case management directions. For example, the court can reduce the costs to be awarded to the successful party or order that the party at fault pay the costs of the proceedings.

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