Concept for unread emails showing a computer keyboard and letter envelope

Email is now one of the most common and reliable forms of communication between parties involved in a dispute. It is often the preferred method of communication given the delays associated with the postal system.

Can Court documents be served by email?

Where parties are engaged in Court proceedings, parties will be required to serve statements of case within specific time frames as there are strict deadlines. Following this, the Court may also set further directions for the parties to comply with, which usually involves exchanging important legal documents. These documents will have specific deadlines when they need to be ‘served’ on the other party by. It is therefore often more efficient and accessible for these documents to be sent by email. But does this constitute good ‘service’, as required by the Courts?

The Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) and Practice Directions (PD) set out specific rules for litigation which includes the rules on service of documents. Part 6.3 and 6.20 of the CPR lists the methods of how the claim form and other documents may be served; to include personal service, first class post, DX, fax and ‘other means of electronic communication’. The latter has been interpreted to include emails. Part 4.1 of PD6A also supports this, but sets out that documents should only be served by email in circumstances where the recipient has clearly confirmed that they are willing to accept service of documents via email.

Therefore, unless you have obtained specific confirmation from an opponent that they will accept service by email then one of the traditional methods (post, document exchange, or fax) must be used.

The only one of these methods where service is deemed to be immediate is fax. Therefore it’s important to consider this sooner rather than later and not leave it to the last day to try and remember whether you still have a fax machine!

Is there anything else I need to know?

PD6A does however suggest that parties serving documents ask the recipient if there are any limitations to serving by email – this could include size restrictions on email attachments, or whether the recipient requires documents to be sent in a specific format.

It is also worth noting that if service has been properly completed by email, parties do not need to deliver a hard copy of the document in addition.

Why is this important?

Proper service of Court documents, particularly the claim form, is essential to ensuring that a claim is valid and can be pursued.

This was demonstrated in the recent case of Chehaib v King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust [2024] EWHC 2 (KB), where the claimant had served proceedings by email on the last day of validity of the claim form, despite one of the defendant’s explicitly requesting that service should be effected by post rather than by email. The claimants made an application to the Judge for relief from sanctions on the basis that there was no prejudice to the defendant, however the application was dismissed and it was held that the claim had not been properly served.

Failing to properly serve the claim form could result in having to pay additional Court fees to issue new applications, or even worse, not being able to bring a claim if the limitation period has passed.

For non-lawyers it can be difficult to navigate the Court’s litigation procedure and to ensure that claims are actioned in line with the Civil Procedure Rules and Practice Directions.To speak to one of our highly experienced professionals, you can contact us by calling 0345 450 5558 or by emailing We will be happy to guide you through this process.


This article was co-written by Toby Claridge, partner and head of our Dispute Resolution team, and Isabella Kershaw, trainee solicitor in our Commercial Dispute Resolution team.