The vast majority of personal injury claims settle without the necessity of going to court. Even if court proceedings are issued, settlement negotiations will continue and agreements are usually reached before the parties walk through the courtroom door. There are however occasions when an agreement cannot be reached and court proceedings are necessary to determine the outcome of the case.
Starting court proceedings
Your solicitor will always try to settle your personal injury claim without going to court. However, issuing court proceedings may in some circumstances such as the following, be in your best interests:
- an insurance company seems to be delaying the case unnecessarily or does not appear to have an accurate understanding of the facts of the case. If court proceedings are issued, the insurance company will pass the case to their solicitors who will get to grips with the facts of the case and a speedier conclusion is more likely;
- negotiations have broken down, a stalemate has been reached or the parties are so far apart on a particular point on the claim that an agreement seems highly unlikely;
- if an insurance company will not make an interim payment to cover the cost of treatment for on-going injuries or loss of earning as a result of those injuries, issuing court proceedings is more likely to compel an interim payment;
- once proceedings have been issued, the court will manage the case and set a timetable which often helps to focus the other party’s mind; and
- an insurance company refuses to accept an important aspect of your claim. Your solicitor will assess whether or not the insurance company is acting unreasonably and the likelihood of receiving more compensation in court before advising on whether proceedings should be issued, taking into account costs, funding, time and other relevant factors.
Will I actually go to court?
Even after court proceedings have been issued, the most likely outcome is for your claim to be settled before the final hearing date. Settlement negotiations will continue to run alongside court proceedings. You can settle your claim out of court at any time, even outside the courtroom on the day of the final hearing.
Claims for personal injury compensation are civil matters which will be listed for hearing in either the county or high court. The civil hearings are not in front of juries and there are generally no people in attendance in the public gallery. Court proceedings are not to be feared and in reality are very different from the highly dramatised, aggressive public displays seen on fictitious television dramas.
After proceedings have been issued
After court proceedings have been issued, the case is passed to the insurance company’s solicitors to deal with. There is usually a window of opportunity to reach a favourable settlement once solicitors have been instructed and the case reviewed. The insurance company’s solicitors may suggest that the insurance company makes an increased early offer in order to settle the claim.
If an agreement is not reached through early negotiations, the court proceedings will progress. The court proceedings will determine liability in your case. If the other party is found liable, the court will then assess your case to determine the value of your claim and accordingly the level of compensation you are entitled to.
The court will issue guidelines and a timetable which the parties will need to comply with to be ready for a hearing. If your claim is not settled by negotiation, you will need to be ready to attend court and give evidence in the hearing about your claim. Your evidence may relate to the accident, circumstances surrounding the accident or the injuries you have suffered and the impact these have had.
Preparing for a hearing
The court will manage the case and issue directions to both parties to make sure the case is ready to be heard, such as:
- disclosing documents intended to be used to prove a claim such as receipts for expenses incurred because of the accident
- medical reports relating to the extent and nature of your injury and prognosis for recovery may need to be updated and disclosed
- if a medical expert has given a report or assessment, this will need to be disclosed and the expert should be available for the court hearing to be questioned on the report
- both parties must produce a list of witnesses and witness statements
- you must produce an updated schedule of financial losses incurred because of the accident
The court hearing usually happens within 9 months of the court proceedings being issued.
Your day in court
You will be represented in court, either by your solicitor or by a barrister instructed by your solicitor to conduct the court proceedings. Your lawyer will present your case to the judge, referring to evidence contained in documentation and given by you and the other witnesses. You and any other witnesses will be questioned by your lawyer and also by the lawyer acting for the other party.
The judge will not be aware of any settlement offers made between you and the other party and settlement negotiations will not be referred to in court.
The other party may also have witnesses if, for example, the insurance company is trying to disprove your evidence by giving an alternative expert’s opinion on your injuries or the nature and cause of the accident. These witnesses will also be questioned by both parties’ lawyers.
Once the judge has heard all the evidence from both parties, he will consider the case and make his decision on your claim in the form of a judgment.
Each case is different and will need to be considered on its individual facts. Your solicitor will be able to advise you on what to expect throughout the whole court process from issuing proceedings to receiving the judgment. Instructing a solicitor experienced in dealing with court proceedings for personal injury claims is essential and will ensure that you receive the best possible outcome for your case.
At Russell Worth Solicitors we specialise in personal injury claims. If you have suffered an injury as a result of an accident that was not your fault and would like a free claim assessment, please call us now on now on 0800 028 2060 or complete our Online Claim Assessment.