What happens when a personal injury claim goes to court?
25 March 2021
When you make a personal injury claim, your personal injury solicitor will always attempt to negotiate with the other side to agree a compensation settlement. If the negotiations are unsuccessful and a settlement can't be agreed, your solicitor will then issue court proceedings. But what exactly does this mean?
Why do personal injury claims need to go to court?
If a settlement can't be agreed through negotiations, then formally issuing court papers puts your case in front of a judge, who can review the facts and make a decision based on the evidence. The judge will assess either 'Quantum' (meaning how much injury compensation you should receive), 'Liability' (meaning who's at fault), or both.
Will I have to go to court?
Not necessarily. Even if your personal injury solicitor has issued court proceedings, it's possible to continue negotiations right up until the court hearing. Settling outside of court is easier and less costly for everyone, so often a settlement can still be reached ahead of the hearing date.
However, if a settlement still cannot be agreed upon, then you will need to be prepared to attend court and provide evidence of your injuries, your financial losses and/or the circumstances of the accident.
When will I get my court hearing date?
It can take time before you get a date for your court hearing. This is because there are a number of steps to complete and documents to prepare before a personal injury claim can go in front of a judge. This is necessary to ensure the judge has all the evidence they need for a fair hearing to take place.
Examples of these documents include:
- Any documentation which can help to prove the claim, such as:
- Receipts for expenses
- Photographs taken at the accident scene
- Updated medical reports (where appropriate)
- A statement of what evidence the witnesses will be giving at the hearing
- An updated schedule listing any financial losses caused by the injury
- Any other documents the judge considers necessary for a fair hearing to take place
What happens at the court hearing?
Your personal injury solicitor will have arranged for you to be represented in court either by a barrister or specialist lawyer, and they will present the claim to the judge on your behalf. During the hearing, you will be called up to the stand to talk through the statement you've provided. You will be questioned by your representative and then by the representative of the other side. If you have any witnesses, they will also be called up one at a time to go through their own statements.
The judge will not be made aware of any settlement offers which have previously been discussed.
Once the judge has heard all the evidence from both sides, he or she will then provide their judgment. This will be their conclusion as to who was at fault for the accident (if this was in dispute) and the level of compensation that must be awarded for your injuries and losses.
Once the judgment has been provided, the court normally orders the compensation payment to be made within 14 to 21 days of the hearing date.