Will I have to go to court? – what you need to know when making a compensation claim
If proceedings have been issued it does not necessarily mean you will need to attend court in the future.
Prior to any trial date, negotiations continue between parties in an attempt to reach an agreement. Offers can be made at any time by either party, or joint settlement meetings might settle a claim sooner rather than later.
There are various steps the judge will order both parties to take prior to trial, so there is usually ample time for negotiations to take place. It may be that court hearings will take place leading up to the final trial date, but it is extremely unlikely that you will need to attend these; your solicitor or barrister will represent you without you needing to be present.
What does issuing court proceedings involve?
Issuing proceedings is a procedural step that your solicitor will do for you. It involves completing the necessary court forms and paperwork whilst ensuring that the court’s staff have stamped it prior to limitation expiring. Once the paperwork is stamped, proceedings are issued. There is no need for you to attend court for the issuing of proceedings.
A personal injury claim must usually be made in court within three years of the date of the accident. Whilst the court has overriding discretion to allow court proceedings to start after three years, there is a risk the claim will be statute barred if proceedings are not issued prior to this. This is known as the date of limitation.
If a defendant does not accept they are liable for an accident which has caused someone to suffer personal injuries and losses then proceedings may need to be issued with the court.
If an agreement cannot be reached as to the level of compensation a Claimant should receive (“Quantum”) then proceedings will need to be issued to allow a judge to assess liability and/or quantum.
If a party wants a judge to make a specific order, proceedings will need to be issued with the court. For example, if a defendant is refusing to grant a voluntary interim payment that a claimant has requested.
If my claim goes to trial, will I need to attend?
In the unlikely event your claim does go all the way to trial, provided you have capacity, it is more likely than not that you will need to attend court to give evidence. This may include the accident circumstances, your injuries, current situation etc. You will have your solicitor present in court with you and you will have a barrister representing you, whom you will have had the opportunity to meet prior to the trial.
Sadly there are a few personal injury claimants who do not conduct their claims with honesty and integrity. If a defendant suspects a claimant to be acting dishonestly, they are very likely to want the case to be put before a judge as the courts are becoming increasingly harsh on dishonest claimants, including those who exaggerate their injuries and losses or who are not completely transparent.
It is important to remember that more than 90% of personal injury cases settle before trial.
Insurers are keen to settle cases prior to trial to avoid associated costs. Sometimes they might increase previous offers made right up to the last minute, or even at the doors of the court!