Do I have to go to court if I claim personal injury compensation?
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The short answer is - usually not, but it is possible! Most people who start a claim for compensation after suffering personal injury do not even think about the possibility of having to attend court, and it is right that the vast majority of claimants do not have their day in court.
The rules which govern civil claims for personal injury mean that all claims must first be thoroughly investigated before proceedings are contemplated. As a consequence, most, but not all, settle quite amicably.
There are two main reasons why a claim could go to Court:
- Blame - Your opponent and their insurer may dispute your version of events and refuse to pay compensation. We review the evidence and if we think the claim has reasonable prospects of success, we will recommend the issuing of court proceedings against the Defendant. That does mean that you as the claimant may have to attend court and give evidence about your accident, together with any witnesses you wish to call in support. The Judge who hears the case will hear all the evidence and then decide whether your claim should succeed and if so he will also award you damages according to the injuries and financial losses you have suffered.
- Damages - Your opponent may accept blame but dispute the amount of damages you are seeking to compensate you for your losses, both physical and financial. Injury claims are based upon medical evidence prepared by a medical expert. The expert reviews the Claimants medical history from their medical records, carries out a physical examination and thereafter produces a report, which is addressed to the court. The report will provide an opinion upon the injuries suffered (a diagnosis), whether treatment is recommended and importantly whether that person will recover or not (a prognosis). Your opponent will often dispute the claim for past and future financial losses, such as earnings or the cost of medical treatment. More often than not it is the claim for financial losses which become the sticking point between the parties.
If we cannot reach an agreement then it shall be for a judge to assess the damages. Those hearings normally take place in a County Court most local to you. Judges are given guidance on the level of damages they should award for various types of injuries, and they will also refer to awards made to other Claimants whose damages have been assessed in court. For that reason both sides in a claim will have a reasonable idea as to what level of injury damages could be awarded. Claims for financial losses are very fact based and case specific. The stronger your evidence, the greater prospect of recovering those losses.
The thought of going to court is understandably a worry for many people. Some prefer to take a lower offer of damages rather than risk the outcome of a hearing even though they could be awarded more than has been offered by the Defendants insurer. That is entirely their decision. The court process can be lengthy, even a straightforward case can take a year to get to a final hearing or Trial which is another reason why some people prefer to accept or make a lower offer.
If a case does go to court, then our clients are always represented by experienced barristers who are well prepared. The client will have met their barrister well in advance. That is important both for the client and the barrister. It ensures that both can ask questions and discuss issues before the day of the hearing. That way the barrister can present the best possible case for you. We would also discuss in detail what happens at court beforehand to prepare you as much as possible.
So, that is the long answer!
The thing to remember is that very few claims ever need to go to court, it really is the exception. Even when proceedings are started the majority of claims still settle without the need for you to attend a formal hearing, although some come very close. I have known claims to settle within hours or minutes of a hearing to the relief of my client. So I would hate for any client to worry unnecessarily about the thought of attending Court.
BL Claims Solicitors are here to help
If you would like to talk to someone and discuss a potential claim please call us on 0344 620 6600 anytime between 8am and 6pm Monday to Friday, or if you would prefer you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org