Will My Personal Injury Claim go to Court?

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Will My Personal Injury Claim go to Court?

First of all it is important to recognise that the vast majority of personal injury claims never go to court.

The overwhelming majority of personal injury claims are finalised without the need to go to court through a process of negotiation between the Claimant’s solicitor and the Defendant’s representatives or the defendant’s insurance company.

  • It is often reported that only 5% or so of all personal injury claims make it to a final hearing.
  • Out-of-court settlements are often preferred by the Defendant’s insurer on the grounds it is quicker, less costly and for the Claimant it is less stressful.
  • In addition, an out of court settlement allows both the Claimant and the Defendant to side-step the uncertainties of a trial and can provide the Claimant with a more certain outcome.
  • The main reason the Defendant’s insurer is interested in settling has to be the fact that in general terms the longer the claim continues the more it costs them.
  • If the insurers decide that the defendant’s chances of successfully defending the claim are low then they will be keen to explore offers in settlement with a view to finalising matters without issuing court proceedings.

 


Why might a Personal Injury Claim go to Court?

It is probably a good idea again to stress it is only a small minority of compensation claims which possess characteristics that may well predispose these claims towards a personal injury court case.

Most compensation claims proceed to a final Court Hearing if there is a fundamental dispute in relation to liability and where the Claimant’s liability arguments are perceived to be weak.

There can also be a dispute over the value of the personal injury compensation claim or the financial losses claimed so the parties go to court.

So what sort of personal injury claim will go to court?


Liability Disputes and the Chances of Success?

If the Defendant’s insurer (rightly or wrongly) perceive that the chances of the Claimant succeeding with the claim are low then they may well dig their heels in and refuse to put forward any offer in settlement of the claim.

It has to be emphasised this situation is very unusual as if a claim is being brought the Claimant’s solicitor will have carefully assessed liability issues right at the start. It follows the claim will only proceed if the instructing solicitor has arrived at the firm initial opinion the claim has merits and is likely to succeed.

If the Defendant’s insurer does end up denying liability then this leaves the Claimant at a crossroads deciding whether to discontinue the claim or to pursue it to a final hearing with a view to inviting the trial judge to find in the Claimant’s favour.

If circumstances such as these arise the Claimant will be very heavily reliant upon their solicitor’s knowledge and experience and ability to assess liability in a realistic and independent way.

If the insurers deny liability then there needs to be very careful consideration about whether starting court proceedings is appropriate.

The claimant’s solicitor needs to be able to accurately weigh up all the evidence and the merits of the claim and arrive at a final view about prospects.

Claiming compensation is easy but when liability is denied the Claimant is very much reliant upon their injury solicitors:

 


The Defendant’s or Insurer’s Failure to Respond to Allegations

It may be necessary to start court proceedings if you encounter an unresponsive defendant who fails to reply to correspondence.

As long as the correct time scale is provided to the Defendant together with a medical report court proceedings can be commenced to keep the momentum going.

In our experience once personal injury court proceedings have been issued very often the Defendant will decide to finally respond so that the compensation claim can then be either settled out of court or if necessary dealt with at a trial date.


Interim Payments and Personal Injury Court Hearings

In some instances it will be appropriate to invite the other side to claim interim payments for say the private costs of urgent treatment.

If the insurer fails to respond positively or ignores the request then the Claimant is able to issue court proceedings to apply pressure for an interim payment. If the Defendant fails to engage then a court hearing will take place to determine the issue.

If an interim payments application is heard by the court then the Claimant need not generally attend court although a witness statement in support will be required.


Will I need to Attend Court Hearing in Person?

On the rare occasion where the personal injury claim is not settled out of court and proceeds to a final hearing then it’s usually necessary for the Claimant to go to a civil courtroom to give oral evidence.

In cases where the defendant admits liability and it’s just a question of the court determining the quantification of the claim then in certain circumstances and for “fast track claims” (lower claim value personal injury claims), the evidence is submitted on paper and the Claimant does not need to attend at all.

In terms of “Multi Track Claims” (high value personal injury case), or where the defendant denies responsibility then the Claimant and Defendant will have submitted statements as part of the claims process. The parties will generally need to attend a formal court hearing so that they are in a position to present their evidence orally with their legal teams.

This enables the Trial Judge to assess the parties credibility and their evidence generally. The parties are able to respond to questions posed by the court and the other party’s legal team to clarify their evidence. This also enables the court to understand the full context of the parties’ evidence and arrive at an informed and balanced decision.

Of course it is natural to be worried about the prospect of having to give evidence at court but in the unlikely event this happens your personal injury solicitor will be in a position to talk through the process so that you know what to expect and answer any concerns.


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