In the vast majority of cases, a personal injury compensation claim will be settled out of court.
However, responsibility (known as liability) for the accident or injury may be denied by the defendants, or there may be disagreements between the two parties about the value of a claim.
If there is no agreement on liability, starting court proceedings is usually unavoidable – but even then your case is unlikely to progress to an actual court hearing.
Read on to find out how many personal injury claims go to court in England and Wales, and what happens when they do.
How likely is my personal injury claim to go to court?
Not very likely.
While many personal injury claims begin the court process, only a small percentage - around two or three per cent - ever proceed to a trial.
What happens if my personal injury case goes to court?
It is not unusual for court proceedings to be issued in a personal injury claim. If the defendant in your case will not accept liability for the accident, and/or fails to make a reasonable compensation offer, court proceedings must begin.
We will issue your claim at court by lodging a claim form with information about the case, including the medical report and a summary of your financial losses.
Once the claim has been served on the defendant, we will usually receive their Defence within 28 days.
The court will then allocate a ‘track’ for your claim, based on its financial value and complexity.
There are three tracks:
- Small claims track – Your compensation claim is likely to be worth up to £1,500 (unless it is an road traffic accident claim, in which case, the figure is £5,000)
- Fast track – Your compensation claim is likely to be worth between £1,500 (£5,000 for road traffic accidents) and £25,000
- Multi-track – Your compensation claim is likely to exceed £25,000.
The court will set a timetable will set a timetable for steps for each party to take and provide a date for a court hearing in case an agreement cannot be reached.
For more information about what will happen if your claim goes to court, read our guide to court proceedings.
Pre-trial negotiation continues
Even after a court date has been set, pre-trial negotiations continue. Most parties, including the court, would prefer to avoid a formal court hearing.
In more complex or high-value cases, it is common for insurance companies to deny liability – even if we know the defendant will eventually be found liable. They may adopt this strategy to test whether you are prepared to go to court.
Will I have to attend the personal injury court case in person?
Court hearings are rare, but when they do take place, our clients attend their hearing in the majority of cases.
However, you are not always required to attend your hearing.
If your claim has been allocated to the small claims track, the judge may decide that your case does not require a court hearing and can be decided on written evidence only. If the judge does decide a court hearing is required, it isn’t mandatory to attend, but you must submit a letter to both the court and the defendant explaining the reasons for your absence.
If your claim has been allocated to the fast track or multi track, you may be required to attend to answer questions about events leading up to your injury. You will be asked questions about your statement by both your barrister and the representative for the other party. The judge will then make a ruling. If you win, the judge will also determine the level of compensation.
Will there be a jury?
No. Personal injury claims are heard in a civil courtroom, meaning there is no jury.
Although they can certainly be stressful for many claimants, personal injury court hearings are often described as far less stressful than expected and some claimants find it satisfying to have their claim decided upon by a judge.
How long do personal injury court proceedings take?
For personal injury claims that go to trial, the length of court proceedings varies on a number of factors, including:
- The severity of injury
- The complexity of the accident
- Disputes over liability or compensation amount
- Court delays.
According to HM Courts and Tribunals Service, cases allocated to the small claims track are usually expected to take less than six months to resolve, while fast track claims and multi track claims are expected to take longer.
While each claim is unique, the table below gives you an indication of the timeframe for each type of personal injury claim from date of issue.
These timeframes assume that:
- Liability is admitted
- Recovery from injuries is expected within a reasonable amount of time
- All parties keep to the court timetable
- There are no major backlogs in the court back-office.
If this isn’t the case for your claim, the timeframe could be significantly longer.
|Case Type||Estimated Settlement Timeframe|
|Road accident claim||4 - 9 months|
|Workplace accident claim||6 - 9 months|
|Slip, trip and fall claim||6 - 9 months|
|Industrial disease claim||12 - 18 months|
|Medical negligence claim||18 - 36 months|
How do I make a personal injury claim?
The first step to making a personal injury claim is to speak to an expert lawyer.
At Thompsons, we have over 100 years’ experience of representing the injured and mistreated, and the Times has named us as one of the UK’s best personal injury law firms for four years in a row.
We are fully on your side. Unlike other law firms, we never represent employers or insurance companies.