In some cases it isn’t possible to agree a suitable compensation settlement with your opponent and so you have to take Court proceedings. The purpose of Court proceedings is so a Judge can look at all of the evidence and decide whether the opponent is legally responsible for your accident. The Judge also decides upon the amount or order that you are entitled to. This guide predominantly looks at the court process under CPR Part 7 as it is known (https://www.justice.gov.uk/courts/procedure-rules/civil/rules/part07).
As the person making the claim you will be known as the Claimant. Your opponent will be referred to as the Defendant. To start the Court proceedings, your solicitor, or you yourself, will prepare documents which set out your claim (known as a Claim Form and Particulars of Claim) and send them to the Court. The Court will then send these documents on to your opponent who will normally have four weeks to respond.
After your opponent has sent you the document setting out their case, known as the Defence, a Judge will look at the claim and issue a list of instructions (known as Directions) for both you and your opponent to follow. The purpose of these Directions is to make sure all of the evidence is gathered and sent to the Court so the Judge can make his or her decision.
Directions include a timetable to follow. You will have to send any documents that are relied upon and your witness statements to the opponent by the dates laid out in the timetable. Your solicitor will prepare your statement for you, as well as statements for any witnesses who saw your accident or can give extra information about your injuries.
The Court will decide what witness experts reports you and the opponent are allowed to rely upon. For claims that are valued at under £25,000, the opponent is usually not allowed to get their own experts’ reports but they may be able to ask questions of your experts.
If an agreement cannot be reached beforehand, the Court will set a date on which the Judge will make his decision (known as a Trial). Usually, both you and your opponent will need to attend Court for the Trial. Whilst this may seem daunting, your solicitor, if you choose to instruct one, will go through everything with you and arrange for someone to represent you at the Trial. It will usually be a Barrister (also known as Counsel) who represents you at the Trial, and they will normally meet you beforehand to run through everything with you.
After your Barrister and your opponent’s Barrister have made their arguments, the Judge will make a decision, called a Judgment. Sometimes, in more complicated cases, the Judge may not give his Judgment on the day but take some time to think about it before giving his or her decision a few weeks later.