The words “ Court Proceedings ” send shudders through the spines of most of the population who immediately equate the word with their being humiliated in front of a jury and a packed public gallery by an aggressive, silver-tongued barrister.
In Personal Injury cases, the reality is very different to that belief, which is usually acquired from fictitious TV programmes that we all watch from time to time.
In civil claims, including personal injury cases, very few of the cases which are issued in Court actually reach a final hearing. It is probably less than 3 percent. I don’t think accurate statistics are available.
Of those cases that reach a final hearing, nearly all do so because the client wants to go there. That usually means that they stand to gain a large sum in compensation and that the prospects of winning are likely to make the whole experience worthwhile.
The vast majority of cases that are issued in the County Court or the High Court are resolved by settlements well before the date fixed for the final hearing.
When Personal Injury Solicitors advise clients to start Court Proceedings, it is because it is in their interests to do so for many reasons including the following:-
1. If we have been dealing with insurers who are delaying the case unnecessarily or do not appear to have a correct understanding of the case, the starting of court proceedings removes them from the claim. They have to appoint solicitors to deal with the matter who are usually quick to get to grips with the claim and make sensible settlement offers. In many cases, issuing court proceedings will speed up the conclusion of the claim.
2. If the client has ongoing injuries and the insurers won’t make interim payments which may be needed urgently (say if the injured person is losing earnings or needs to pay for medical treatment) then issuing is a good idea as the Court can compel the opponent to make the much-needed interim payments.
3. The Court will manage the case by setting deadlines that must be kept to by the opponent, forcing them to deal with the matter more quickly. If they do not keep to the dates fixed, they may lose the case.
4. The very issue of proceedings often focusses on the minds of insurers who have not paid proper attention to cases beforehand.
Please note that the period between issuing proceedings to the final hearing rarely takes less than a year and in that time settlement is usually achieved.
I should add that Civil Hearings are not in front of juries, there are generally no people in the public galleries and the Judges are usually very pleasant. Virtually all the clients that I have represented whose cases have ended in civil trials have said that the experience was nowhere near as bad as they feared. I usually suggest that they visit their local County Court before their own hearing to watch other cases to get a flavour of what they will experience.
Of those cases that reach Court, many are settled by negotiation within the Court Building on the day of the hearing before the case starts. This recently happened in a high-value case I had been running for over three years.
The lesson is to not to be afraid of Court Proceedings being issued – it is usually going to be to your advantage – so if your solicitor suggests it, don’t be worried!
If you would like advice about any type of personal injury claim, please call me or my team on 0114 218 4000 or email us at P.I.Dept@tayloremmet.co.uk.