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This article covers what to expect from the court process for customers whose claim occurred before the 31st May 2021 or they have suffered a severe injury.

Attending court for anyone can be a really daunting experience. Here at Minster Law, we ensure that all our clients are fully prepared in the unlikely event that that their case proceeds to a court hearing.

Whilst most civil cases settle before trial through negotiation, ADR (alternative dispute resolution), or a JSM (joint settlement meeting), a very small percentage do not.

As a claimant who is pursuing a claim for compensation, it is ultimately up to you to prove the case. Minster Law will guide you through the claim process and advise you in relation to the claim each and every step of the way. In the unlikely event that a reasonable settlement cannot be reached in relation to a claim, then legal proceedings will need to be issued in order for a court to resolve the outstanding issues, whether this be in relation to liability or quantum (the value of the claim).

Once proceedings are issued, then there are a number of directions which have to be followed before trial which include the parties disclosing all documents which they have in their possession and also exchanging witness evidence.

A witness statement is a vital piece of evidence and must be factually correct. This will be used as the ‘evidence in chief’ and will be referred to at any court hearing.  It is therefore important that any statement provided is truthful and provides as much detail as possible in relation to the extent of the claim.  This will be prepared by your solicitor following several discussions throughout the case and, once finalised, you will be required to sign a statement of truth.

Depending on the overall value of the claim, you may have conferences with a barrister on one or more occasion in order to discuss the issues in relation to the claim, the value, and the evidence generally. Your solicitor will discuss the claim and explain the court procedure to you. The barrister or solicitor may very well ask you questions that they believe the defendant will ask when cross examining you. This is done so you are prepared and to some extent know what to expect on the day.

On the run up to the trial date, your solicitor will prepare the cases for trial, this includes putting all documents into one bundle for the court to consider at the hearing. This is called a trial bundle and is used by all parties at trial so several copies will be prepared.  You will also receive a copy on the day and will be referred to pages within the document in which you are to be questioned on. Prior to the hearing, the parties will prepare skeleton arguments and file them with the court to enable the judge to be informed early of what the issues are in relation to the claim.

It is important that you are prepared for the hearing and that you familiarise yourself with regards to the evidence. This includes ensuring that you have read your statement again and also the medical evidence that has bene obtained. Also ensure that you have revisited your schedule of loss. If any anytime you have concerns with regards to the hearing or are not sure, then you should bring this up with your solicitor as soon as possible.

Every case is different, but the general rules to attending a hearing apply. Here are our tips for preparing for a hearing.

  1. Be prepared. Ensure that you have read your witness statement and the medical evidence that is available and that you understand the issues at hand.
  2. Wear smart, comfortable clothing. One of the most common questions raised prior to any hearing is surprisingly what to wear.  Whilst it is not necessary to wear a suit, it is important to wear smart/respectable clothing and something you are comfortable in. It is not a good idea to turn up at court in your joggers or beachwear.
  3. Ensure that you know where the court is and where you can park if driving to the hearing.
  4. Ensure you arrive at court at least 30 minutes before the hearing in order to familiarise yourself with the court surroundings and discuss any issues or concerns with your solicitor and barrister who will be in attendance with you. You must ensure that you let the court staff or usher know you have arrived so they can sign you in.
  5. Have a pen and paper ready just in case you want to make notes to remind yourself of any issues that you may not agree with or did not understand so that you can raise this with the barrister at a convenient time.
  6. When in court, ensure that you stand when the judge enters the room unless told otherwise. It is important that you are polite and respectful at all times.
  7. Do not interrupt the judge. There will be a time for you to speak and address the court so it is not appropriate to interrupt a judge, your representative or the defendant’s representative whilst they are questioning a witness or providing an opening statement.
  8. Listen carefully to what is being said. If there is anything you disagree with, bring it to your solicitor’s/barrister’s attention at the appropriate time, trying not to interrupt the proceedings.
  9. Ensure consistency and stick to the facts. If you do not know an answer to a question, then it is important to say that you do not know or recall, rather than try and think of an answer.
  10. Most importantly, tell the truth.

Remember, most case never go before the court as most cases are settled through negotiation.