How often do injury claims go to court and what if they do?
The prospect of a personal injury claim ending up in a courtroom may seem daunting, but most claims are actually settled outside court. We look at how often injury claims go to court, and explain what to expect if your case does proceed to this stage.
What percentage of personal injury claims end up in court?
Only about 2% of personal injury claims end up in court. The vast majority are settled out of court through negotiations between solicitors and insurance companies.
The injury claim process is less about courtroom battles and more about reaching an agreement. When claims do go to court, it's typically because they are complex or there's a dispute over who is liable. In those rare instances where claims do go to court, they are generally decided by a judge, not a jury.
Why are most claims settled out of court?
Court proceedings can be time-consuming and expensive, although this is often less of a concern for claimants using a no-win, no-fee agreement.
Most compensation claims are a negotiation between the injured party’s (claimant) solicitor and the defendant's insurance company.
Insurance companies, who are usually the ones paying out in compensation cases, generally prefer to avoid the extra costs and risks associated with going to court. Out-of-court settlements are regarded as a faster, more practical and cost-effective solution.
No win no fee
Most injury claims are made on a no-win, no-fee basis, meaning you won't face legal costs if you lose. This risk is covered by an after the event (ATE) insurance policy, which is a key part of all no-win, no-fee agreements.
Knowing that claimants are not financially burdened if they lose, insurance companies are less inclined to deny liability and risk court action, when it's likely that a court would find in your favour.
Under what circumstances might a claim go to court?
Personal injury court proceedings are only likely in very limited circumstances. Reasons why your case may go to court include:
The claim is particularly complex
Some cases are inherently more complicated, such as:
- Injuries claims involving children
- Fatal accident claims
- industrial disease claims
- Life-changing work injury and road injury claims
- Medical negligence claims
- Brain injury and spinal injury claims
The defendant or their insurer is unresponsive
If the defendant or their insurance company is slow to respond or doesn't respond at all, your solicitor can take the matter to court. This legal step legally compels the defendant to provide a proper response. It also requires them to appoint a solicitor if they haven't already done so.
The defendant denies of liability
If the defendant denies liability, your solicitor might initiate court proceedings. Even so, negotiations often continue up to the trial date, as both sides will usually prefer to settle before a court hearing.
You are seeking an interim payment
If you need urgent funds for treatment or living expenses before your claim is settled, your solicitor can request an interim payment from the court. This is a portion of the likely final compensation, paid in advance.
What happens if my claim does go to court?
If your claim does go to court, it usually means that an acceptable settlement couldn't be negotiated. Your solicitor will then file a claim with the court. The court will outline the next steps, including deadlines for submitting information and the date for the trial.
Pre-trial negotiation continues
Even after a court date has been set, both parties will usually still prefer to settle out of court. Negotiations can continue to the last minute, right up until just before the hearing begins. In complex or high-value cases, insurance companies will sometimes deny liability as a tactic to gauge whether the claimant is willing to go to court, even if they know that the defendant is liable.
If the claim goes to court, will I have to attend in person?
In most cases, your attendance would not be required, especially if the case is straightforward and liability is clear.
If you are claiming for less than £25,000 (known as a 'fast-track' claim), either your solicitor or an appointed barrister will represent you.
If you are claiming for more than £25,000 (known as a ‘multitrack' claim), then you may sometimes be expected to attend to answer questions from your representative and the defendant's representative, about what happened.
Is there a jury in personal injury cases?
Personal injury claims are decided by a judge in a civil court, not a jury. There's also no public gallery. While the idea of a court hearing can be stressful, many claimants find the experience much less daunting than anticipated. After considering all evidence and arguments, the judge will issue a ruling and determine your compensation amount.
How did your injury happen?
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Questions about the injury claims process?
Get all the answers in our comprehensive FAQ section:
- How will a personal injury claim affect my benefits?
- Will I have to pay tax on my injury compensation award?
- Can I make a personal injury claim for someone else?
- Can I claim injury compensation if there were no witnesses?
- Can I make an injury claim if I don't know who's to blame?
Chris Salmon, Director
About the author
Chris Salmon is a co-founder and Director of Quittance Legal Services. Chris has played key roles in the shaping and scaling of a number of legal services brands and is a regular commentator in the legal press.