If you feel that you are owned compensation by someone who has caused you a personal injury, you will need to try and resolve the dispute with them directly before you take any kind of legal action and issue a court claim.
The first thing you will need to do is send the defendant a letter of claim or letter before action. This sets out the facts of your claim, the legal duties and obligations which you believe the defendant has breached, the damage which you have suffered and how you believe that the defendant is responsible for this. You will need to allow the defendant at least 28 days to review your letter of claim and to provide a response.
Often, there will be an attempt to settle the case out of court before any further action is taken. Your lawyers and the defendant’s lawyers will try to negotiate appropriate compensation. Sometimes the defendant will be prepared to offer compensation in an out of court settlement even if they feels it is more likely that they will win at trial, in order to avoid the expense and inconvenience of legal action and because the risk to them or their business will be extremely high. Depending on the strength of your case, you should also be prepared to compromise when negotiating a settlement – you should not expect to receive 100% of the compensation which you are asking for as there is always a risk that you will not win at trial.You should also consider whether you are willing to accept a smaller amount of compensation in exchange for getting your money quickly and without a protracted and stressful trial.
If you cannot resolve the issue then you will need to issue a claim in the County Court. Cases which go to court are sorted into one of three tracks: the small claims track, the fast track and the multi-track.
The small claims track is for simple, straightforward cases. Hearings on the small claims track are informal and the normal rules on what evidence is admissible and what procedures should be followed are not enforced. Any case which has a value under 5000 is dealt with via the small claims track, but in personal injury cases this limit is reduced to 1000. If a case is dealt with in the small claims track, the court will not usually allow the winning party to claim his legal costs from the loser and so people are not usually represented by lawyers.
The fast-track is for personal injury cases which are between the values of 5000 and 25,000. These cases are complicated enough to need the involvement of lawyers so the winning side is able to claim legal costs from the loser, but all cases are dealt with and managed according to a standard timetable to try and limit costs. Cases on the fast-track are brought to trial within 52 weeks.
The multi-track is meant for very high value and complicated cases worth over 25,000. In multi-track cases the judge will set out a custom timetable for dealing with the case and will give specific directions on how the claim should be managed. Cases on the multi-track can take years to come to trial and occasionally cases which are allocated to the multi-track will be transferred to the High Court. This is usually done where the claim is particularly high value or complex. Claims of less than 50,000 should not be dealt with in the High Court.