‘Tracks’ are formal court procedures that allow personal injury claims to be dealt with efficiently and cost-effectively. Simply put, this means that if your claim goes to court, then it can be handled in the most suitable way. The track your case is allocated to depends on the value of your claim and how long a trial might take:
Most claims made with an injury solicitor are settled without having to go to court. But if your claim does need to go to court – for example, if the other party refuses to accept responsibility for your injury – then your case will still need to be assigned to one of these ‘tracks’ in preparation for a hearing.
The fast track is for straightforward claims with lower value and can usually be dealt with in a one-day trial. This track is the ‘norm’ for most cases, and a final hearing usually takes place within 30 weeks. It’s possible for a claim to be re-allocated from fast track to multi-track. For example, if your case becomes more complicated than expected.
Usually, cases that aren’t suitable for the fast track will be allocated to the multi-track. This includes claims with a value of more than £25,000, and cases that are more complex – for example, if they need more than one expert witness.
Early on, the court will hold a ‘case management conference’ (CMC). This is an informal meeting where everyone involved in the case, including the judge, meets to talk about the progress of your case and decide how to move forward.
There’s no standard procedure for how cases go through the multi-track. The timetable can vary from case to case, depending on the type of claim, and how complex it becomes. Multi-track cases usually take longer than fast track, with the final trial often taking a number of days.
Once you’ve decided you’d like to go ahead with a claim, your solicitor will get the ball rolling by sending a ‘Claim Form’ and ‘Particulars of Claim’ to the court. These documents give the details of your claim and its value. Your solicitor will also arrange for you to go for a free medical assessment, and the results of this will need to be sent with the details of your claim. A medical assessment might sound daunting, but it’s a good opportunity to get a second medical opinion on the injuries you’ve suffered.
The court will then let the other party know about your intention to claim. They’ll either admit responsibility for your injury or file a defence and deny ‘liability’. If this happens, then your claim will be allocated to the appropriate track at this point.
If you win your claim, the defendant will normally pay your legal costs. But if you lose your case, you’ll need to cover the other party’s expenses – this will usually be covered by ATE insurance, organised by your solicitor. Costs in the fast track are fixed. This means your solicitor can claim a set amount for the costs of preparing your case and representing you at the final hearing. In the multi-track, your solicitor can sometimes ask the other party to pay all the costs, as there’s no fixed limit.
At the end of the case, the court will make a ‘costs order’ – this sets out what costs must be paid by which party.
The first step to starting any claim is to get in contact with a trained legal adviser for free on 0800 234 6438. The adviser who takes your call will have the expertise to be able to answer your questions and let you know whether they think you can make a claim.
You’re under no obligation to start a case when you speak to them. But if you do decide to go ahead, they can pass you on to a specialist solicitor on the same call. If you have any more questions about court tracks and the claims process, they’ll also be happy to help you.
Nicola is a dual qualified journalist and non-practising solicitor. She is a legal journalist, editor and author with more than 20 years' experience writing about the law.
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