Over the past couple of decades, much legal jargon has either disappeared altogether or changed, to make it easier for the non-lawyer to understand. Nevertheless, it is inevitable that if you have rarely, or never, come into contact with legal processes, some of the language may be unfamiliar. We have therefore listed below (in alphabetical order) and explained, some of the phrases that you may come across during the course of a personal injury claim.
Case Management Conference
– often abbreviated to CMC. This is a (usually) short procedural hearing involving the judge and lawyers only, to enable the judge to give Directions (see Directions) for the claim.
– the duty to prove that losses were caused by an accident rests with the Claimant. The test that is applied in civil cases is “the balance of probabilities” (ie “more likely than not” or “better than fifty per cent”). In relation to each item of loss for which damages are sought, the test is therefore “is it more likely than not that this loss was caused by this incident?”
– in the County Court, Circuit Judges hear more complex and higher value claims than District Judges. They may also deal with certain types of appeal against decisions made by District Judges.
– this is the document used to commence civil legal proceedings. It was introduced in 1999 and replaced the old High Court Writ and County Court Summons. Certain basic information must be either contained in the document or attached to it when it is served on the other party or parties (see Particulars of Claim).
– the court where most civil legal claims are managed and come to trial. The other civil court where personal injury claims can be heard is the High Court, which is usually reserved for very complex and high value claims.
– are a financial remedy to a dispute (often referred to as compensation). There is a distinction between General Damages, where no exact financial value can be calculated, and Special Damages, which are items of loss which can be accurately calculated. The classic example of General Damages is damages for personal injury (see Pain, Suffering and Loss of Amenity). Common examples of Special Damages in personal injury claims are treatment costs and past loss of earnings. To be recoverable, losses must be “reasonably foreseeable”.
– this is the Document served by the Defendant which sets out to what extent they take issue with the Claimant’s claim. So, in a personal injury claim, even where the Defence admits the Defendant’s liability for causing the accident, they will usually put the Claimant to strict proof that the injury and any resulting financial losses were caused by the accident (see Causation).
– this refers to the timetable set by a judge for the conduct of the court proceedings by the parties. There may be more than one order giving directions during the course of a claim and the parties, either individually or by agreement, may apply to the Court to vary existing directions or apply for new ones.
– this is document that each party must file with the Court by a given date once the Defence (see Defence) has been served. It is supposed to provide sufficient information to allow a judge to set a Directions timetable (see Directions). The parties are expected to attempt to agree a proposed Directions timetable to file at Court with the Directions Questionnaire.
– the most junior of judges that sit in civil courts. There are more of them than other types of civil judge and they undertake much of the day-to-day judicial work in the County Court (see County Court). Solicitors and Barristers that sit as part-time District Judges are called Deputy District Judges.
List of Documents
– also called Standard Disclosure. This is a document which the Claimant and the Defendant must prepare and serve on the other. It details those documents that each party has in their possession which the law provides must be disclosed to (ie shown to) the other party. It should also list documents that are no longer in that party’s possession and those types of document which is objects to disclosing (usually as they are protected by legal privilege, eg correspondence between a party and their solicitor).
Pain, Suffering and Loss of Amenity
– this is the legal term for damages for the injuries themselves. There are no fixed figures and judges do have a lot of discretion in the amount of damages to award. However, there are guidelines (The Judicial College Guidelines) which are updated every couple of years or so and solicitors will also research other similar cases where damages have been awarded by a trial judge (sometimes referred to as Case Law).
Particulars of Claim
– this literally refers to the details of the claim. In very simple cases, this may be included in the small space provided on the Claim Form. In most personal injury claims this space is wholly insufficient and the Particulars of Claim are set out in a separate document, which is served with the Claim Form. The Particulars of Claim should set out, amongst other things, why the Claimant holds the Defendant responsible and detail the remedy sought. In claims for personal injury, the claim is for damages (see Damages). In larger claims, the financial losses are commonly set out in a separate schedule (see Schedule of Special Damages).
Personal Injury Protocol
– more properly called the Pre-Action Protocol for Personal Injury Claims. This was introduced in 1999, along with protocols for other types of claim, to establish a code of procedure for all parties to follow prior to the issue of formal court proceedings. The idea behind the protocol was to promote more contact between the parties, more (and earlier) exchange of information and better investigation of claims. The theory is that by following the protocol, settlement is more likely before court proceedings become necessary and that if settlement is not possible, the claim is in a much better shape from the time that court proceedings are issued. The protocol also promotes and encourages early treatment and rehabilitation.
– formerly called a Listing Questionnaire. In many ways this is similar to a Directions Questionnaire, but designed to be used at a far later stage of the court proceedings. Its purpose is to give the judge sufficient information to allow them to make final arrangements for the trial. Upon considering the Pre-Trial Checklist, a judge may decide that a further preliminary hearing is required before trial (see Pre-Trial Review).
– a (usually) short hearing between the judge and lawyers to make final arrangements for a trial.
– strictly this forms part of the Personal Injury Protocol and encourages the parties to consider as early as possible whether the Claimant has needs which could reasonably be met by treatment or other methods. In practice, with the exception of higher value claims, this has never really taken off and in most cases amounts to little more than an offer by the insurance company of half a dozen sessions of physiotherapy or similar (if appropriate). Good claimant solicitors will often obtain early provisional medical reports from appropriate medical consultants, as this will put them in a stronger position when requesting funding for treatment and rehabilitation from the insurance company. It will also facilitate an application to the Court for an interim payment if funding is not forthcoming voluntarily from the other party.
Schedule of Special Damages
– sometimes called a Schedule of Loss, this is often a separate document attached to the Particulars of Claim (see Particulars of Claim), within which the Claimant details their financial losses. This document is commonly updated at a later stage in the claim process.