As with other County Court claims, personal injury claims are divided into three tracks

  • Small claims track – for low value, simple claims under £1,500 or road traffic accident claims under £5,000
  • Fast track – for claims with a value of £1,500 - £25,000 or £5,000 - £25,000 for road traffic accident claims
  • Multi track – for complicated and/or high value claims over £25,000

For more general information, please view our main section I want to take someone to court

I’m considering starting a personal injury claim

If you are thinking about starting a personal injury claim you should think about getting legal advice from a lawyer who specialises in personal injury law. You should do this as soon as possible after your injury. There are strict time limits that apply. For most personal injury claims, court proceedings must be issued within 3 years of you first becoming aware of the injury.

You should be careful to keep as much evidence of your injuries as you can. This includes evidence of any damage to your property. It includes incidental costs such as medical fees and loss of earnings. Your legal representative will ask you about the events leading up to your injuries. They’ll ask you the extent of your injuries. They’ll ask you how your injuries have affected you personally and financially. The more information you can give them, the better chance you will have of recovering compensation for your injuries from the other side.

Before starting your claim

As with other types of claim, there are specific requirements that you must follow before starting a personal injury claim. This is called the pre-action protocol for personal injury claims. Your legal advisor will be able to give you advice on this. But in general the court will expect the parties to have exchanged sufficient information to:

  • understand each other’s position
  • make decisions about how to proceed
  • try to settle the issues without the need for formal proceedings
  • reduce the costs of resolving the dispute
  • provide you with medical or rehabilitation treatment as early as possible, if necessary.

You, or your legal representative, will need to send a formal letter to the person or business that you believe is responsible for your injuries. This is known as a letter before claim or letter before action, and should include:

  • your full name and address
  • a summary of what you feel has gone wrong
  • what you want the person or business to do about it
  • how much money you want and how you’ve calculated that amount.

You should also include a copy of the letter so that the defendant can forward this to their insurer.  

It is possible that the other side will agree with your letter and make an offer to settle the dispute. You should think about this carefully. Weigh up the advantages of settling the matter out of court. 

If the other side does not agree with your letter, they should set out in reply which parts they disagree with and why. They may even make a claim of their own if they feel that you owe them money. This is known as a counterclaim. If so, they should indicate any counterclaim in their response to your letter. 

Starting a claim

If you are not satisfied with the reply to your letter before claim, or if you do not receive a reply, you can commence your claim. This can be done online if: 

  • You know how much money you want to claim
  • Your claim is worth less than £100,000
  • You do not want help with paying the court fees

If you cannot (or do not want to) start your claim online, you can start your claim by post. To make a claim by post, you will need to download a claim form (Form N1).

Allocating your claim to a track

If your claim is defended by the other side, the court will send you a ‘notice of provisional allocation to track’. This will determine if your claim has been provisionally allocated to the fast or multi track based on the value of the claim.

You will be prompted to complete a ‘directions questionnaire’. You should complete and return this to the court by the date shown on the notice. This will help the judge determine if the provisional allocation is correct or not.

The court will expect you and the other side to cooperate when filling in the directions questionnaire. You should make sure that you, or your legal representative, have contacted the other side to discuss filling in the form.

Can we settle the claim and avoid a hearing?

Even if you start court proceedings you may be able to sort out your problem without going all the way through to a final hearing before a judge. Or, you may find that you can agree on some parts of the dispute even if you can’t agree on everything. If you can do this then it will probably cut down the time and costs involved.

The directions questionnaire will ask if you are trying to settle your dispute and if you would like your claim to be put on hold to allow settlement discussions. If the judge agrees, they will send both parties an order stating that the claim has been put on hold. That time can be extended if both sides feel more time is needed to reach a settlement. If you cannot settle after an extension of one month, the case will continue towards a hearing.

Paying for my claim

Getting legal help with your personal injury claims can be expensive. You cannot usually get legal aid for personal injury claims. But your legal representative should advise you on the likely costs involved before you agree to hire them.

You might be able to get help with your legal costs by entering into a conditional fee agreement with your lawyer, or through an insurance policy if legal expenses cover is included.

A conditional fee agreement (sometimes referred to as ‘no win no fee’) means that your solicitor will receive no, or reduced, fees if you lose your claim. But, it is important to remember that you may still have to pay the fees and expenses of the other side. Make sure you understand what you are agreeing to before you enter into a conditional fee agreement.

Support available

If you do not understand any part of the court proceedings, or what you need to do, then get legal advice straight away. To learn about the ways you could get free advice, look at our information about getting free legal advice.

If you decide to use a lawyer to help you with the court process, they will explain exactly what will happen and when. You can find out more about the different types of lawyer on our  types of lawyers page.

You can also find out more about court hearings and making appeals against a court decision in this Advice Now guide Going to Court: Hearings, the trial and appeals.