The Court Process Explained – Part 3
The Court Process Explained – Part 3
In the final article of the series, Greg Porter, dispute resolution specialist, explains the final steps of the court process:
Step 6: Witness Statements
Step 7: Expert Evidence
Step 8: Trial
If you missed Greg’s previous articles, view them here:
Please note that this article is intended as a basic overview of the civil court process only. The Court process and the underlying law being applied to a particular case is complex and you should always seek legal advice from a professional before entering into legal proceedings. This article is not a substitute for such legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Butcher & Barlow LLP do not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage caused by reliance upon this article.
Step 6 – Witness Statements
The next stage is for the parties to exchange witness statements from any person (including themselves) whom they wish to give evidence at a trial. It is very important that these statements are drafted to include everything the witness would wish to say at trial. The Court may question the witness’ credibility if they say something at trial which is not stated in the witness statement.
Witness statements are vitally important to the outcome of the claim and will form the basis of witnesses’ cross examination at trial. We would therefore recommend that professional advice is sought well before this step, preferably at the outset of the dispute.
Step 7 – Expert Evidence
Depending on the type of case it may or may not be necessary for the parties to rely upon an expert witness or witnesses. For example, in a personal injury or clinical negligence clam, it will be necessary to obtain evidence from medical experts. In building or construction disputes it is likely to be necessary to obtain evidence from a surveyor, architect or another expert with relevant expertise.
At the Allocation stage (step 4) the Court will have made an order as to whether expert evidence is necessary and, if so, from what type of expert. The Court will also have made an order as to whether one expert is to be instructed by the parties jointly or whether each party should obtain their own expert evidence.
It is therefore very important that advice is sought at an early stage. The Court is unlikely to permit the parties to rely upon any expert evidence which has not been allowed within the directions order.
As with witness statements above (step 6) expert evidence is often crucial to the success or failure of the claim. Some cases, such as clinical negligence, simply cannot be successfully pursued without supportive expert evidence as the Court will require expert advice in order to decide the case.
It is also vital that the experts are properly instructed to provide an opinion upon the issues that are important to the claim. We would recommend that professional legal advice is sought prior to experts being instructed.
Step 8 – Trial
Once the directions have been completed, the Court will list a trial to take place at which it will consider the parties’ cases and give a judgment. Depending on the type of case and its monetary value, the Court may also order that the losing party pay the winning party’s legal costs, which are likely to be significant if the matter has reached trial.
It should be noted that the parties may settle the claim by agreement at any stage prior to the conclusion of the trial and the Court encourages the parties to attempt to reach an agreement. There are also mechanisms to assist the parties reaching a settlement, such as mediation or arbitration.
The above is a very general guide to the standard (CPR Part 8) litigation process. However, each case is different and there are some types of disputes which will not follow the standard process. We would therefore recommend that professional legal advice is sought as soon as any dispute arises.
Greg can be contacted at our Northwich office on 01606 47523 or email email@example.com.