Last week in our first blog about Court Proceedings – What does that mean, we paused as we waited for the Defendant to serve a Defence in this accident at work claim. Their solicitor uses up the extra 28-days, permitted under the rules, to serve and file their Defence. Eventually, at 3.59pm on the deadline day (4.00pm is the cut-off), it is emailed to the Claimant’s solicitor.
Let’s give the Claimant a name, Daisy.
The Defence reveals nothing new; they dispute Daisy’s version of events and still blame her for her fall. They neither admit, nor deny, that she suffered her injuries and any financial losses and instead, say that they will obtain their own expert medical evidence, presumably to disprove the seriousness of her injuries.
Daisy receives a copy of the Defence and is asked for her observations. She is confused by the continual denials from the Defendant and has nothing more to add. A few days later she bumps into one of her former colleagues from work, Chris, who informs her that the day before her accident at work, one of the apprentices had dropped a barrel of cooking oil from the back of one of the lorries which had reversed into the warehouse. The barrel split open and oil was spattered everywhere. Could this explain why the adjacent stairs were slippery? Daisy is asked to try to find her former colleague so her solicitor can take a statement from him. Facebook is very useful for finding people. Chris agrees to take a call. It turns out that he has recently been ‘let go’ by the Defendant after raising concerns about health and safety..!
The court orders the parties to file a report (a Directions Questionnaire) providing details of probable witnesses and experts and a timetable to prepare the case for trial. Daisy’s solicitor had already prepared and sent a draft timetable to his opponent, seeking dialogue and their agreement. No response.
Reports are filed with the court. There is then another long wait until eventually, the case is listed for a procedural hearing, called a Costs and Case Management Conference (CCMC). Before that hearing, the parties are ordered to exchange and file with the court a costs budget. That document sets out in detail the costs they have incurred to date, giving an estimate of the costs they each expect to incur up to and including the trial, some 12 months or more away. Unlike the Defendant solicitors’ costs to date, which have been paid by the Defendant’s insurer, the costs incurred by Daisy’s legal team remain unpaid unless she wins her case. Costs budgeting adds another layer of dispute with the Defendant and their legal team.
Daisy’s barrister attends the CCMC and case management directions (the timetable) and costs budgets are approved by the judge. The directions include a requirement for the disclosure of documents, the exchange of witness statements and expert medical evidence, a schedule of Daisy’s financial losses, a counter schedule of loss from her opponent and lastly, the trial itself. Strict sanctions apply for a failure to comply with directions.
The Defendants witnesses, all former work colleagues of Daisy, deny the occurrence of the oil spillage. Interestingly, no witness evidence is received from the apprentice who caused the spillage. The trial beckons. Meanwhile, Daisy is examined by the Defendants expert, whose report plays down the seriousness of her injuries.
All offers to meet and to resolve the case through alternative, less expensive methods are rejected by the Defendant. The parties prepare for trial. Daisy and her witness Chris are very anxious. They are reassured by her legal team and advised to simply maintain their version of events. It will be for the Judge to decide, on the facts and the evidence, whether her employer, the Defendant, was negligent, or not.
The morning of the trial arrives, and a nervous Daisy is greeted by her solicitor and barrister. They take her to one side and explain that the Defendant’s barrister has an offer for Daisy from his client. The offer is that she should drop her case and walk away. She won’t be paid any damages and each side will bear their own costs of the case.
What does she decide? Will she win her accident at work claim?
Part III next week – the Trial
17th February 2020
This is a fictitious accident at work claim. Whilst the court process is correct at the time of publication, any similarities with a real incident and persons is purely coincidental.