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Do car accident claims go to court?

Emma Lunn
Written by  Emma Lunn
5 min read
Updated: 19 Feb 2024

Do car accident claims go to court?  

The majority of car accident insurance claims are settled out of court. This is because most cases are straightforward and it is clear which party was at fault and which insurer will pay the claim.  

Insurers use evidence such as witness statements, vehicle inspections and police reports to work out which driver was to blame for a road traffic accident.  

These days we also have technology to help assess exactly what happened – things like mobile phone video footage, CCTV recordings, dashcam videos and footage from smart devices such as Ring doorbells. 

Even when both parties deny liability, it is unlikely that a car accident case will end up in court. Even when a court date is set, most cases are settled by insurers ahead of the trial. 

car accident

Why might a car insurance claim go to court? 

  • If there is a dispute about liability: With many car collisions, establishing liability (fault) is straightforward – if one driver drives into the back of another car at a junction, for example. But in some cases there will be a dispute about who was to blame for the accident – such as when the drivers have different recollections about what happened or there isn’t any video footage or eyewitnesses to collaborate one story or another. 

  • To agree compensation: Where one or more parties have been injured in a car accident, there is often a disagreement about compensation. Cases may be decided in court if there is a dispute about the seriousness of injuries caused in the crash, especially if these are life changing, and the level of compensation due.  

What will happen if my claim goes to court? 

Even after a court date has been set, negotiations between insurers and/or solicitors will continue. Many cases are settled ahead of a trial. 

However, if an agreement can’t be reached before the trial date, the hearing will begin. This will take place in a civil court – this means it is without a jury.  

In some cases there will be no need for drivers to attend court as the judge will decide the case on written evidence only. In other cases, your solicitor or barrister will attend court on your behalf. 

You will normally need to attend court if the claim is for more than £25,000. 

If you do need to attend court, you may need to give evidence. Your solicitor will advise you about how to prepare for this. You may be asked questions by the other side’s solicitor. These might be about: 

  • the accident itself 

  • your injuries 

  • the impact on your life 

  • the financial impact, such as loss of earnings 

Your solicitor will also ask the other side questions of the same nature. 

The judge will listen to evidence from both parties and then come to a decision over liability and/or compensation for injuries. 

How long does a court case take? 

It can take several months – or longer – for a car insurance case to get to court. 

During this time your solicitor will collect as much evidence as possible about the accident and to give you the best chance possible of winning the case. Your solicitor’s investigations might include examining police reports, witness statements and photographs or videos of the accident. 

If the case is to decide compensation, you may need to have an independent medical report done where an expert will examine your injuries and assess the impact on your life and future plans.  

Costs for things like rehabilitation, treatment and long-term care will be taken into account. Your solicitor will also look at how the accident will impact you financially – such as loss of future earnings or money needed to adapt your home if you have serious injuries. 

Insurers are always keen to settle cases out of court as losing in court will cost them a lot more money. Last minute offers of compensation to avoid a trial are quite common.  

Where cases do end up in court, it’s often due to the complexity of the case or an unresponsive defendant or insurance company.  

Will I need to go to court if I am caught driving without insurance? 

A minimum of third-party insurance is mandatory to legally drive in the UK. 

If you’re caught driving without insurance, the police will normally deal with it. The police can give you a fixed penalty fine of £300 and/or six penalty points. 

In some circumstances, the police may pass more serious cases to the court. These might include driving while disqualified or if you have never passed a driving test, if you were under the influence of drink or drugs, you gave false details or lied to the police, or if you were driving a high-risk vehicle such as a lorry. 

In these circumstances the court can issue an unlimited fine and/or disqualify you from driving. Your vehicle could also be seized and destroyed. 

Will I need to go to court if I am caught driving under the influence of alcohol? 

If you are caught drink driving or after taking drugs, your case will normally be heard in the Magistrates’ Court, and you will need to attend. 

If found guilty of drink driving, you could be banned from driving, fined or even sent to prison. The sentence will depend on the severity of the offence. 

If you kill or seriously injure someone while driving under the influence of drink or drugs, your case will normally be heard in the Crown Court and you could get an unlimited fine or life imprisonment. 

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