Anyone who has been involved in an RTA Personal Injury claim in the last 16 months will be aware of the new electronic claims process.
Stage 1 of the process deals with liability and Stage 2 with valuation and, hopefully, settlement.
There is a third stage to the process not surprisingly called Stage 3. Stage 3 is a truncated system for the resolution of disputes on the value of the claim by the courts.
Stage 3 is also used to obtain court approval for settlements for children but it is the other use of Stage 3 that is examined in this blog.
Some months ago when we spoke to a couple of county courts in major cities we were told that they had received very few applications under Stage 3 for the court to decide the value of adult RTA claims.
In some respects it is good news that Stage 3 is not being used extensively. This demonstrates that the system is working well in that the majority of claims are settling at the end of Stage 2.
On the negative side it may be that the Stage 3 process is not being used enough. It is only by using Stage 3 in appropriate cases that an appreciation can be gained of the levels of damages a court is prepared to award in the area of low value RTA claims.
The Stage 3 system is better for clients than the litigation of disputes as to the value of a claim under the old system particularly where the case is dealt with on paper without the need for the client to attend court.
Another advantage of Stage 3 is that the client receives the damages offered by the insurers at the end of Stage 2 so they do not have to wait till the end of Stage 3 to receive payment at least of part of their damages.
In our experience what does discourage a lot of clients from using Stage 3 is the prospect of having to pay back some of the damages received if the court ultimately awards less than the amount they were paid at the end of Stage 2. The effect of this should be minimised by careful selection of those cases where the use of Stage 3 is advised.
The other concern for clients is if the insurers insist on an oral hearing as this would involve the client in attending court which is a prospect that not many relish!
The experience of Wanstalls to date is that those cases that we have taken to Stage 3 have been dealt with on paper with no inconvenience to our clients. The experience has also been one of success with the court awarding higher damages and in some instances awarding damages for heads of claim that the insurers refused to consider.
The other success we have had is with insurers offering higher damages as soon as we “pressed the button” for Stage 3!
Whilst it takes the courts several months to deal with a Stage 3 case even on paper it still works well as a simplified process to have the court asses the damages in appropriate cases. It is certainly a process that we would encourage the use of.
As yet, apart from infant settlement approval hearings, we have not yet had an oral hearing for an adult claim at Stage 3. I’m sure we will in due course and that can be the subject of another blog.
Wanstalls Solicitors are based in County Durham in the North East of England. We represent clients both locally and nationwide and offer a friendly personalised service. If you would like to discuss any aspect of a personal injury claim, we would be delighted to hear from you.