Small Claims Court: Find out when your claim for personal injury is classed as a small claim and the process of recovering compensation when it is
Discover when your personal injury claim is considered a small claim; exceptions to small claims being run in the small claims court; what happens to the legal costs in such claims and discover when best to use a solicitor to assist with your claim.
What is the small claims court?
The “small claims court” is a slightly misleading phrase as there is no separate small claims court, but one court known as the county court which has different procedures depending on how large a claim is.
The three tracks are the “small claims track”, the “fast track” and the “multi track”. Claims that are dealt with in the small claims track are often referred to as being dealt with by the small claims court and as the name suggests are the lower value less complex claims.
What are the elements of an accident claim for which compensation can be claimed?
A claim for compensation following an accident is made up of two main parts:
1. Compensation for pain and suffering
Compensation for pain, suffering and loss of amenity for physical or psychological injury is known as general damages for personal injury.
See our traffic accident compensation article which explains in more detail what these losses are in a typical personal injury claim, such as a road traffic accident.
2. Compensation for financial losses end expenses
Financial losses include: the cost of repair to a vehicle (in a car accident), lost income due to inability to work from an injury sustained, care and assistance in the home, etc. (the list is varied and long). This type of loss are known as special damages.
See our car accident compensation article for typical examples of special damages in a road traffic accident claim.
When should an accident claim proceed in the small claims court?
For an accident claim to be made in the small claims court the following conditions must be satisfied:
1. The claim for pain and suffering for physical or psychological injury should be worth less than £1,000 (since 31 May 2021 for road accidents only the small claims limit was increased to £5,000 – there are exceptions, so see our road accident small claims article for full details); and
2. The overall claim (pain and suffering plus financial losses) should be worth less than £10,000; and
3. A claim should not be considered too complex – if the claim is of low value, but is a medical negligence claim or a personal injury claim involving a child, then it is unlikely even if the claim is worth less than £1000 that the claim will be allocated to the small claims court and such claims are considered too complex.
TIP Some claims might seem of low value, but so far as physical or psychological injuries are concerned it is always worth speaking to a solicitor to see how much your injuries are worth as quite often personal injuries will be worth over the £1,000 threshold.
Who decides if a claim is allocated to the small claims court?
The court decides if a claim is to be allocated to the small claims court. After the claimant starts the claim at court the court will send out a document known as an allocation questionnaire, which is completed by both the Claimant and the Defendant.
Based upon the information contained within this document the court will decide if the claim should proceed in the small claims court.
What happens to legal fees in a small claims court matter?
At the end of a personal injury claim – the loser pays the winners legal costs, but in a small claims matter the only order the court can make is the loser pays the winners fixed costs.
Fixed costs include court fees, a small amount for expert fees (such as a medical experts), a small amount for witness expenses and a very limited amount for legal fees such as drafting a particulars of claim.
Should you have a solicitor helping you make a small claim?
Unfortunately, your legal fees will far exceed the amount you can recover in your claim even if you are successful, so it is best not to have a solicitor acting on your behalf unless you are happy to pay a large legal costs bill win or lose your claim.
What if you have the benefit of legal expenses insurance?
If however you have the benefit of legal expenses insurance (such as legal protection cover on household contents insurance) – it would be worth your while using a solicitor to make your claim, as your insurance policy should pay the legal costs even if the claim will be dealt with in the small claims court.
Specialist solicitor free online claims assessment / free callback
When you have suffered a personal injury in accident – it is quite likely that your compensation will be worth over £1,000. It is best therefore to speak to a specialist solicitor to see if your claim is likely to be beyond the small claims limit allowing you to claim the legal costs of instructing a lawyer and can consider a no win no fee agreement.
Using our free online / telephone solicitor assistance – you can receive an online assessment, ask a question or arrange for a specialist solicitor callback.
Small claims court summary and next steps
On this page you have discovered what small claims court compensation claims are – who decides when a claim is small and how to avoid paying a solicitor’s costs in claiming compensation.
See our accident compensation claim article to see an overview to the UK claims process for all types of accident claim.