Proceedings in civil court cases


If your civil court case has not been settled 'out-of-court', it will be set down for trial before a court.

At that hearing, you are described as the plaintiff and the wrongdoer is described as the defendant.

Liability in issue

If the defendant in the case has not admitted they are at fault, the trial will take the following format;

  • Your barrister will outline to the court the nature of the case and the injuries and losses you suffered.
  • Medical evidence relating to your injuries may be given by a doctor if appropriate to your case.
  • An engineer, or other expert, may be called to give evidence if necessary.
  • Accountants or actuaries may be called to calculate any loss of earnings.
  • You are called to give evidence:
    - This will involve swearing on oath and answering the questions posed to you by your barrister as clearly and concisely as possible. You will give evidence relating to the alleged wrongdoing occurred, your injuries and your losses.
    - When your barrister has finished asking you questions, you will be cross-examined by the barrister on the other side. The object of cross-examination is to discover the truth so you may be asked questions about inconsistencies in your evidence. You may also be told what the defendant or their witnesses say is the true version of events and asked to comment on their evidence.
  • All the other witnesses on your side give evidence and are cross-examined.
  • The defendant's witnesses are each called to the witness box and give evidence. Your barrister may cross-examine each one of them.
  • When all the witnesses have been called, both barristers may make submissions to the judge. This may include summarising or emphasising certain evidence or making legal arguments.
  • You have to prove your case on the balance of probabilities. In other words, you must prove that the wrongdoing happened and caused your injuries and losses.
  • A judge will make the decision on:
    - Whether the defendant is at fault and therefore liable to pay damages to you

- The amount of damages to which you are entitled as a result of your losses and injuries

- Who shall pay the costs of the proceedings.

  • A limited number of cases are heard before a judge and a jury, such as defamation actions. In these cases, the jury will ultimately decide whether the defendant is at fault and the amount of any damages.

The length of case will be determined by the length of the evidence and the submissions made.

Usually, if you have won the case, the judge will order that the defendant pay your reasonable legal costs as well as their own. If you lose, it is likely you will have to pay the costs of both sides.

Assessments only

If the defendant admits that they are to blame and you are not happy with the amount offered in settlement of damages, then the matter will be sent to a court to determine the amount of damages you are entitled to.

In this situation, the court does not consider the question of who is to blame. The judge will merely place a value on your case based on an examination of the nature and extent of your injuries and losses to date and into the future.

This examination will be conducted by considering the available medical evidence relating to your injuries and any evidence in relation to your financial losses and expenses. You may be asked to produce receipts and bills to prove you have incurred all of these expenses so it is important to keep a file of every bill and receipt.

If you have been injured as a result of any wrongdoing, you will likely be called as a witness so that you can describe your injuries.

When will you receive the award?

Awards as a result of civil cases can be paid by the defendant to your solicitor within 6 to 8 weeks, particularly if the defendant is insured.

However, it can often take much longer depending on the financial ability of the defendant and their willingness to pay.

Page edited: 12 June 2020