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Why is my car accident claim going to court?

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While it’s unlikely, sometimes car accident claims do need to go to court. Whether it’s because of an argument over who’s at fault or negotiations around the compensation owed, going to court is a last resort when a settlement can’t be agreed. 

Our guide will take you through what happens if your car accident claim goes to court, if you’ll need to appear in person and how it can affect the cost of your car insurance quote.

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  • Most car accident claims don’t go to court
  • If your claim does go to court, it’ll be because the car insurance providers can’t agree on who’s at fault or because it involves serious injuries and/or significant damages
  • You’ll likely only need to appear in person if the claim is worth more than £25,000
  • You can settle claims out of court right up until the final hearing date

Why do car accident claims go to court?

There are typically two main reasons why a car accident claim may end up going to court:

  • If providers can’t agree on who’s at fault: if there are conflicting accounts of what happened and the car insurance providers can’t agree on who’s at fault, the claim may have to go to court to decide the responsible party
  • If the claim involves serious injuries: if the motor accident led to serious, potentially life-changing injuries for at least one party and they’re seeking significant damages, the claim may have to be resolved in court

However, even in the above scenarios, only a fraction of car accident claims get to that stage. And if a trial date is arranged, it’s common for the claim to be settled before it reaches court. 

What happens if my car accident claim goes to court?

If your car accident claim is significant or contentious enough that it can’t be settled by the car insurance providers, you’ll need to file a lawsuit and secure the services of a solicitor. 

Your solicitor will then try to negotiate a settlement with the insurance company in question to avoid the claim going to court. However, if a settlement can’t be reached before the trial date, your claim will go to civil court.

In a civil court, there’s no jury. Instead, both sides will present their case to a judge, who will then decide who’s responsible and what’s a suitable level of compensation. 

Will I have to attend court?

Whether you have to attend court for your car insurance claim will depend on the claim in question.

If the claim is worth less than £25,000, it’s likely your solicitor will appear in court on your behalf. This is called a “fast track” claim.

However, if the claim is classed as “multi-track”, ie it’s a complex claim worth more than £25,000, it’s more likely you’ll need to appear in court.

You may then be asked to formally give evidence related to the motor accident and will be questioned by both your legal representative and the other side’s representative.

For example, if you’ve suffered a serious injury, you may have to talk about how it has negatively affected your life and if you’ve sustained any loss of earnings. 

How long will it take?

How long the court case will take depends entirely on the complexity and severity of the claim – for example, if medical or police reports need to be created and collected – as well as the availability of the court itself. 

If your claim goes to court, you should expect it to take at least a few months for a settlement to be agreed upon, if not longer.

Can I settle a car accident claim out of court?

Not only is it possible to settle a car accident claim out of court, but it’s far and away the most likely outcome. 

Even if you start the process of taking your claim to court, that doesn’t mean it has to end in a trial. If your legal representation can settle with the provider before the final hearing, the process can be halted before the courts get involved. 

Will my claim going to court increase the cost of my car insurance?

If you take your claim to court, the cost of your car insurance will go up at the point of renewal for two main reasons. One, you’ll be seen as more of a risk in the eyes of insurers. And two, you’ll likely have affected any no-claims bonus you’ve built up.

Unfortunately, your car insurance will go up following an accident, even if you don’t go to court. This is because drivers who have been in an accident, regardless of who was at fault, are seen as at a higher risk of being involved in another incident by providers. 

When else might I go to court for driving incidents?

Car accident claims aren’t the only reason you could end up in court for driving incidents:

Driving without insurance

If you were caught driving without insurance and the case was taken to court, you could face an unlimited fine and disqualification from driving. 

Driving under the influence

If you’re caught drink-driving or driving under the influence of illegal substances, you could end up in court, depending on the circumstances. If you do appear in court, you could face up to six months in prison, as well as an unlimited fine and a driving ban lasting at least one year. 

You should be aware that you can be charged for driving under the influence if you’re asleep in your car but still over the limit. Punishment for “being in charge of a vehicle” while drunk can include up to three months in prison, a fine of up to £2,500 and a possible driving ban.

Careless driving

If you’re charged with careless or inconsiderate driving, you’ll end up in the Magistrates Court. Careless driving includes:

  • Overtaking on the inside
  • Driving too close to another vehicle
  • Mistakenly driving through a red light
  • Distracting other drivers with undipped headlights or flashing lights to force other drivers to give way
  • Turning into the path of another vehicle

Dangerous driving

If you’re charged with dangerous driving, you’ll be prosecuted in the Crown Court. Examples of dangerous driving include:

  • Speeding or driving aggressively
  • Ignoring traffic lights and other road signs
  • Driving under the influence
  • Driving when unfit (including driving when sleepy)
  • Driving with a known dangerous fault in the vehicle
  • Driving with avoidable distractions, such as using a mobile phone, reading or looking at a map

Car accident claims going to court FAQs

If you feel your car insurance provider is refusing to pay out for a reasonable claim or believe the wrong decision has been made around who’s at fault for the incident, you can take the company to court.

You should first register a formal complaint with your provider and, if still unsatisfied, the Financial Ombudsman Service before pursuing a claim against your provider in court.

Going to court can be a costly and stressful experience and should only be used as a last resort. 

In certain situations, your car insurance provider may take you to court. For example, if the provider believes you’ve committed insurance fraud and wants to pursue its losses, the case could end up in court. 

Connor Campbell

Finance Writer

Connor Campbell is an experienced personal and business finance writer who has been producing online content for almost a decade. 

Connor is the personal finance expert for Independent Advisor, guiding readers through everything they need to know about car insurance and home insurance. From how much it costs to the best insurance providers in the UK, he’s here to help you find the right policy for your needs. 

In his capacity as writer and spokesperson at NerdWallet, Connor explored a number of topics close to his heart, such as the impact of our increasingly cashless society, and the hardships and heroics of British entrepreneurs. His commentary was featured in sites such as The Mirror, the Daily Express and Business Insider

At financial trading firm Spreadex, meanwhile, his market commentary was featured in outlets such as The Guardian, BBC, Reuters and the Evening Standard

Connor is a voracious reader with an MA in English, and is dedicated to making life’s financial decisions a little bit easier by doing away with jargon and needless complexity.

Molly Dyson

Editor

After growing up with a passion for writing, Molly studied journalism and creative writing at university in her home country of the United States.

She has written for a variety of print and online publications, from small town newspapers to international magazines. Most of her 10-year career since relocating to the UK has been spent in business journalism, writing and editing for admin professionals at PA Life magazine and business travel managers at Business Travel News Europe and representing those titles at conferences around the world.

Now an Editor at the Independent Advisor, Molly is an expert in a broad range of consumer topics, that include solar panels and renewables, home improvements and home insurance, and consumer technology such as home security and VPNs.

In her free time, Molly can usually be found exploring the outdoors with her husband and their young son or gardening.