The thought of going to court can be daunting for most of us. One of the first things that springs to most minds is Judge Judy and her intimidating demeanour, never mind the lawyers from ‘Suits’ and Ally McBeal!
Court attendance is never as bad as you think it will be. Few realise that whilst a large number of cases are listed on a daily basis only a small percentage of personal injury claims* ever go into court for a full hearing.
If your case proceeds to court, your solicitor will do their utmost to reduce any anxiety you may have. You will be guided through the experience to a conclusion.
Who will I meet on the hearing day of the case?
During your court case, your solicitor will accompany you at every stage of the process. In the District Courts and Circuit Courts, you will be represented by a barrister. Your barrister will be part of your team and be familiar with your case. If your case is in the High Court you may have two barristers on your team as senior and junior counsel.
A pre-trial consultation is normally arranged with your full legal team on the morning of the hearing. During the course of the pre-trial consultation, the barrister may play “devil’s advocate”. This means that they prepare you by cross-examining you in a style and manner that the defendant’s barrister might do at the hearing of your case. Expert witnesses such as Engineers and Doctors may attend these meetings.
It is important to dress appropriately for your court appearance, think of your Sunday best!
In the District and Circuit Courts, a case is normally reached the day it is listed. In the High Court, however, if your case is not assigned to a judge on the first day it is listed, you may need to come back the following day. There can be delays in court lists, so your case may not start immediately. The delays are often used as an opportunity to discuss possible settlement of cases.
If your case does commence, you will be called to give evidence first. You will be brought through the facts of your case by your own barrister. Following on from this, the defendant’s barrister may ask you questions based on the evidence that you have given. This is known as cross-examination.
Upon conclusion of your evidence, evidence of any other witnesses is taken in the same way. Once all witnesses called to support your case have been heard the defendants will have an opportunity to call their own witnesses.
After all evidence is heard, the judge may give a decision on the case there and then. However, he may adjourn the case to consider the matter in further detail and deliver judgement at that stage.
Remember that tension is a natural part of the court process. Our advice to you is to try not to let this get to you. With over 30 years’ experience in looking after clients going to court, you can rest assured that you are in good hands with the Tracey Solicitors team.
Who’s Who Guide to The Courtroom
When you bring a personal injury claim * against someone who has caused you injury and loss, people often think of they will end up in court. In reality, the majority of personal injuries cases will settle prior to having the case heard by a judge. This is referred to as settling outside of court and can happen in a couple of different ways:
Settle early on with the insurance company directly
Through an assessment process by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board;
Settle at talks arranged prior to the hearing;
Settle on the day scheduled for the hearing of the matter. This is without the need for you to ever enter a courtroom.
Nonetheless, the prospect of a day in court can often be a daunting one for someone who is not familiar with the process or someone who may never have been in the courts before.
Your solicitor will bring you through this. But part of it is also knowing who the relevant parties are. In addition, knowing what role they each play in the court’s system.
The judge hearing the case sits at the top of the courtroom. The judge is in charge of the running of the proceedings, keeping order in the courtroom and in a personal injury case *. They will decide the outcome of the matter based on the evidence put before him or her.
The Registrar’s function is to call out each case in turn so that the relevant people can identify themselves to the court. For example, when a witness is called to the stand the registration hands the witness the bible and reads out the oath for the witness to repeat. The registrar also hands the judge court documents as needed. They take note of any court orders made and after a day in court drafts the orders. Basically, their function is to ensure the smooth running of the court. The registrar sits in front of the judge.
A judge has another assistant known as their tipstaff. This person announces the entry and exit of the judge to and from the courtroom. The tipstaff acts not only as a personal assistant but also aids in the running of the courts by communicating with other tipstaffs. In addition, they keep the judge and registrar informed of the management of the court lists.
Your Personal Injury Solicitor
Your own legal team will be made up of a solicitor and a barrister or barristers. The first half your legal team is your solicitor. Your solicitor sits on the first bench in front of the registrar facing the body of the court. This is in the same direction as the judge and registrar. The other side’s solicitor will sit at the opposite end of the same bench to your solicitor.
The barrister is the other half of your legal team. The barrister’s role is to represent you in court, speak on your behalf and argue your case before a judge. In situations where a case is settled outside of court, it is the barrister who negotiated the settlement of your case on your legal team and the other side’s barrister sit in the two benches directly facing their side’s respective solicitors. Senior Counsel (if the matter is listed for hearing in the High Court) sit on the first bench and Junior Counsel sits behind them.
Witnesses are people who have been called to give evidence in court. When a witness is called, they will sit next to the registrar, having first been sworn into evidence by the registrar. A witness will be asked questions by the barristers, and sometimes by the judge. The witness will face sideways to that he or she can hear and answer questions.
There is audio recording of all matters in the courts. However, if a transcript of the proceedings is required, it is open to either the plaintiff or the defendant to engage a stenographer. A stenographer keeps note of the proceedings. This is usually in case the matter is likely to be appealed. If such a person is required, they will usually sit to the left or right of the registrar. This is the opposite side to the witness box.
The remainder of the rows may be filled with witnesses, interested parties, family and friends who attend with you for support.
Are Court Hearings Open To The Public?
With the exception of some types of matters, cases are heard in public. This means that the public is allowed to sit in the court while the matter is being heard. It also means that members of the press are entitled to also sit in and report the evidence in the media.
On the morning of your hearing, arrive early and go into a courtroom to see the layout. If you are waiting around for your case to be heard, you can sit in the body of another court and listen to the various parties so you can see how your case might play out.
Remember that you will be accompanied by your solicitor to court, you will never have to do this alone – if you have any questions or concerns about going to court, feel free to call Tracey Solicitors on 01 649 9900 for a confidential discussion.
We give legal advices in Russian. If you need legal help contact Emilia 087 165 1564
16/17 St. Andrew Street
T: 01 649 9900 – Reception
T: 087 165 1564 – Russian
*In contentious business a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.