When asked about the legal system in this country, most people would probably describe it as being very slow, complicated, expensive and uncertain. They would largely be right. However, it also has lots of good features as well. Most importantly, it provides a means to compensate CRPS sufferers to help them put their lives back on track.

In the right hands, the legal process needn’t be a mystery or a worry, but instead it can be used to good effect in order to achieve the very best result for the person who needs it most i.e. someone’s who’s life has been blighted by CRPS. An experienced CRPS solicitor should be able to take away the additional stress and worry and guide the sufferer through the legal process within the minimum of fuss.

There is every possibility that a good out of Court settlement will be secured along the way.  Experience shows that the very vast majority of cases are settled by negotiation at some stage during the court process. However, the Court is there to fall back on if all else fails.

The following paragraphs have been prepared to give an overview of the key stages in a compensation claim and, in particular, to give an outline of the Court process. It sets out the main steps which are likely to be encountered and attempts to explain some of the legal terminology.

Pre-Action Protocols

Pre-action protocols - Legal System in the UKThese are the rules and procedures that both sides are expected to follow before consideration is given to commencing formal court proceedings. The person making the claim is known as the “Claimant” and the person or organisation against whom the case is being pursued is known as the “Defendant”.

There are various Protocols in place which vary according to the type of case. The 2 that are most likely to apply to a CRPS compensation claim are the Pre-Action Protocol for Personal Injury Claims, and the Pre-Action Protocol for the Resolution of Clinical Disputes. All of the Protocols form part of the court rules (called the “Civil Procedure Rules”) even though the formal court process has not yet started.

The most important part of the Protocols from the Claimants point of view is that they set out a timetable. The first significant step is that the Claimant’s solicitors must write a fairly detailed letter to the intended Defendant setting out the grounds of the claim. This is called a “Letter of Claim”. The Defendant is required to acknowledge the letter within 14 days and then provide a detailed reply within 4 months of the Letter of Claim. This is called the “Letter of Response”.

It is possible that the Defendant will through in the towel at this point, but unfortunately that is very rare. Defendants nearly always have lots of reasons why they think that they are not responsible, and why they shouldn’t pay! Very often the real driving force behind the Defendants response is a large insurance company.

It is true to say that, in most cases, the communications between the Claimant and the Defendant during this stage of the process merely serve to crystallise the areas of disagreement. Almost inevitably, this will lead to the Claimant being advised to start formal court proceedings in order to progress the claim to the next level.

Court Proceedings

Court Proceedings - Legal System in the UKIt is probably worth making a few general points about the full-blown court process.

Firstly, the overwhelming majority of cases never get to a final court hearing. Most CRPS compensation claims are resolved by negotiation during the course of the legal procedure. A good CRPS compensation solicitor will be able to use the system to their client’s advantage.

Secondly, having the court decide the outcome at a final court hearing should generally be seen as a last resort. The very fact that the case has got that far tends to indicate that both sides have some strength in their arguments. It should also be said that court hearings are not a very pleasant experience for the people involved (apart from the lawyers of course because that is what they are trained to do!); they can be fussy and complicated; and, most importantly of all, the outcome can never be guaranteed. Just like everyone else, no 2 judges are the same.

However, the court process is the only option when a Defendant won’t play ball. A good CRPS solicitor will use it to achieve the very best outcome for their client.

Once the court process is underway, the claim has to go through various procedural steps which nearly always follow the same pattern. Only once those steps have been completed, will a final court hearing take place (assuming of course that a good settlement has not been achieved in the interim period). The key stages are summarised below: