Published: 25 February 2020
What to expect when you have a matter in the County Court
During the course of your lump sum compensation matter, if the matter does not resolve by way of negotiation between the parties, proceedings may have to be issued in the County Court in an attempt to resolve the matter.
A general overview of what to expect if your matter were to proceed to hearing in the County Court follows.
The first thing you should be aware of is that it can take some time for your matter to reach Court – usually several months. The reason for this is twofold. Firstly, because there are a number of steps that the parties must complete before your matter can be heard. There are usually up to date medical materials that need to be obtained and exchanged between the parties. In addition, there are also legal documents that need to be completed, served and filed.
Typically, when Court proceedings are issued, one thing you likely won’t be aware of is that the lawyers for each party will come to an agreement as to the running of the case. This will involve agreeing on when the matter should be listed for hearing, and the dates by which certain things should occur.
The second reason for the time it takes for your matter to be heard is because there is usually a number of cases before yours that need to be dealt with first. This waiting list can be greater in certain parts of Victoria. For example, in regional areas, typically there are Court circuits. This means that the Court will sit at certain periods throughout the year, rather than most weeks, as happens in Melbourne. When a circuit comes around, there’s usually a number of cases that will need to be dealt with, of which yours might be one.
As your Court date nears closer, you might notice increased contact with your lawyers. You may have been required to attend a medical appointment or two (sometimes more). Your lawyer might have also taken an affidavit from you and/or someone close to you (an affidavit is a sworn statement which can be used during your Court case). In certain cases, you may be asked to attend a view of the location in which the incident occurred that is the subject of the case.
Your matter will be heard before a judge alone, or a judge with a jury. This depends upon the nature of the matter, and what the parties have agreed upon. Depending on the nature and complexity of the matter, your matter could run for anywhere between a few hours to a few weeks. On very rare occasions, a Court case can run for several months.
You are likely to be required to give evidence. This involves being in the witness box and being asked questions by your lawyer and the lawyer for the Defendant.
Either party may call witnesses during the case. These can be lay witnesses (for example, people who may have witnessed an accident) or medical witnesses (for example, your treating GP or specialist).