From 22 September 2015, Sheriff Courts across Scotland will have exclusive competence to deal with cases up to £100,000 in value. As a result, many personal injuries claims that would previously have been raised in the Court of Session must be raised in the Sheriff Court.
An Order (Scotland Sheriff Court (Sheriff Personal Injury Court) Order 2015) published last week creates a new all-Scotland Sheriff Personal Injury Court (SPIC), which will sit in Edinburgh Sheriff Court from September 2015. The new court is intended to replicate many of the perceived benefits (in particular efficiencies of scale and consistency) which came from dealing with cases centrally at the Court of Session, by continuing to provide a central forum for personal injury cases in Edinburgh. The SPIC will operate specialist personal injury procedures and will be staffed by specialist personal injury Sheriffs.
The court is able to deal with:
- personal injury actions where the sum claimed exceeds £5,000;
- claims about an accident at work or personal injuries sustained in the course of work where the sum claimed exceeds £1,000; or
- claims about an accident at work or personal injuries sustained in the course of work where a Sheriff has certified that the importance or difficulty makes it appropriate to transfer the case to the SPIC.
It’s still possible to raise actions in the local Sheriff Court – either under normal procedure or under the specialist personal injury procedure in that court. However the Sheriff may decide to remit it to the SPIC if appropriate.
In addition to the benefits mentioned above, the creation of the SPIC could have a number of advantages for those defending personal injury claims. If, as envisaged, the SPIC is the forum of choice for raising personal injury claims, costs savings may arise by virtue of the increased specialisation offered by the SPIC and from the fact that clients no longer require to be represented by Counsel or a Solicitor Advocate.
In due course, specialist Sheriffs will be allocated to the SPIC but meantime, with limited Sheriffs and potentially a high volume of cases, court dates may be limited and inflexible, at least while the new systems bed in.