What to expect at a compulsory conferencePublished on Posted on
Please note that this post was written for Queensland audiences and the information within may not apply to other regions.
Negotiations can happen in a variety of ways including by correspondence, over the phone and face-to-face. In Queensland, personal injury claim procedures include a step called a Compulsory Conference or settlement conference.
What is a compulsory conference/settlement conference?
A compulsory conference is essentially a meeting between you, your legal party and the insurer you’re claiming against to resolve the claim that forms part of the “pre-court” process. It’s a fairly informal process and one of the friendliest ways to resolve your claim.
As the name suggests, it’s compulsory that the parties engage in the conference prior to any legal proceedings being filed, in an attempt to come to an agreement in a timely and cost-friendly manner.
Often your solicitor will engage a barrister to negotiate on your behalf. The barrister will generally meet with you prior to and discuss what they think your claim is worth and what settlement figure they’ll negotiate for.
During the conference, your barrister will outline your claim, and make submissions on your behalf as to why the other side is to blame for your injuries. We’ll also present the schedule of damages that outlines what compensation you’re seeking and how much they estimate. Generally, your solicitor and barrister will embellish these figures to get negotiations started.
Then it’s the defence’s turn to put their case forward. This part can be intimidating as your personal character and integrity can be brought into question.
Often an insurer you’re claiming against will challenge statements you make about the severity of your injury or illness, the circumstances in which the injury or illness occurred, the level of impact it’s had on your ability to work, or enjoy life, and even the level of help you need around the house or the relevancy of your medical treatments in your recovery process.
This is why it’s important to be prepared with what to expect at a compulsory conference and choose legal representation for your injury claim to give you a better chance at getting what you rightfully deserve straight off the bat.
When does the compulsory conference happen?
The compulsory conference is scheduled when both parties have obtained all the evidence that they need to build their case such as medical reports and tax documents, and the defence has investigated liability.
This is usually about nine months to a year within starting your claim, depending on the complexity and the efficiency of the defence and insurer in investigating their case.
Do I have to go to the compulsory conference?
Generally, yes. The claimant is required to attend the settlement conference personally to observe the negotiations and provide instructions to your solicitor or barrister.
What happens if we don’t settle at the compulsory conference? Will I have to go to court?
If your matter doesn’t resolve at the pre-court compulsory conference, both parties are required to present their best offers that have to remain open for 14 days. These are referred to as a mandatory final offer which you can still accept at any time within the 14-day period.
So, contrary to popular belief, most personal injury claims do not end up in court. In fact, most personal injury lawyers aim to settle outside of court to save you money – because once things go to court, or trial, your claim may get more expensive. (We’d say about 80 per cent of matters resolve during the pre-court stages).
But as mentioned earlier, it is possible that if your matter doesn’t resolve at a pre-court compulsory conference, it may be necessary to commence court proceedings.
However, it’s also important to note that there are other opportunities to resolve the matter without the need to commence court proceedings including at mediation.