Part of our How to take a claim in the civil court series

How to prepare a trial bundle and index

This guide is in our series about sorting out a dispute and going to a civil court. It covers debt and consumer cases, breach of contract, and personal injury including road traffic accidents. This guide will help you to understand how to prepare a trial bundle and index in a fast track case.
Introduction

This guide is for you if you:

·       are thinking about suing (starting a civil claim) in either England or Wales, and

·       your case involves a claim for £25,000 or less, and

·       you are representing yourself (you are a litigant in person) and not eligible to have your case paid for by legal aid, a trade union, or insurance.

This guide is also for people supporting litigants in person, for example Support Through Court volunteers, Citizens' Advice volunteers, housing support workers, advice workers and court staff, as well as relatives and friends.

This guide is not for you if you are involved in:

·       a criminal case,

·       a family case (such as an application for a domestic violence injunction or a divorce),

·       a housing disrepair or housing possession case including mortgage possession,

·       an injunction (including court claims about anti-social behaviour)

·       a medical accident case,

·       a case involving defamation (that is libel or slander) or

·       a tribunal case (such as a discrimination or employment case).

Top tip

Have a look at Suing in the civil court – an overview of the process to get an overview of what a typical case might look like and How a claim is dealt with – summary table.

Legal language

We try to explain any legal language as we go along, but there is also a ‘What does it mean?’ section at the end.

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March 2021
What is a trial bundle and index?

A ‘trial bundle’ of is a collection of the documents relevant to your civil claim organised in the way you and the other side and the judge will use them at the trial. The court expects a trial bundle to be in a sensible order and, unless it consists of only one or two short documents, put together in a ring binder or lever arch file, with page numbers written in the middle of the foot of each page.

‘Index’ just means list, that is a list at the front of all the documents with their page numbers, just like chapter headings at the front of a book.

So, although it sounds complicated, the trial bundle is a pack of papers with a list at the front showing what is in it that you have to provide for the court and the defendant. It pulls together all the relevant information and evidence in one place to provide a history of the case.

Key features

·       The trial bundle combines both parties’ documents to form one pack.

·       You have to agree the contents with the other party.

·       The judge uses it at the trial, and so does the defendant and any witness.

·       There is a usual order in which the court expects you to organise your documents (see below).

Small claims

You don’t have to prepare a trial bundle and index if your case is being dealt with in the small claims track, although people often do because it is useful to avoid hunting through loose documents. If you have more than a few pages, it is easier to have all your documents in a ring binder, paginated and indexed. This allows everyone to find the relevant document easily, and it saves the court time.

In a small claim you are given a very short amount of time for the trial, perhaps only an hour. So, anything you can do to avoid wasting time by hunting for the right piece of paper will help you. And having your papers well organised can help you organise your thoughts too.

Does it have to be me who prepares the bundle and index?

It depends. Sometimes, if you are a litigant in person and the other side is legally represented you may want to ask them if they will prepare the trial bundle. They may have better access to the documents that are going to make up the bulk of the bundle and a commercial photocopier. This is more likely if the defendant is your employer, or they are represented by an insurance company.

You may get the chance, for example at a hearing when the judge gives directions, and if the other party is represented by a solicitor, to ask the judge to order them to prepare the bundle. This will save you having to puzzle over the task and should get it done quickly and efficiently. Make sure they include the documents you want in the bundle. However, doing this in a fast track case could add to the legal costs you pay if you lose the case.

Sometimes you don’t have to prepare the trial bundle because the court will order the other party to do the job - for everyone’s convenience.

What do I include in the bundle?

 The court may give you instructions (in the order for directions) about what to include in the bundle. Read what the court has asked you to do very carefully. You may, for example, be asked to include a short case summary (250 words max) outlining what you and the other side still disagree about. This order may also direct how the court wants the bundle presented, for example, in a lever-arch file or ring binder and with each page clearly numbered.

Get together all the paperwork which supports your claim and challenges what the defendant says or is claiming. You also have to include anything relevant that existed before you started your claim (for example, payslips, contract of employment, work rotas) even if they do not help your case.

Never put original documents in the bundle but take them with you to the trial in case the judge has any queries about them.

If you include a document in your bundle that is not in your List of documents, the other party will object and you will have to explain to the judge why you are only producing it now. It’s possible the judge may not allow you to use it.

The order in which the court expects you to organise your documents

The list below represents the usual, suggested order to put your documents in. It’s best to group similar items (for example invoices) together, rather than to itemise them individually in your index.

1.      Statements of case (These are court documents in which you and the other side present and argue for your case. So, a claim, counterclaim or defence are all ‘statements of case’. You should put them in date order – claim form first, then particulars of claim if separate.)

2.      Court orders in date order

3.      Witness statements

4.    Any documents from the List of documents that deal with the fault and where responsibility lies, for example, the accident report in a personal injury claim.

5.     Any documents from the List of documents that deal with the value of the claim. It is important not to overlook this heading. The judge may want help deciding how much your claim is worth. So, if, for example, you are finding it difficult to get work and this is relevant to your claim, produce evidence of unsuccessful job applications.

6.      Medical reports

7.      Other expert reports

8.      Photographs and sketch plans

How do I agree the bundle with the other side?

To get the bundle agreed, just send the other side a copy of the index – your list of what the bundle will have in it. At this stage, don’t include any page numbers on your index because you haven’t finalised what is going in it. The other side may want documents taken out or added. If you cannot agree, the documents in dispute are put in a second bundle. There is no need to send them the actual documents along with the index.

What do I do with the index and bundle?

If you do have to produce the trial bundle, you usually have to file it at court and serve a copy on the other party not more than 7 days and not less than 3 days before the start of the trial (or as directed by the court).

You also need to make a copy for yourself and one to take with you to court for the witness box – for the people who will need it, like witnesses and experts.

Stick to the deadline for preparing and filing the indexed bundle. If it’s not possible to agree it with the other side then you should still file your own bundle. Make sure you have all the emails showing how you tried to agree the contents of the bundle with you at court so the judge can see it’s not your fault.

Using your trial bundle

You should be able to look down the index, find the document you are interested in, turn to the page it says it is at and find it there. It makes finding things much quicker as long as you make sure the documents are in the order the index says they are in and every sheet of paper is numbered in order in the middle of the bottom of the page.

At the trial you can say to the judge ‘please will you look at page 38 in the bundle’ and if everyone quickly and correctly finds the same page, then you have prepared your bundle successfully.

An example of an index

 

 

IN THE [Type or write in the name of the court] COURT              Claim No:

[Type or write in the case number]

 

BETWEEN

                                                                [Insert name]                 Claimant

                                                                     And

                                                                [Insert name]                Defendant

                                                    _____________________

                                                           Index to trial bundle

                                                     _____________________

Description of Document                                                   Page number

Claim Form                                                                         1 - 2

Particulars of Claim (including medical report)                        3 – 20

Defence                                                                              21 - 24

Order for directions dated 1st November 2018                        25-26

Agreed Case Summary                                                         27

Witness statement of the Claimant                                        28 – 32

Exhibit to the witness statement of the Claimant                    33 – 35

Witness statement of Mr X                                                   36 – 39

Exhibit to the witness statement of Mr X                               40 – 42

Witness statement of the Defendant                                     43 – 47

Witness statement of Y                                                        48 – 51

Exhibit to the witness statement of Y                                    52 – 56

DVLA document V5C                                                           57 – 60

MOT test certificate                                                             61 – 62

Repair & Care Recovery and Storage Invoice                         63

Top tips
  • If the total number of pages in your bundle is more than 100, then use numbered dividers between each group of documents. These will help everyone find their way around the bundle more quickly.
  • Don’t number the pages in your bundle until the other side have agreed it. If they want something else to go in and you have already numbered it, you will end up having to do it all again.
  • If you  have to add documents  after you’ve done the page numbering – for example, if you have copies of more recent job applications to add to those already included in the bundle on pages 48 -61, you add them behind page 61, numbering them 61a, 61b, 61c and so on, so they are in a logical place.
  • Produce and number one bundle and index first. Take any staples out of the documents. Check the bundle against the index to make sure the documents in the bundle are in the order the index says they are in.
  • Make sure every sheet of paper is numbered in order in the middle of the bottom page, so when you look for page 57 to find the DVLA document V5C – there it is.
  • You may hear the term ‘pagination’ used by the judge, court staff and the other side’s lawyers. All it means is giving numbers to the pages of the bundle. So, a ‘paginated’ bundle is one where the pages have been numbered in the middle of the bottom of the page.
  • Make sure you have got your first bundle right before copying however many more you need. This may sound obvious but it is easy to do the copying before numbering the pages and then you are stuck with having to number 3 or more sets of documents by hand instead of just one.
  • Another easy mistake when you are copying is to forget that some originals are single sided and others are double sided. Make sure that you don’t just end up with only 1 side of a double-sided document.
  • You will usually be expected to do single sided photocopying.
About this guide

Disclaimer

The information in this guide applies to England and Wales only. The law may be different if you live in Scotland or Northern Ireland. The law is complicated. We have simplified things in this guide. Please don’t rely on this guide as a complete statement of the law. We recommend you try and get advice from the sources we have suggested.

The cases we refer to are not always real but show a typical situation. We have included them to help you think about how to deal with your own situation.

Acknowledgements

This guide was produced by Law for Life's Advicenow project. Thanks to everybody who commented on this guide and to Ashley Fredericks of Nottingham Law School Legal Advice Centre who peer reviewed it.

Thanks to the Litigant in Person Support Strategy for funding the creation of this guide.

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We are always trying to improve our service. If you have any comments on what you like or don't like about this guide please go to www.advicenow.org.uk/feedback

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