Some changes have been made on claims that are over £10,000 on how are dealt with. Please bear with us while we update this guide but most information will still be accurate and useful.
- What is a trial bundle and index?
- Does it have to be me who prepares the bundle and index?
- What do I include in the bundle?
- The order in which the court expects you to organise your documents
- How do I agree the bundle with the other side?
- What do I do with the index and bundle?
- Using your trial bundle
- An example of an index
- Top tips
- What does it mean?
- About this guide
This guide is for you if you:
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, with pages numbered, 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.
- are involved in a civil claim in either England or Wales, and
- your case involves a claim for between £10,000 and £25,000, 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).
Have a look at An overview of the process of taking a claim in the civil court to get an overview of what a typical case might look like and How to take a claim in the civil court - at a glance .
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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What is a trial bundle and index?
A ‘trial bundle’ 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.
· 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).
Does it have to be me who prepares the bundle and index?
It depends. Usually, the person who started the claim has to prepare the bundle but where that person does not have a solicitor, the rules can change. If you are a litigant in person and the other side is legally represented, the court might order the other party to do the job - for everyone’s convenience. If you have had a hearing and received a court order setting out the timetable for the case, check it carefully to see if it mentions who must prepare the trial bundle. Even if the court does not order the other side to prepare the trial bundle you can ask the other side if they will do so. 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. However, doing this in a fast track case could add to the legal costs you pay if you lose the case.
If the other party is in charge of preparing the trial bundle, make sure they include the documents you want in the bundle.
If you are responsible for preparing the trial bundle, there are now services you can pay to produce the bundle for you, once you have decided what needs to go in it and agreed the contents with the other side. You upload your documents and order them and they number them, create an index, and put them into one document for you. As always, read reviews and check that it will provide what you need for a court in England and Wales.
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 - check any order for directions you have carefully to see if there are any specific directions about the trial bundle).
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 the bundle 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 that 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]
[Insert name] Claimant
[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
- 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.
- You are now expected to print on both sides of the paper (unless that is not possible, so don’t stress if you cannot do this).
- 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.
- Where a document is only one page long or has an odd number of pages, add a blank unprinted page on the back. This will mean that the next document starts on the right and doesn't share a page leaf with a different document.
What does it mean?
Allocation - the process of deciding which track the case should follow.
Directions questionnaire - a questionnaire that helps the court decide how to deal with your case and which track to allocate (transfer) your case to.
Disclosure - the process of showing the relevant evidence to the other party.
Expert evidence - this is evidence of an expert’s opinion, of what they think or believe about something.
Index - a document at the front of the trial bundle listing all the documents in the bundle and their page numbers.
Indexed bundle of documents - a pack combining both parties’ documents with a list at the front showing what is in it.
List of documents - the document you send to the other side setting out the documents in your possession that are relevant to your case.
Notice of proposed allocation - a notice is a bit like a letter. This notice tells you which track the judge thinks is suitable for your case. This could be the small claims track, the fast track or the multi-track. It also tells you to complete a directions questionnaire.
Order for directions - a formal list setting out the steps to be taken by both sides and the deadlines for those steps (for example, the deadline to submit witness statements). It might also include details of who should prepare the trial bundle and what should go in it.
Pagination - 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 each page.
Pre-trial checklist - a form you use to tell the court how your case is progressing in the run up to the trial.
Request to inspect - this refers to your right to ask to see and check the original documents supporting the other party’s case. It’s no longer common to do this unless one party suspects the other has tampered with originals.
Settled - you reach an agreement with the other party which concludes the case.
Simultaneous exchange - this is when the two sides exchange their witness statements at the same time on the same day.
Statements of case – the court documents in which you and the other side present and argue each side of the case. So, a claim form, particulars of claims, counterclaim or defence are all ‘statements of case’.
Trial bundle - a collection of documents relevant to a civil claim which is used at the trial.
Trial window – the particular period of time during which your case is likely to be heard. The court may ask you for information about when you can and can’t attend during that period.
Witness statement - a document in which someone explains what they saw, did or heard.
About this guide
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.
This guide was produced by Law for Life's Advicenow project. Thanks to everybody who commented on this guide and to Katherine Wagg from University of Law who peer reviewed it.
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