How to take a claim in the civil court

How to prepare a trial bundle and index

This guide will help you to understand how to prepare a trial bundle and index in a fast track case. You will not need one in a small claim (although see below for more advice). It is part of a series of guides about sorting out a dispute and going to a civil court.
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Introduction

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.

This guide is for you if you:


Small claim?

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, 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, immigration or employment case).

Top tip

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 .

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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January 2024
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 bottom 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 sides documents to form one pack.

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

·       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 side 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 to do with the completed index and bundle

If you do have to produce the trial bundle, you usually have to give it to the court and give the other side a copy 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 the indexed bundle and giving it to the court. If it’s not possible to agree the bundle with the other side then you should still provide the court with a copy of 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]

 

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.
  • 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.

Filing – giving the court a document or copy

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. 

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, the intermediate track or the multi-track. It also tells you to complete a directions questionnaire.

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.

Serving a bundle – giving the other side the bundle.

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.

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.

Witness statement - a document in which someone explains what they saw, did or heard

Simultaneous exchange - this is when the parties to a case 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’.

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 Katherine Wagg from University of Law who peer reviewed it.

Can you help us?  

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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9 Reviews

PREPARING A TRIAL BUNDLE, LITIGANT IN PERSON

This guide is absolutely brilliant. I've been searching for a year for a clear list of what I must do, provide, in what order, timescales etc. I have found nothing remotely like this guide - must not have been putting the right questions into Google. For the first time I have a clear idea of exactly what i will be required to do and when. I certainly had no idea that the other side of the case will be put in the trial bundle - this is pretty important! Thank you for providing this outstanding resource. As a litigant in person it is essential.
5
Sandra Adams (Ms, Dr) on the 27 / 11 / 2023

Preparing a trial bundle and index

Very informative
5
Maria on the 30 / 09 / 2023

Preparing a trial bundle and index

We’ll set out and informative. Thank you
5
CJ on the 31 / 01 / 2023

Small Claims Trial Bundle

Excellent guide for me as a layperson - thank you!
5
Mike Humphreys on the 17 / 01 / 2023

Your guide

Super !
5
on the 09 / 12 / 2022

Double sided

Just one thing, Civil Practise Rules now require double side printing where possible, presumably to comply with environmental guidance. I used a firm that compile bundles for you "on the cloud" and this can be done automatically, Another advice is where there is just one page or an odd number of pages, add a blank unprinted side so the next document always starts on the right and doesn't share a page leaf with a different document
4
Ben McDonnell on the 21 / 04 / 2022

Advice guide

Nice clear explanation. My panic levels are subsiding so I only feel frantic instead of distraught, incapable and about to cry.
5
Diane on the 28 / 02 / 2022

Civil claims, fast track claims, very helpful website

Thank you, I will follow this site closely, much more helpful than phoning the local County Court Enquiries. I have a big claim coming up in April, and was delighted to find this.
5
Ben McDonnell on the 26 / 01 / 2022

Preparing a trial bundle and index

Well prepared and informative
5
on the 25 / 01 / 2022

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