Claimants and lawyers will soon be able to sue parties using the internet under a £43m package of investment to update the civil justice system.

Other measures suggested in the consultation paper, Modernising the Civil Courts, are for video-conferencing of court sessions and for judges to deal with preliminary applications by email.

A pilot scheme in Preston next month will allow people to email claims for fixed sums and for judges to decide some small claims cases online.

The £43m will be invested over the next three years. Massive savings are also expected in the £380m county courts budget.

The ecommerce changes are the second stage in Lord Woolf's civil justice reforms, which have streamlined civil court procedures since their introduction in April 2000.

David Lock, minister in the Lord Chancellor's department, said the civil courts system still kept “Victorian” opening hours and needed to catch up with modern day society.

The Forum of Insurance Lawyers said it would be seeking its members' views on the consultation document.