Claiming legal costs: A guide to costs recovery
Are you entitled to recover legal costs?
The general rule of thumb in most types of litigation is that the successful party to a case will be entitled to recover legal costs from the losing party. This is typically the case in most types of civil litigation, such as personal injury claims, contract disputes, and property disputes.
In certain types of cases, however, such as family law cases, parties are required to pay their own costs, unless otherwise ordered by the Court. In these types of cases, if a party has behaved unreasonably during the course of the case, the court may order them to pay some or all of the other party’s costs. Similarly, if a party has failed to comply with court orders or directions, the court may order them to pay the costs of any additional court proceedings that were required as a result of their non-compliance.
If your case has been allocated to the small claims track, meaning the value of the case is low, the general rule is that each party is responsible for their own costs, regardless of the outcome of the case. There are exceptions to this rule; however, and the small claims court may make a costs order in certain circumstances, such as unreasonable behaviour.
Which costs can be claimed?
The winning party can generally recover their reasonable costs incurred in pursuing or defending the case from the losing party. These costs can include:
- Solicitor’s fees: This includes the fees charged by the winning party’s solicitor or legal representative for the work they carried out in relation to the case, such as drafting documents, attending court hearings, and providing legal advice.
- Barrister’s fees: If the winning party instructed a barrister (also known as counsel) to represent them in court, they can recover the barrister’s fees as part of their costs.
- Court fees: This includes any fees paid to the court in relation to the case, such as fees for issuing or defending a claim, filing documents, or attending hearings.
- Expert fees: If the winning party instructed an expert witness to provide evidence in the case, they can recover the fees paid to the expert as part of their costs.
- Other disbursements: This can include any other expenses incurred by the winning party in relation to the case, such as travel expenses, copying and printing fees, and fees for obtaining medical or other reports.
It’s important to note that the court has discretion over the amount of costs that can be recovered by the winning party, and will assess whether the costs claimed are reasonable and proportionate to the issues in the case. The court may also disallow certain costs if they are found to be unreasonable or unnecessary.
Claiming legal costs in fixed costs cases
In fast track cases, which are typically cases with a value between £10,000 and £25,000, there is a fixed costs regime that governs how much the winning party can recover in costs under the Civil Procedure Rules. The fixed costs are based on a scale that takes into account the amount of the claim and the stage of the proceedings at which the case is resolved. In fast track cases, the court will usually make an order for costs at the end of the trial or hearing, which will specify the amount of costs that the winning party can recover.
In certain circumstances, such as where a claimant beats their own part 36 offer at Court, additional costs may be awarded.
Claiming legal costs in multi track cases
In most multi track cases, claiming legal costs is done using the process of detailed assessment if parties cannot agree to costs. This process involves the winning party, known as the receiving party, serving a bill of costs alongside a Notice of Commencement onto the losing or paying party.
The bill of costs should set out the costs that they have incurred in pursuing or defending the case. The bill should also be accompanied by supporting documents, such as time records, invoices, and receipts.
The paying party will have an opportunity to dispute or negotiate these costs using points of dispute. These should be served within 21 days of receipt of the bill of costs. If the paying party do not serve their points of dispute, the receiving party can apply for a default costs certificate which will entitle them to claim all legal costs listed within the bill.
If points of dispute are served in time, the receiving party can further negotiate using replies to points of dispute. If an agreement cannot be reached using this method, the receiving party will be required to apply for a detailed or provisional assessment hearing at court.
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