A recent decision in the Senior Court’s Cost Office has reminded litigants of the importance of proportionality of costs in legal proceedings. The case was a personal injury claim which settled for just over £3,000. However, the Claimant’s solicitors’ bill of costs was for in excess of £70,000. The Costs Judge decided that the bill was disproportionate and reduced it by two thirds.
In making his decision, the Judge outlined that it was important for parties to carry out an assessment at the beginning of a claim to determine its likely value, the complexity of the issues involved and the appropriate level of work on the matter. This is something parties need to be mindful of as courts increasingly consider proportionality and move towards a fixed cost model.
It is an unfortunate fact of life that using the legal system can be an expensive process, and there is always a risk where the costs of pursing an action may exceed the amount in the dispute, as readers of Dickens’ Bleak House will be familiar with. In our experience, it is important to carefully review the value of a claim to consider if the costs of proceeding using professional representation will be proportionate.
This case outlines the importance of taking good quality legal advice at the outset of the matter to determine the key issues in a claim and the appropriate course of action to take. A solicitor can also advise you on any funding options available. Just because a claim may be disproportionate to pursue to trial, this does not mean that it cannot be resolved using legal representation.
A good solicitor can give you decent advice about the prospects of success, and assist with pre-action correspondence and negotiations between the parties with a view to achieving settlement of the matter before proceedings need to be issued. Certain steps can be taken to put pressure on an opponent to resolve the matter and the courts encourage parties to settle at any stage. We have achieved settlement for many clients on matters before the issue of formal court proceedings, where it would have almost certainly been disproportionate to pursue a claim to trial.
If you have any questions arising from the above article, please contact the Dispute Resolution team on 01322 623700.