One of the biggest bugbears in civil proceedings is the question of your legal costs. If you are thinking of bringing a claim, or find yourself in the position of defending one, the possibility of having to pay the other side’s costs increases the level of risk substantially, and it is often a major deterrent for people. It can therefore be critical to know when you are at risk of a costs order being made against you.
When you bring a claim to court, your claim will be allocated to one of three tracks: the small claims track, the fast track or the multi-track. In small claims, no matter what the outcome, it is very unlikely that a Judge will make a costs order against the losing party – the proceedings are conducted informally and there are less stringent rules about evidence. You can recover your court fees if you win, but not legal fees. For some time now, small claims have been for cases with a value of less than £5,000.
As of April 2013, the small claims limit has been increased from £5,000 to £10,000. This is quite a significant increase, which can be helpful to many individual people who are considering bringing or defending claims. If you are ever faced with a claim for up to £10,000, the risk of losing costs might previously have dissuaded you from defending it, even if you felt you could have done so successfully. That risk has now considerably reduced.
On the other side of the coin, our solicitors deal with many people who have got into disputes with tradesmen, but the expense and difficulty of bringing a claim against them (and the fact that their opponents will be represented by expensive lawyers) can be off-putting. With costs not being recoverable, there is much more incentive for people to have a go at bringing a small claim where they consider that they are entitled to damages or feel they have no alternative but to go to court to seek justice.
Small claims proceedings are designed for individual litigants to represent themselves, but going to Court and facing your opponent before a judge can still be very daunting. It is possible to engage a solicitor to help you with individual aspects of your claim such as preparing the claim form, drafting your witness statement or representing you at a hearing – at Rothera Dowson we are happy to agree a fixed fee for this work if you would like our advice and assistance.
For more information please call Lewis Hastie or Richard Hammond at Rothera Dowson solicitors on 0800 088 6153 or visit www.rotheradowson.co.uk.