The Real Cost of Going to Court
When making a claim, it is always important to consider; How much will it cost me to take the matter to Court? Will I get my money back if I win?
It is a popular myth that if you are successful at Court, you will recover all your money and costs. Unfortunately the reality isn't that simple.
Enforcing a JudgementEven if you have a judgment from the Courts in your favour, you need to enforce it. If the Defendant has no money, you may not be able to do so.
Before you make a claim, consider carrying out some checks.
- You can check if someone is bankrupt at www.bis.gov.uk/insolvency or by calling the Insolvency Service on 0845 602 9848.
- You can check if someone already has unpaid County Court Judgments (CCJs) by contacting the Registry Trust at www.registry-trust.org.uk or on 020 7380 0133.
Small ClaimsThe Small Claims Court deals with claims for sums up to £10,000 or personal injury claims worth less than £1000.
Not recoverableSolicitors' costs are not recoverable in The Small Claims Court even if you win. Therefore for assistance with your claim, it is best to seek free advice at your local Citizens Advice Bureau as solicitors' costs could easily be higher than any sum recovered.
Only recoverable if you winSome costs you will have to pay upfront to commence or pursue your claim. You will get these back if you win, but of course at if you do not, you have paid out more money and not recovered any. Costs in this category include:
- Court Fees - You will have to pay court fees of £25 to £245 depending upon the sum claimed to issue your claim, and then a further £25 to £325 if it goes to a hearing. (You may be exempt from paying court fees if you are in receipt of Jobseekers Allowance or Income Support.)
- Expert Evidence - To pursue a claim, particularly for a personal injury, you may need expert evidence such a medical reports. £750 is the maximum recoverable amount even if you are successful.
Larger ClaimsIf your claim is for over £10,000 or a personal injury worth more than £1000, you will be entitled to recover reasonable solicitors' costs if you win.
The Defendant (or their solicitors) can however challenge costs even if they lose. Defendants rarely pay the whole costs sum claimed. Be warned: This may mean that your solicitors look to you to pay the difference between that recovered and their total bill. You are however also entitled to challenge your solicitors' costs.
TIP: Ask to see all copy correspondence with the Defendant's solicitors re why they are not paying the full costs sum claimed. You can then rely on the same arguments as to why you should not have to pay the remainder (e.g. duplication of work).
What is a "No Win - No Fee" agreement?If you don't win your case, under this type of agreement, you won't pay your solicitors' costs. As is often the case, this sounds too good to be true - be aware of the "catches"!
- You may still have to pay other costs up front before you know your chances of success. These costs include Land Registry Search charges, medical report costs and GP records charges. They are however generally recoverable if you win.
- As detailed earlier, you may be expected to pay the difference between any recovered costs and your solicitors' total bill.
- Check whether the agreement has a "success fee". This is an additional sum that you will have to pay your solicitors if you win. For money claims this can be as high as 100% uplift on their costs. For personal injury claims this is capped at 25% of your damages, on top of their costs. This is not recoverable from the other side, even if you win.
- If the Defendant makes a "Part 36" settlement offer, speak carefully to your solicitors about the potential cost consequences of this. Even if you win, if you do not beat the offered sum, you will have to pay some of the Defendant's solicitors' costs!