18 August, 2023
Many personal injury claims are dealt with under a fixed costs regime, with many more due to be brought into an extended fixed recoverable costs regime from the 1 October 2023. This limits the ability for defendants to challenge claimants' costs. That said there are still opportunities to make considerable savings as a paying party when wholly unreasonable costs are claimed.
In one such case we recently succeeded in securing a reduction of 45% as against costs claimed.
The claimant was employed as a miner and had an accident at work. Liability was not in dispute. A claim was intimated including a schedule of loss for over £400 000 and the court issue fee of £10 000 was paid by the claimant.
The injury sustained was a crush injury to the claimant's left hand and thumb with allegations of loss of grip, on going pain, weakness and sensitivity, leading to ongoing disabilities including inability to go back to his previous role.
The impact of the injuries and claim valuation was strongly challenged by us and the claim settled early in the proceedings for £45 000, so for around 10% of the claim as pleaded.
What followed was a Bill of Costs for over £55 000, including the £10 000 court issue fee, and hourly rates above the Guideline hourly rates, and based on London rates where the claimant's solicitors were based (despite the claimant living in the North East). Despite liability being conceded at an early pre litigation stage there was excessive time claimed for dealing with liability issues, and time was claimed for expert reports that had not been disclosed. The medical evidence had not changed between it being obtained and the claim settling so we were of the view that it was clear that the claim was not worth its pleaded value and as such an issue fee of £2 500 was appropriate.
We served a robust Points of Dispute challenging the bill and we and our clients were delighted when our position was accepted by the SCCO Costs Judge on provisional assessment. The Costs Judge accepted that the claimant was entitled to put his best case forward, and pay the court issue fee based on that, but went on to say that where he fell a long way short of his claim it should be him and not the defendant who picked up the tab for it.
Overall we managed to reduce hourly rates from £310/£180/£150 to £230/£177/£126 and also the hours claimed by over 28%, leading to a reduction in the costs claimed of 44% and disbursements of 46%, making the overall reduction 45%.
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