You can recover legal costs in the county court - but it is important to understand the rules in multi track claims. Otherwise you might have to pay the other side's costs.
The importance of understanding costs in a legal claim
Before embarking on a legal claim – it is vital to understand whether you will be able to recover your costs if you are successful. Or, if you lose the claim, have to pay the legal costs of the other side.
The county court does have a general discretion in relation to costs and can make any costs order it feels is appropriate taking into account the value of the claim, the successful party and the conduct and behaviour of the parties during the course of the litigation.
However, as a general rule the recovery of legal costs in the county court depends largely on which track your county court case is allocated to.
Multi-track claims – value over £25,000 – the general rule
With multi-track cases, the usual rule is that the successful party can recover their legal costs from the losing party. Costs are either agreed between the parties or, if they cannot be agreed, assessed by the court.
Costs budgets & precedent H forms – very important documents
In order to assist the court, parties in multi-track cases have to submit detailed costs budgets when they file their directions questionnaires, setting out all their anticipated costs to trial. These are called Precedent H documents. These costs budgets detail the legal costs that each party expects to incur at each stage of the proceedings.
- the two sides to the claim should then attempt to agree costs budgets with each other, so that each party knows what the other parties’ likely costs are from an early stage of the proceedings;
- the court are supposed to monitor costs throughout the proceedings and have general management powers in relation to costs. They may limit costs for each stage of the proceedings if they feel the costs estimates are too high;
- if a party needs to amend their costs budget (because they are getting close to their estimate, for say, preparing witness statements) they will need to apply to the court to obtain the court’s permission.There are very serious repercussions for a party who fails to file their costs budget on time, in that if they are successful in their claim, they may only be able to recover their court fee costs.
- where a party fails to file a costs budget (either at all or on time) (and are limited to their court fees only), they may make an application for “relief from sanctions”, but this can be a difficult hurdle to overcome.
Cost budgets are complicated documents and should be completed by legal representatives on your behalf.
Francis Wilks & Jones is an expert in dealing with Multi Track claims and the issues which may arise in them – including costs. Call now and one of our expert team can help.