The general public may not be aware but in cases where damages are valued at less than £25,000.00 then the Claimant’s lawyers can only recover fixed costs from the insurers irrespective of the amount of work that needs to be carried out.
In cases that are settled before legal proceedings are commenced these fixed costs are as low as £500 if the case involves a road traffic accident or £900.00 if the case involves an accident at work from dealing with the case from start to finish. Fat Cat Lawyers indeed whilst the insurance industry spends a fortune on advertising compulsory insurance whilst your premiums go through the roof.
Cases involving children and clients who speak little or no English are very time intensive but still fall within the strict provision of fixed costs.
Non English speaking clients are likely to require an interpreter at the medical examination, explain Court documents; when preparing their witness statements and to translate at Trial.
In personal injury cases involving Children it is a requirement that any settlement needs to be approved by the Court. There is a need to obtain a barrister’s opinion on the merits of the settlement and from experience all District Judges insist upon this.
The Civil Procedure Rules which we are obliged to follow are badly drafted and often there is an anomaly in the Court Rules.
Not satisfied with paying minimal fixed costs an insurer took exception to a necessary £150.00 Barrister’s fee for preparing a necessary advice upon settlement on a case in which liability was denied. Although the insurer initially lost they took it all the way to the Court of Appeal.
In Aldred v Cham (2019) EXCA Civ 1780 the Court decided that “the fact that, in a particular case, a claimant is a child, or someone who cannot speak English, or who requires an intermediary is nothing to do with the dispute itself. Age, linguistic ability and mental wellbeing are all characteristics of the claimant regardless of the dispute”
Despite accepting that the Barrister’s opinion was an almost mandatory requirement where the Claimant is a child the Claimant was unable to recover the cost of the Barrister’s Fee from the Defendant.
This leaves us with the present position.
- If liability is admitted in a road traffic child case the Defendant is liable to pay fixed costs of £700 to the Solicitor and £400 to the Barrister.
- However in the same case if the Defendant denies liability and later settles (which causes a substantial amount of additional work) they are only liable for £550.00. From this the Barrister needs to be paid so the Solicitors end up with £400.00.
- Therefore if the Defendant denies liability the Claimant’s representatives have to do substantially more work and get paid substantially less.
- There is a real risk that interpreter fees will no longer be allowed. This being the case the interpreter fees alone are likely to exceed the fixed costs recoverable. By implication non speaking clients may be prejudiced.
This cannot be what Parliament intended and the sooner the Civil Procedure Rule Committee changes the rules the better. If you require any further information, contact Simon Helliwell on 0113 284 5048 or alternatively email firstname.lastname@example.org.