Challenging Your Court Costs

If you have won your court case, hopefully your legal representative will ask for a costs order to be made by the judge. Normally the order will state that the costs should be “assessed if not agreed”. This means if you are unable to agree them with the other side, they will need to go to detailed assessment.

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Process Of Applying For Detailed Assessment Of Costs

Step One - Notify The Other Party

In practice your solicitor will organise the process of detailed assessment on your behalf, but it is ultimately your responsibility, as it is your legal costs which have been ordered to be paid by the other side. Firstly you need to serve notice of your intention to begin detailed assessment proceedings to the other side, within 3 months of the original costs order. This means the other side should be sent:

  • A completed commencement of assessment form (N252)
  • Your ‘bill of costs’ (i.e. the details of the costs you’re claiming )
  • Copies of any fee notes from your solicitor and any other expert’s invoices on the bill
  • Receipts or invoices for any other disbursements on your bill over £250

Step Two - Try To Agree The Bill Of Costs

The other party will have 21 days to reply with their ‘points of dispute’, if they disagree with anything in your bill of costs. Their ‘points of dispute’ will list the costs they disagree with and may offer a reduced amount for those items. If they do not send a ‘points of dispute’ you can apply for a default costs certificate which will order the other side to pay your costs in full within 14 days.

You then can send a ‘points of reply’ within 14 days of receiving the ‘points of dispute’ which could either agree the reduced amounts or offer different amounts and try to agree on a reduced bill of costs.

If you are unable to agree the bill of costs, you will need to apply to the court for a detailed assessment.

Step Three - Apply For Detailed Assessment

Once you’ve received the ‘points of dispute’ from the other party, you can apply to get a hearing date for your detailed assessment, by filling in the detailed assessment request form (N258C) and send it off together with the court fee, which varies according to the size of the bill, but starts at £335 for all bills up to £15,000.

At this point your solicitor will draw up a detailed bill and “serve” it on them. They then have 21 days from service to provide "Points of Dispute" raising challenges to the bill. If they fail to raise any challenges within 21 days of service, a "Default Costs Certificate" will probably be obtained for payment of the full amount of the bill by them.

Once Points of Dispute have been served, unless you are both able to reach a compromise agreement, the case will proceed to a detailed assessment hearing. For costs less than £75,000, this will be a provisional hearing without the parties, otherwise it will be an oral hearing with the parties and/or their representatives. An oral hearing usually takes anything from an hour to a day, with either a lawyer or costs draftsman attending the hearing for each side.

How Does The Court Deal With Detailed Assessment Of Costs?

What Is The Basis Used For Assessing Costs?

The Court goes through the bill line by line, assessing the issues raised and determining the amount that should be paid. The basis of assessment of legal costs is either on the standard basis or the indemnity basis. These include looking at how reasonable the costs are and how proportional they are to the issues of the case. Attention may be paid to the Guideline Hourly Rates, but these are less binding and are not relevant on solicitor/own client assessments (Indemnity basis).

Who Pays For The Costs Of The Detailed Assessment?

As with most court costs, the losing party is most likely going to be responsible for the costs of going through the detailed assessment process. However, unless the judge reduces the bill by 20% or more, or there are other special circumstances, such as an offer was previously made to pay higher costs than have been decided by the judge, it’s likely you will be considered the winner. This means the other side will be responsible for the costs of the assessment. However, the judge is able to use reasonable discretion on this issue, so nothing is certain.

When Must The Costs Be Paid?

Once the amount of costs has been decided there is usually 14 days to make payment, unless the Court gives a different deadline.

What If You Disagree With The Decision?

You can appeal if you disagree with the court’s decision. Either ask the Judge at the hearing or apply for permission from the appeal court within 21 days of the court’s decision. Read leaflet EX340 for more information.

For help with Challenging court costs call us on 01935 823883