The recent news that the court fee to start a claim worth £200,000 or more is set to leap from £1,515 to £10,000 has left most of us feeling like we’ve taken a sucker punch to the solar plexus. This is of the course the most extravagant rise but all court fees are expected to be levied with a jaw gaping hike! Much like the solar plexus, legal costs in personal injury and clinical negligence claims is a weak spot that the Ministry of Justice has hit squarely yet again. With the decimation of public funding and the new proportionality test that sees costs considered disproportionate (to the value of the claim) and therefore reduced or disallowed altogether even if they were reasonably and necessarily incurred(!!), the doorway to the injured claimant’s access to justice appears to be no longer wide open but just passable.
So, where does this leave the Claimant? Take the example of Mrs A and Mrs Z – both are aged 60. Both suffer an injury during surgery as a result of negligence. Both are left with pain and symptoms rendering them unable to continue working. Mrs A works as a Shop Assistant and Mrs Z works as a Barrister. They have almost identical injuries but their claims for loss of earnings are substantially different. However, in this age, costs incurred in Mrs Z’s case will by definition be challenged to a lesser degree than those same costs incurred in the case for Mrs A because her claim has a greater value in monetary terms. Adding an inflated court fee to the legal costs of pursing a claim for someone like Mrs A is likely to draw significant and merciless challenges on every step taken to secure the claimant the compensation owed to them under the principle that an injured party should be restored to the position they would be in “but for” the negligence.
In some cases the implications of paying large court fees and of legal costs being assessed as disproportionate may be sufficient for an injured party to struggle to find a solicitor to take on the case in the first instance or perhaps to find an experienced solicitor who will act in their best interests.
Paying out a court fee of £10,000 in any case is ludicrous and is a huge burden to any law firm and we hope that this idea with be reviewed and departed from however whatever happens, here at Armstrong Foulkes we will always act in the best interests of every client and provide a proper service of standard to each client.
Ashleigh Holt – March 2015