Small Claims Costs
Small claims costs are generally limited, given that the cases are supposed to involve simple issues worth less than £5,000 with a personal injury element of less than £1,000. Where court proceedings are issued and a defence is filed a judge will consider how the case should be managed and would normally allocate the case to a track. The track for these type of cases is called the small claims track. It is generally thought that you cannot recover costs in such cases if you go to Court, however this is wrong. Costs are recoverable, but they are limited.
You are entitled to ask the other side to reimburse any court fees you have paid. The most common are the issue fee and allocation fee.
Where a solicitor has helped you prepare your claim for issuing then fixed costs are payable for this.
Loss of earnings
If you or your witness(es) have lost income as a result of having to attend Court you can ask for this to be paid. You would have to show proof of the loss, although most judges are quite relaxed on this. The amount is currently limited to £90 per person per day (previously £50 up to 30 September 2011).
Travel and accommodation
You and your witness(es) are entitled to the reasonable costs of travelling to the hearing and, if necessary, overnight accommodation. There is no cap on the amount that can be awarded.
You can recover the cost of instructing an expert in a case provided that the Court has approved the instruction. The costs are limited to £200, so will normally only cover the costs of a report itself. Nothing extra is payable if the expert has to go to Court.
If the case was only allocated to the small claims track because the other side admitted part of the claim, reducing the amount in dispute below the limits, then costs incurred prior to the allocation may also be recoverable.
There is a general discretion for the judge to award costs in small claims cases where the other side has acted unreasonably. It is rare that defending the claim alone will be regarded as unreasonable. You probably need to make a reasonable offer to settle that is not accepted or the other side have to act really badly to get this. A good example is where the the other side defend the case but fail to serve evidence as Ordered by the court and then fail to attend the trial. Other examples are where the other side wait until after proceedings are issued to negotiate or fail to make any offer to settle the claim until just before trial.
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