Assessment of Costs
Assessment of costs is the process by which the Court determines the amount that should be paid for legal charges. You may hear this referred to as "taxation" of costs, as this is what the process was called before changes to the rules in 1998.
Assessment can either be between the parties or between a client and their solicitor.
There are 2 types of assessment, namely summary assessment and detailed assessment.
Summary assessment takes place following a trial or hearing that lasts up to 1 day. It is a very broad brush approach to deciding how much should be paid. The parties provide brief details of the costs they are claiming, the Judge hears from the parties and then reaches a decision. The Judge will normally use the Guideline Rates to set the appropriate hourly rate for the solicitor involved. The process is not intended to take very long at all, hence the name.
Detailed assessment is where a detailed bill is drawn up and served on the other side/client. There is 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 then a "Default Costs Certificate" is normally obtained for the full amount of the bill.
Arguably any solicitor who knows what they are doing can raise legitimate challenges to a bill. Where a default costs certificate is issued againt a legally represented party they may have a claim against the solicitor as a result. A certificate issued against a party may be set aside as long as you act promptly.
Where Points of Dispute are served, unless the parties reach a compromise agreement, the case proceeds to a detailed assessment hearing. This usually takes anything between an hour and a day, with either a lawyer or costs draftsman attending the hearing for each side. The Court goes through the bill line by line assessing the issues raised and determining the amount that should be paid. Attention may be paid to the Guideline Hourly Rates, but these are less binding and are not relevant on solicitor/own client assessments.
Once the amount of costs has been decided there is 14 days to make payment, unless the Court gives a different deadline.
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