The general rule about who pays the costs of a court case in fast-track claims is that the loser pays the winner. This means the loser has to pay the winner’s legal costs and expenses as well as their own. It is likely the court will order that only a portion of the legal costs is paid by the loser.
If you did some or all of the work yourself, without a solicitor, you are allowed to charge for the work you do if you win your fast-track claim and the court awards you costs. You are also allowed to pass on the expenses you pay to help progress your case. The court may call these expenses ‘disbursements’ .
If you paid for advice or legal assistance from a solicitor about your case, you may be able to recover some of those costs too.
How much you can charge for the time you spend working on the case
Currently, you can charge £19.00 per hour of your time reasonably spent on your case. This is time spent on case preparation including any work which a solicitor might charge for. See Practice Direction 46.5 – Costs special cases.
If your financial loss is greater than that, for example, because if you were not involved in the case you would have been at work earning more than £19.00 per hour, the court may allow you to charge more for some of your time.
You will need to provide evidence of what paid work you were able to do, how much you earned and how much less that was than normal. If you lost out financially because you received job offers that you had to refuse because of the case, again you will need to provide evidence of this and what you would have been paid if you want the court to consider allowing you to charge more than £19.00 per hour for the hours spent on the case when you would have been at work.
There is an overall limit on what the court will allow you to charge for your time. This is two thirds of what a solicitor could reasonably charge for doing the same work. See Practice Direction 46.5(2).
What can I claim for?
You can claim for time spent on case preparation (for example face to face meetings or telephone calls with the other side or their legal representative), drafting documents, gathering and providing documents to the other side (known as ‘disclosure’), reading documents, researching the law, and attending court hearings.
Expenses (or ‘disbursements’) include things you have to pay for yourself like court fees, experts' fees, photocopying, couriers, postage, paper, ring binders, printer cartridges, travel costs (for example to and from court, to and from your legal adviser, or to visit a witness to take a statement).
When deciding whether to allow you to claim for an expense the court will take into account whether:
- the expense was actually paid,
- it was reasonable to pay it, and
- the amount paid was reasonable.
This means you can usually claim back all the reasonable expenses you paid for and can evidence.
What cannot be claimed?
If a litigant in person is paid their costs for attending court to run their own case they are not entitled to a witness allowance as well – see Practice Direction 46.5(5).
Litigants in person and VAT
A litigant in person is not treated as having supplied services and so you cannot charge VAT on legal work you do for yourself. This means your bill of costs should not include a claim for VAT.
Forms and rules
There are lots of rules about costs: