The consultation on fixed costs sets out a number of options for calculating fees.
Rates will apply to claims allocated to the fast track and multi track and will be set out in the Civil Procedure Rules.
The consultation states: ‘We recognise that the level at which [fixed recoverable costs] rates are set will be key in ensuring that claimant lawyers can recover reasonable costs and are not deterred from taking on these low-value cases.’
Under this option, the recoverable amount would be fixed irrespective of settlement value and would depend on the stage at which the claim was settled.
There is also a £539 cap on the costs for an additional expert.
This option offers a lower fixed sum but an additional amount calculated as a percentage of the final damages awarded.
For example, if a claim was settled pre-issue for damages of £20,000, the claimant costs would be £3,500 – comprising the £1,500 base cost plus 10% of the settlement amount.
The flat fee rates used for option 1 are reduced in cases where the defendant has accepted liability within a defined period. The proposed reduction is 10%.
This proposal is based on the mean relationship between current costs and damages using data from costs lawyers who deal with claims against the NHS. It again suggests adding a percentage of the settled award as additional costs.
Illustrative rates are:
Pre-issue: £3,080 plus 19% of damages (capped at £7,830).
Post-issue/pre-allocation: £5,920 plus 34% of damages (capped at £14,420).
Post-allocation/pre-listing: £11,560 plus 38% of damages (capped at £21,000).
Post-listing: £10,320 plus 47% of damages (capped at £22,070).
In addition, the consultation seeks views on the concept of a single joint expert system. Expert witness costs would be set at a maximum of £1,200 for defendants and claimants alike for claims that settle.
Proposed trial costs that the court may award are as follows:
Damages less than £3,000: £485
Damages between £3,000 and £10,000: £690
Damages between £10,000 and £15,000: £1,035
For proceedings issued on or after 6 April 2009, with damages more than £15,000: £1,650.