There has been much recent talk and judicial consideration as to the vexed question of whether solicitors acting for a child can recover costs on a claim that settles for less than the £1000 small claims threshold. This is now resolved and the answer is – yes.
In low value personal injury cases arising from road traffic accidents there is a protocol for dealing with these in a way that limits the amount of costs recoverable by the solicitors. These fixed costs are only recovered from the losing party where the claim attracts an award of compensation for personal injury of greater than £1000. Below this level cases are removed from the usual protocol and allocated to the small claims track where costs are not normally awarded.
The problem however has arisen in relation to claims for children who, until they reach the age of 18, have to be represented by an adult and any award must be approved by the court. This gives rise to an anomaly as all this work needs to be performed yet the solicitors will recover no costs if the case is settled for less than £1000.
Claimant solicitors argue that cases involving children should be treated differently. The courts have until recently disagreed and disallowed costs for these low value personal injury cases. However, some hope has now been given by the case of Bromley v Hewson a decision by District Judge Gill sitting in the Medway County Court.
In the view of the Judge the it was not sufficiently clear at the outset that the case was “obviously” worth less than the threshold as the child could have suffered some additional psychological trauma as is often the case with children in accidents and this could have led to a higher award.
Basically the District Judge was saying that unless it is obvious the case will be worth less than £1000, costs would be awarded in the usual way.
This is a great boost for all lawyers who regularly act for injured child claimants as they will now have some hope of being reimbursed for looking after their interests even in low value cases.