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Do I Pay My Opponent’s Costs If I Lose My Personal Injury Claim?

Do I have to pay my opponent's legal costs if I lose my claim? This is one of the most common questions my client's ask at the beginning of a claim. This blog should help to answer that question.

Special costs rules apply to personal injury claims. Basically, you will normally not have to pay your opponent's legal costs if your claim fails. You may still have an order for costs made against you but it cannot be enforced against you.

There are exceptions:

  • Your claim is struck out because it disclosed no grounds for bringing the proceedings.
  • Your claim is struck out because it is an abuse of the court's process.
  • Your claim is truck out because your conduct is likely to obstruct the just disposal of the proceedings.
  • Where, on the balance of probabilities, you claim is found to fundamentally dishonest.

As long as your claim is not dishonest and you act reasonably these exceptions should not apply.

Failure to beat offers

The situation is different if you do not "beat” a defendant's offer to settle your claim. If that happens, you will be ordered to pay all the defendant's legal costs from the expiry of the date for accepting the offer. But, even if those circumstances, the amount of costs you will have to pay cannot be more than the amount of compensation awarded - so effectively it is set off against or will extinguish your compensation.

A couple of examples may help to explain:

Example 1:

The defendant offers to pay you £10,000. You reject the offer. At a court hearing the judge awards you £9,500. You are ordered to pay the defendant's costs from the last date you could have accepted the offer. Those costs are assessed at £5,000. You receive £4,500 (£9,500 minus £5,000).

Example 2:

The defendant offers to pay you £10,000. You reject the offer. At a court hearing the judge awards you £9,500. You are ordered to pay the defendant's costs from the last date you could have accepted the offer. Those costs are assessed at £15,000. The defendant cannot recover more than your compensation of £9,500 which is "swallowed up” by the costs order and you receive nothing. But the defendant cannot make you pay the £5,500 outstanding costs.
Of course your solicitor will advise you whether you should accept or reject any offers made by your opponent.

So losing isn't the disaster it once could have been.