Costs - Claiming Costs

Normally (though not always) if you win a case you will be awarded costs. But before the court/tribunal can order your opponent to pay you those costs the court/tribunal has to assess the precise amount which is to be paid to you. The court/tribunal will not award the full amount claimed if it considers it unreasonably high for the case and there will be specific rules about what kinds of items can be claimed. Traditionally the assessment of costs took place a few months after a case was concluded and the assessment process was like another mini-trial with each side represented by specialist costs lawyers and ending up with arguments as to who should pay the further costs of the assessment of costs process itself!

Unfortunately this still happens quite frequently, but you can normally avoid these extra costs by taking a pragmatic approach. It is tempting to try to claim for everything - the cost of a stamp for a routine letter (as well as the cost of a courier when a bundle of documents had to be delivered urgently), the cost of printer ink and paper for low volume printing on your own printer (as well as the cost of using a reprographics shop for volume printing) The £1 cost of a phone call to the court office (as well as the £1,000 court fee). The £10 cost of petrol to give a witness living locally a lift to court (as well as the air fare and hotel costs of a witness living abroad who flies in to give evidence at trial). But if you just claim for disbursements, which are the major costs, and do not try to claim for small items such as phone calls, or for your own time, a short and simple Statement of Costs for Summary Assessment can be drawn up, supported by receipts, and if it is done in this way the judge may well be prepared to carry out what is known as a summary assessment. This means that there are no extra costs of assessing costs.

Examples of Disbursements

  • Court/tribunal fees
  • Barrister's Fees
  • Expert Witness Fees - e.g. fees for an engineer, surveyor or other expert to provide a report, answer questions, or give evidence at a hearing
  • The fees of a private investigator engaged to trace witnesses and/or take statements
  • Your travel costs - generally if witnesses need to be traced a private investigator would be engaged because a private investigator will be needed to take the statement but there may be circumstances where you yourself need to travel to trace a witness - e.g. if they have unexpectedly moved after giving a witness statement
  • Mediator's Fees (if a mediation is held to explore the possibility of a settlement) and the cost of hiring rooms for the mediation
  • Charges by Bundledocs or other legal-case related document storage/bundle production service
  • Charges by a high street print shop (or specialist legal reprographics shop) for scanning or printing and/or assembling in lever arch files with dividers
  • Costs of a courier (where necessary to make a fast delivery)
  • Postage costs of a very large parcel
  • The travel and overnight accommodation costs of witnesses giving evidence at trial 

Retaining invoices

Invoices/receipts should be retained for all disbursements. Orders for payment of costs are based on what is called the indemnity principle which means that a litigant can only recover costs which they themselves have incurred. If, for convenience, the litigant gets someone else, for example their spouse, to order something for them in connection with the litigation then the litigant would be liable to pay the supplier, and so would have incurred the cost, even if the spouse never mentioned the litigant's name to the supplier when ordering: this legal doctrine is known as undisclosed principal. However even though this is the legal position if the invoice is not made out to the litigant there may be queries and complications when the litigant comes to try to claim their costs. So if, for example, you are the litigant and for convenience you ask your spouse to go to a print shop to get some printing done for you, your spouse should should ask the print shop, at the outset, to make out the invoice to you. It is fine for your spouse to then pay and for you to settle up later. Of course if you and your spouse both happen to be parties in the case (e.g. because the case concerns property you are joint owners of) then it does not matter, but if you are the litigant and your spouse is not your spouse should make sure the invoice is in your name.    

If it is your company (not you personally) which is the litigant then the invoice must be addressed to the company (it is fine for you to pay and claim back the expense from the company). 

If, for convenience, you use a company email address for personal matters, and you personally are the litigant, make sure that any suppliers you deal with make out invoices to you personally as they may use the company name on your email even though you have made clear that the order is from you personally. Generally it is best, to avoid confusion, to set up a new personal email for personal use rather than use a company email.  

Any documentation for travel and overnight accommodation costs of your witnesses is likely to be in the name of the witness themselves - that is fine (and is an exception to the general rule that all invoices should be made out to the litigant) because it is well known that the law generally implies an obligation on the litigant to pay witnesses their costs.    

Note 1: If you have previously used solicitors in a case, the solicitors may not have have provided you with invoices for disbursements they made on your behalf so you should ask them for copies.

Note 2: If you have previously used (but no longer use) solicitors in the case and you want to try claim the solicitors' profit costs (as well as disbursements they made on your behalf) then you will need to ask them for an itemised bill.

Examples of expenditure which is not a disbursement 

  • Costs of general purpose software/services - e.g. Office 365, Sejda.
  • Paper and printer ink for use in your own printer and cost of purchasing lever arch files/ring binders and dividers so that you yourself can assemble hearing bundles (if you do this yourself rather than using a reprographics service)  
  • Ordinary postage costs
  • Telephone costs
  • The extra fuel costs of giving a witness a lift to court/tribunal             


This information page is designed to be used only by clients of John Antell who have entered into an agreement for the provision of legal services. The information in it is necessarily of a general nature and is intended to be used only in conjunction with specific advice to the individual client about the individual case. This information page should not be used by, or relied on, by anyone else.

This page was lasted updated in July 2019 Disclaimer