The Forum of Insurance Lawyers is liaising with the Association of Costs Lawyers to identify and suggest solutions to the various problems with the new provisional assessment process. One suggestion…
Provisional assessment proceeds on the clearly mistaken belief that either disputes over claims for costs with a value of up to £75,000 are entirely devoid of any points of costs law or, the equally mistaken belief, that all District Judges and Deputy District Judges tasked with undertaking provisional assessment have a basic working knowledge of black letter costs law such that they do not need the assistance of oral submissions and can reach decisions based on the limited contents of Points of Dispute and Replies. Those at the coalface know that many judges do not have even the most rudimentary understanding of basic costs law. The inevitable result is a string of widely unpredictable decisions.
There is 0% chance of the time or money being provided to train all District Judges and Deputy District Judges up to even the most basic level required for them to properly undertake provisional assessment. Provisional assessment should be reserved to costs judges or costs officers. The Senior Courts Costs Office should deal with assessments for the South of the country and a second dedicated court appointed to deal with the North. Additional costs judges or costs officers would need to be appointed but the cost would almost certainly be more than off-set by freeing up significant District Judge time and by a corresponding increase in efficiency if the job is being undertaken by those who know what they are doing. If this work was all done at costs officer level, there would presumably be salary savings to be achieved as against the work being done at District Judge level.