Legal Cost Specialists

Problems with provisional assessment

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.

10 thoughts on “Problems with provisional assessment”

  1. I have long argued for regional costs officers and agree it would make financial sense in the long run. Sadly the initial investment is what makes it unlikely and i also wonder if the SCCO would be reluctant to see some of its work head out to the regions..

  2. I would point out that a number of defendants like the vagiaries of the judiciary and deliberately put in a low offer stating take it or risk such vagiaries as they have had such good results there. It also means less costs negotiating as they merely delegate their duties to the court.

    Increased SCCO coverage and training for judges would lead to less vagiaries and more consistent results which is good but may mean more and higher pay outs for FOIL members

  3. As a draftsman with 25yrs at the coal face for both sides of the fence I agree with the idea of a northern version of the SCCO but am of the opinion that great care would be required in order to recruit not only knowledgable, but unbiased professionals to staff it. This could be achieved by the denizens of the costs profession on a rota basis, perhaps, for a number of days per month.
    One method of removing the frankly daft decisions coming out of some of the provincial courts since April ’13.

  4. The use of a regional costs centre above Birmingham was muted in some of the initial meetings with Rupert Jackson but I gather that it was felt that they would not have enough to do full time. I gather that the Regional Costs Judges simply have to fit in their costs cases around their other lists. One RCJ told me that he often has to do his prep for assessment hearings at weekends.

  5. wrong solution – the Provisional Assessment system was properly piloted, to an upper bill limit of £25k – which fits nicely with the Multitrack start point

    It was only the act of lunacy, that then saw the rule come in, with £75k as the upper limit. Imagine a Judge having to do a “paper trial” on a £75k claim!

    Solution : reduce the PA limit to £25k as it was originally intended to suit; list anything between £25k to £50k for 1 hour attendance with Replies mandatory; £50k to £75k 2 hours, with mandatory Replies

    While we are at it, why not have the Replies actually fit for the purpose of assisting the Court? I remain very tired of reading denials, arguments, and downright untruths made in the certain knowledge there is no right of comeback and most Courts ignore letters

  6. We have just had a request for a 1 day detailed assessment hearing returned from the court. The bill was £81,245.73 .

    The request was refused as the bill is under £75k threshold once the VAT is deducted. Is this correct?

  7. The Cost Crusader

    If there was a northern regional court it would probably be Birkenhead or Liverpool and assessments would last 10 mins!

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