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A Litigant in Person* is a person who commences legal proceedings without obtaining the services of a legal representative. As a Litigant in Person you can claim for costs of the work that you have undertaken in progressing your claim.
Once your case has concluded a judge will decide who is to pay the expenses or costs of the action. The general rule is that if a party has lost a case then that party will pay the successful party's costs. The successful party is entitled to seek an order to that effect.
The law of costs however is largely based on the understanding that the parties to a dispute are represented by solicitors. A client would normally have a financial liability to their solicitor for the work done on their behalf in the case and their solicitors are entitled to be indemnified for the cost of this work by the losing party.
So, what happens if the winning party has not instructed a solicitor and has acted as a litigant in person?
Litigation can be very time consuming and you will doubtless spend many hours working on the case yourself and it is likely that you will incur considerable expenses, after all you will have to pay your disbursements i.e. Court Fees and Expert's reports etc. As a litigant in person you can claim not only for these disbursements but for the many hours that you spend progressing your claim, however the costs which can be claimed are limited. Under Rule 48(6) of the Civil Procedure Rules a litigant in person is entitled to payment of up to two thirds of the amount which would have been allowed if he had been represented by a solicitor or barrister.
The amount of costs allowed for the work carried out by you as a litigant in person will depend upon whether or not you can prove financial loss. If that is possible (and it should be if you retain all your receipts for out of pocket expenses i.e. Court fees, fares/petrol spent travelling to court, witness fees), you will then be able to provide the court with written evidence to support of your claim and will need to supply a copy to the other side. You should then receive an amount to compensate for the time reasonably spent on preparing the case. If no financial loss can be proved the court will only award costs for what is considered a reasonable time at the rate set in the Costs Practice Direction. At present this is at an hourly rate of £18.00.
To determine the cost of time spent by a litigant in person the judge will look at the work which was done, whether it was necessary, and how much time was properly taken. (It is therefore advisable that you keep a file with all correspondence in chronological order so that this can be copied and shown to the Judge). The time taken will be compared with the time needed for a solicitor to do the same work and what that solicitors reasonable costs would have been. The total costs award must not exceed 2/3 of what a solicitor would have reasonably charged for the same work.
There is a general common law rule that a litigant cannot benefit from the fault of another. This applies also to the law of costs and a litigant in person will not be allowed to profit from the work carried out by him on a case. However some if not particularly generous reimbursement for the cost and time taken will usually be allowed.
* The term litigant is person is shortly changing to self represented litigants
If, whilst on a cruise, you are unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident resulting in personal injuries, then, you may have to bring a claim under the Athens convention.
Please be careful otherwise you could end up with a personal injury claim against you.
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