Should court fees now be top of the list of reasons for using mediation?

The Law Society has raised its concerns that the increase will represent a significant barrier to access to justice.

By Peter Whitman, North West Mediation Solutions.

Claimants who already struggle to pay the court fees may well be priced out of even considering litigation and this is sure to have an impact on personal injury claims – will the insurer cover this or will the claims be stifled?

Even insolvencies will be affected. It is unusual for the insolvent estate to have the funds available which will be required under the new regime so inevitably insolvency practitioners will be prevented from commencing proceedings and the estate won’t make the recoveries it ought to, which in turn will affect the creditors.

Mediation is often overlooked in this country; it is seen as the soft option and a sign of weakness, notwithstanding the fact that the courts direct that mediation be considered at an early stage and sanctions may be imposed if the protocol has not been followed.

Cost benefits

How much?

Fees for claims of less than £10,000 are unaffected by these proposals and will remain at their current levels and will, therefore, depend on which bracket the claim falls into.

The oft-stated criticism that mediation is an expensive extra step is often levied against taking an alternative or additional step if proceedings have commenced. In view of the proposed increases the fees charged by North West Mediation Solutions for mediations involving disputes in the range of £50,000 - £200,000, which represents the majority of the matters we deal with, would, under the proposed changes: • show a saving of between £750 and £8,250 if the mediation course was taken, as opposed to litigation, or, • if litigation has commenced, the additional fee pales when compared with that already paid for the issue fee, and of course, the dispute is more likely than not to end in settlement (NWMS average settlement rate over last 4 years is 80%). These are, as I have said, are the figures now in force but there may be changes in view of opposition from the Law Society and others but there’s no doubt, whatever happens, court issuing fees are likely to increase.

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