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Provisional assessments - our experience

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So, we’re nine months into the ‘New Regime’ and I think the resounding view is that we know less than we imagined we would at this stage! Provisional Assessments were introduced for all cases with a value of up to £75,000 where the Notice of Commencement is dated on or after 1 April 2013. This process is intended to speed up the process of Detailed Assessment and limit the costs associated with the process.

We were promised a 6 week turnaround of Bills for Provisional Assessment and advised that the process would involve the Bill, Points of Dispute, Replies to Points of Dispute and the Claimant's file being submitted to the Court with a Judge assessing the costs on a paper basis (much like the Court of Protection regime which has been in place for some time). We were told to submit our Statement of Detailed Assessment Costs with the Request for Provisional Assessment as well as details of offers in a sealed envelope – to establish the successful party and award the Detailed Assessment costs accordingly.

To date, this has not been my experience of the process! I have now submitted a number of Provisional Assessment Requests and it is worth noting that I have been expressly advised by the Court NOT to submit my client’s files with the Request. The costs are assessed with reference to the Bill, Points of Dispute and Replies to Points of Dispute only. Further, liability for the Assessment costs is not being addressed, with the parties being advised to agree this between themselves. It also seems that the Provisional Assessment may not be listed as quickly as anticipated - 10 weeks has been my average waiting time.

However, on a positive note, the Provisional Assessments I have received back appear, on the whole, to be in line with my advice to my clients. I have, on two occasions, beaten my own offer by a marginal sum. In one instance my offer had been made pursuant to CPR Part 36 and I beat my own offer by 2%, which has resulted in my client recovering a 10% uplift on the total assessed costs, pursuant to CPR Part 36.14. This is great incentive for Claimants to make a good, strong offer ahead of a Provisional Assessment – a windfall of 10% uplift on the total costs allowed is not to be sniffed at! Further, my Detailed Assessment costs were allowed in full.