Taking a case to court can be expensive, so the likely legal costs should be considered carefully.
Should a solicitor be used?
It is possible to minimise costs by handling all or part of a damages claim personally. However, this is often not advisable, especially if the claim is defended. It is worthwhile to at least discuss the matter with a solicitor before going to court.
If a lawyer handles a claim, legal costs for the work done in pursuing the claim may be recovered from the defendant if it is successful. However, this may depend on the amount of the claim. The solicitor’s charges may also exceed the amount awarded.
If the matter is in the Local Court, either party can request the court to refer defended motor vehicle property damage claims to an arbitrator.
If the repair cost is small (say, under $250), it may not be worth claiming on insurance or using a solicitor. However, it may be worth handling the claim personally to try to recover some of the cost.
Working out the cost
Barbara sues Alan for damage to her car. The court decides in Barbara’s favour and orders Alan to pay $3 000 for repairs to Barbara’s car and $1000 in costs.
Barbara’s solicitor charges $1600, which Barbara has to pay whether or not Alan actually pays the court order for the total amount of $4000.
Of course, if Alan does pay the full amount, Barbara retains $2400 after paying her legal fees – which is $600 less than the cost of repairs to her car.
If Barbara had lost the case, she would have had to pay not only for her repairs and legal costs, but also Alan’s legal costs, and probably the cost of his repairs.