Interpreters’ Fees are Recoverable in Fixed Costs
Personal Injury Claims in Victory for Access to Justice
In the recent case of Santiago v MIB, the Court of Appeal held that the cost of an interpreter for a Claimant who was successful at trial was recoverable from the Defendant.
In that case, proceedings were issued by Mr Santiago, a Brazilian national, following a road traffic accident in which he had been injured. Mr Santiago needed an interpreter at trial, as his first language was Portuguese. He was successful in the claim and sought to recover the cost of the interpreter from the Defendant. The fixed costs regime applied. The judge at first instance felt that she was bound by the previously decided case of Aldred v Chan and did not allow the interpreter’s fee. The Claimant appealed and the matter was referred to the Court of Appeal.
Previously, a Court of Appeal ruling in the case of Aldred v Cham meant that Interpreters’ fees were not recoverable. The fees were considered to be a part of the solicitor’s fixed costs. The practical effect was that a Claimant had to pay for an Interpreter out of their damages, or the solicitor had to swallow the cost from their fees. This had always seemed to us to create issues with access to justice and a Claimant’s Human Rights, but the Claimant had been refused leave to appeal to the Supreme Court in Aldred.
In the case of Santiago, the court held that an interpreter’s fee can be distinguished from Counsel’s fees for advice on quantum (the subject of the dispute in Aldred) because not allowing interpreters’ fees would, effectively, not allow a party to take part in proceedings on an equal footing or give their best evidence. The rules dealing with fixed costs within CPR 45.29 must be interpreted with regard to the overriding objective and rules on vulnerable parties. Accordingly, the costs of an interpreter, which are necessary for a Claimant to take part in proceedings, are recoverable under CPR 45.29I(2)(h) “any other disbursement reasonably incurred due to a particular feature of the dispute.”
What has Changed?
Since the Aldred case, the Civil Procedure Rules have been amended to Introduce the concept of vulnerability, specifically CPR 1.1(2)(a) which says “Dealing with a case justly and at proportionate cost includes, so far as is practicable – (a) ensuring that the parties are on an equal footing and can participate fully in proceedings, and that parties and witnesses can give their best evidence”
However, in the Santiago case, the court said that, even without the changes to the CPR, they would have made the same decision, the changes to the CPR just make it clearer.
The result is that interpreters’ fees in personal injury fixed costs cases following road traffic accidents, accidents at work and in accidents in a public place should all now be recoverable. This news will be welcomed by everyone for whom English is not their first language and their lawyers.
Moving forwards, the case will become less significant because for accidents after 1st October 2023, there will be new fixed costs rules and interpreters’ fees are provided for within the new rules.
*NB this article represents the writer’s thoughts and interpretation on a recently decided case affecting personal injury law. It does not represent legal advice and no responsibility is accepted for any loss arising as a result of any person relying upon the contents of this article