It is vitally important that you understand what the word "costs" means, before entering into litigation (going to court). You may win your case, but at the end of the day, you might find that you are poorer than when you started. An understanding of costs might influence your decision whether or not to settle along the way.
Basically there are two scales or "types" of costs – party and party, and, attorney and own client.
Party and party costs
Both the High and Magistrates Court Acts make provision for rules, determining amongst other things, fees chargeable by attorneys (the tariff). These fees are itemised. The losing party will usually be ordered by the court to pay the winner's costs. These costs are on the party and party scale. An itemised bill is drawn by the winner's attorney and taxed (checked and authorised) by a court official called the taxing master, to ensure that it complies with the tariff. These costs may then be recovered from the loser.
Attorney and own client costs
These are the fees charged to you by your attorney in terms of a written or verbal agreement entered into between yourselves. More often than not these rates are somewhat higher than the tariff. (Your attorney will explain why). This agreement is not usually binding on your opponent. If you win the case you may only be entitled to recover your party and party costs.
Clearly, even if you win your case, you will be out of pocket. To what extent, determines whether you should proceed, settle, or not start at all. The amount in dispute or the issue involved is a factor. Be sure to discuss costs with your attorney, at the outset and along the way.