What are the legal costs?
If you are thinking about filing a personal injury lawsuit after an accident, odds are that your personal injury attorney will agree to be your attorney under a contingency fee arrangement. This means that your lawyer is not paid unless you receive compensation in a settlement or trial verdict.
But for your case to be successful, there are additional legal costs that must be paid along the way.
What Is the Difference Between ‘Costs’ and ‘Fees’?
The words ‘costs’ and ‘fees’ sound the same, but they are not in the legal world. The word ‘fee’ usually refers to the amount the lawyer charges to handle your case. An example is the contingency fee, which is a percentage of the recovery your attorney will take as compensation for working on your case.
The word ‘cost’ includes the expenses for just about everything else in your personal injury case. The most common costs in a typical personal injury case are:
- Court costs
- Expert witness fees
- Administrative expenses
- Deposition costs
- Costs of information gathering and investigations
Court costs include the fee for filing the complaint, which is usually between $200 and $600. There also is the payment of a daily stipend to each juror, if the case goes to trial. Serving the summons and complaint on the defendant also has a fee associated with it.
If you want a copy of the testimony in court, you will need to pay the court reporter for a copy. A copy of this report can be from $2 to $4 per page. So, you can expect a fee of up to $400 for the full transcript.
After attorney’s fees, this is probably the biggest expense in a lawsuit. An expert witness often charges several hundred dollars per hour to review the case, prepare a report and give testimony. In a simple case, one expert witness could cost several thousand dollars. In a more complicated case, it could cost tens of thousands of dollars for multiple expert witnesses.
Almost every personal injury lawsuit that goes to trial will need at least one expert witness. This is because a personal injury lawsuit usually requires the plaintiff to present highly technical arguments that the average person has no knowledge about. Court rules do not allow just any layman to provide expert testimony.
For example, if you are injured in a surgery, you may bring a medical malpractice lawsuit. To bolster your case, you probably will want to have an expert witness physician provide testimony about how the doctor who did the surgery acted in a negligent manner.
All cases in court has administrative expenses: postage, copying, travel, legal research and producing exhibits for trial. These costs can add up to a few hundred or a few thousand dollars, depending on the case complexity.
A deposition is where a sworn statement out of court is taken on the record from a witness or party to the lawsuit. This usually means the witness is asked questions with a stenographer recording every word. This can cost approximately $500 to $1500. Attorneys might need to obtain copies of their client’s deposition as well as of the defendant’s.
If special investigation of an accident is needed, such as a private investigator needing to be hired, this can cost a few hundred and up to a few thousand dollars.