Personal Injury Case Costs: What to Expect

Money and Law
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A personal injury case will cost you not only the attorney fees (which can be quite hefty on their own) but also a plethora of extra costs no one is telling you about. Filing fees, expert witness fees, deposition costs, various administrative expenses – when it is all said and done, all these costs in a personal injury lawsuit will be shouldered by you, the plaintiff.

Costs are Different from Attorney Fees

If a personal injury case goes to trial, you should expect a laundry list of extra expenses beyond your run-of-the-mill attorney fees. Fortunately, most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency basis, which means that they will charge you no upfront fees and get no fees at all if they lose your case.

Under a contingency fee agreement, you agree for your lawyer to cover all extra costs, which will be ultimately subtracted from your injury settlement or court award. But before hiring an attorney, it is critical to discuss all these aspects with him or her and have everything down in writing.

Most contingency fee agreements come as law offices’ standard forms, but attorneys won’t tell you that some provisions can be altered and negotiated. You can even negotiate the attorney’s fees if the final financial recovery you would be getting after subtracting all costs and fees is much less than what your attorney would be getting.

Make sure that all the legal costs your personal injury case might incur are agreed upon in writing with your attorney before he or she gets down to business. Moreover, add a certain limit to legal costs beyond which your attorney must ask for your permission to move forward. Since these costs will be covered by you, law firms have little to no incentive to keep them within reasonable limits.

What Costs in a Personal Injury Lawsuit You Should Expect

In a personal injury lawsuit, both sides will shell out plenty of cash if the case is complicated or takes years to resolve. That is why most insurance companies would rather keep disputes about injury claims out of court, especially when their odds of losing are high. But when litigation is the only way to secure a fair settlement for your injuries and pain, factor in the following costs.

Administrative Costs

These expenses include photocopying, postage, transportation, shipping, trial exhibits, etc. On average, administrative expenses should not be more than a few hundred dollars, but they can climb to a few thousand dollars after several years of litigation.

Court Fees

Filing a personal injury lawsuit is not free. Depending on the value of your claim, the filing fee range between $200 and $400. Add to that any other court expenses, like serving the complaint upon the defendant, jurors’ daily pay if your case is taken to a jury trial, copies of court transcripts, which may cost from $2 to $4 per page (imagine what a 100-page court transcript would cost!), and so on.

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Evidence-Related Costs

When you hire a personal injury lawyer, he or she will take care of everything, so you don’t have to, including evidence gathering. Usually, the costs of obtaining copies of medical records, police reports, and other official documents are symbolic. But if evidence gathering requires a private investigator, depositions, and/or expert testimony expect these costs to climb steeply (we’re talking about tens of thousands of dollars.)

For instance, if your case calls for several expert witnesses and multiple depositions, the expenses tied to evidence gathering will be the largest costs after attorney fees. Expert witnesses don’t come cheap. Just like lawyers, they may charge you on an hourly basis about several hundred dollars per hour.

If your case is complex, such as a car accident that has resulted in catastrophic injuries or wrongful death, expert witnesses’ may cost you tens of thousands of dollars. That is why plaintiffs in high-value cases may resort to special legal funding for a car crash lawsuit since their reserves run dry before their case is definitively complete.

Depositions could also set you back several thousands of dollars. A deposition, or the taking of a sworn oral statement of a witness outside the courtroom, may take between half an hour and a week, depending on the complexity of your case.

A deposition that takes place in an attorney’s office will involve the witness, the attorney, and a court reporter that will record word for word everything the witness says. Depending on how much time a deposition may take, it could cost between $200 and $2,000. And if your case requires multiple depositions (one witness cannot be deposed more than once, though), deposition costs could easily sit in the range of $20,000 – $35,000.

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