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Why Are Lawsuits so Expensive?!? 

Gama Law Firm LLC Feb. 23, 2024

Lawsuits can feel like a significant financial burden for many individuals. However, there are ways to mitigate the costs of lawsuits and protect yourself from potential financial ruin. Before anything, it's important to fully understand your rights and obligations. This can include consulting with a lawyer (you can speak with an attorney at Gama Law Firm at no charge) or conducting thorough research on the laws that pertain to your case. Knowing your legal rights and obligations can provide you with a better understanding of the likely outcomes, and costs, of your case.  

Preventative measures can also be taken to avoid personal injury lawsuits altogether. One of the most effective ways to protect yourself from lawsuits is to have proper insurance coverage. This includes having liability insurance for your business and vehicles, homeowners insurance for your property, and even personal umbrella policies for additional protection. 

Another important step to protect yourself from lawsuits is to maintain accurate and organized records. This can include keeping detailed records of financial transactions, contracts, and any other relevant documents. These records can serve as evidence in a lawsuit and help support your case. 

If you find yourself facing a lawsuit, it is crucial to respond promptly and appropriately. This may include seeking legal representation, filing a counterclaim, and/or attempting to settle the dispute through mediation. It is also important to carefully consider any settlement offers and weigh the potential costs and benefits before agreeing to any terms. 

At Gama Law Firm, we can help you predict legal costs and likely outcomes in certain personal injury matters.

Understanding Why Lawsuits Are Expensive

Legal battles often come with a hefty price tag due to a multitude of factors. Attorney fees can make up a portion of these costs. Additionally, court fees and other legal expenses such as research and document preparation can quickly add up. 

The complexity of the legal system also contributes to high lawsuit costs. Lawsuits involve a lengthy process with multiple stages, including filing a complaint, conducting discovery, pretrial motions, and potentially going to trial. Furthermore, the engagement of expert witnesses, whose testimonies might be critical to a case, contributes to the overall expenses.

Additionally, the discovery process, where each party investigates the other's claims and defenses, can be both time-consuming and resource-intensive, thus elevating the cost even further. 

Court Filing & Service Fees

The first step in a lawsuit is filing papers with the court, and these costs can range from under $100 to around $500 depending on which court you’re in and whether you are requesting a trial with a jury or a judge. Then you have to serve those papers to the other party, which can cost about $50-$100 if you hire a professional process server. 

Costs of Discovery

Discovery is the part of a lawsuit where both sides find out, or ‘discover,’ what the other side knows so that nobody is surprised at trial (that only happens in movies and TV shows). Depositions are one type of discovery available to your attorney. 

Attorneys can take depositions of “lay” witnesses, which are witnesses that may provide key facts in the case. This would include the plaintiff and the defendant themselves, the investigating police officer, friends, family, co-workers, eyewitnesses, etc.

The costs of each deposition, which include the fees for the court reporter, transcription, and sometimes videographer, depend on whether you or the other side is requesting it and how long the deposition lasts. Depositions of lay witnesses can typically range from $500 to $1,000 per witness, which is mostly made up of court reporter and transcription fees. 

Attorneys can also take depositions of “expert” witnesses, which are witnesses who are allowed to provide key opinions in the case because of their unique experience and expertise in a particular field of science or study. Depending on your case, these experts may include, for example: 

  • Legal nurse consultants 

  • Treating doctors & medical professionals

  • Specially retained medical professionals

  • Traffic accident reconstructionists 

  • Biomechanical engineers 

  • Standard of care experts

  • Economists

  • Vocational rehabilitation counselors

  • Life care planners 

Depositions of expert witnesses are much more expensive and can typically range from $2,000 to $6,000 per expert witness, which may include the fees charged by the court reporter and videographer, as well as the fees charged by the expert for their time spent both preparing for and attending the deposition. 

Expert Witness Costs

Apart from the costs of an expert’s deposition during a lawsuit (see above), experts will typically charge several thousand dollars for the initial case review and a written report of their findings and opinions. It is not uncommon to spend $3,000-$5,000 per expert before you even get to their deposition.

If the case makes it to trial (the last step in a lawsuit), there are significant costs of preparing each expert and having them attend and give testimony at your trial. An expert will typically charge higher than their standard rate for testifying at trial, so a client and his/her attorney can expect to pay at least $5,000-$10,000 per expert for their time and testimony at a trial.

The fees that expert witnesses charge are not regulated by law and are based mostly on their experience and reputation in the community. An expert witness relatively new to the field may charge $250 per hour, while an expert witness with 30 years of experience and a good track record may charge $500-$1,000 per hour. 

While it is true that an expert witness can make or break your case, your attorney must be careful not to let the costs get out of proportion with the estimated value of your case. The type and number of expert witnesses your case will require depends on your specific circumstances, the expected value of your case, and your attorney’s best judgment. Your attorney must be fairly confident that the value the expert adds to your case will be more than their charges. 

Miscellaneous Costs

At trial, your attorney may want to hire an audiovisual (AV) technician to make sure everything runs smoothly and all the equipment (i.e. projector, screen, laptops/tablets) is properly set up. Other litigation costs may also include processing charges for medical records, travel costs, etc. 

What if I Win My Case? 

If you go to trial and win your case, you should get all or most of your costs (not attorney fees though) reimbursed by the other side (assuming they have the money or insurance proceeds to cover it). It’s worth noting here that if you settle before trial, you generally don’t get your costs reimbursed. However, you generally have fewer costs because you didn’t need to go to trial. 

What if I Lose?

If you go to trial and lose your case, you (not your attorney) are personally responsible for not just your attorney’s unpaid/unreimbursed costs, but also the costs that the other party’s attorneys spent in defending against your claim. Since the defendant is almost always represented by insurance company attorneys, you can be sure that they have the resources and motivation to sue you for every penny of their costs if you lose and can’t or won’t pay them. 

Settlement Costs – A Cheaper Alternative or Another Expense?

Settlements can be a cheaper alternative to going to trial, but they can also add to your expenses. It all depends on the specifics of your case. If a settlement offer is fair and saves you the cost and stress of a trial, it might be a good option. 

So, What Am I Looking at In Total Costs?

If your case is simple and straightforward (they rarely are) and you only need one expert witness to testify at your trial, you might be able to spend as little as $5,000-$10,000 in costs from the beginning of the lawsuit (filing fees) through to the end (expert witness deposition and trial testimony charges).

As discussed before, this amount does not include how much you would also have to pay your attorney in contractual fees. On the other side of the spectrum, if your case involves complicated medical treatment or complex legal issues, you’ll need to hire or consult with several expert witnesses to “prove” your case. In this case, you could expect to incur $50,000-$100,000 in case costs by the end of the trial.

Again, this amount would not include whatever fees you have agreed to pay your attorney as compensation for their work. 

The Costs of Foregoing Legal Counsel

Choosing to navigate a lawsuit without a lawyer's support may seem like a cost-saving strategy, but it can be a risky and ultimately more expensive route. When individuals attempt to represent themselves, they often lack the legal expertise necessary to navigate the court system effectively. Some of these issues include:  

  • Missteps in legal procedures or failing to meet deadlines can result in case dismissals or unfavorable judgments.  

  • An individual might inadequately assess their case, leading to decisions that could jeopardize the chances of a better settlement or outcome.  

  • The cost of foregoing professional legal representation may include higher settlement demands, increased liabilities, or even losing the case, which often may exceed the cost of a lawyer.  

At Gama Law Firm, we highlight the importance of expert guidance to ensure your rights are protected and to prevent the additional costs associated with common procedural mistakes and strategic misjudgments that come from self-representation. If it is something that you can do without an attorney (like Probate and certain Small Claims matters), we will tell you where to find the necessary paperwork and give you as much advice as we possibly can during our consultation.

The Different Ways Lawyers Charge

Lawyers typically charge in three ways: hourly rates, flat fees, or contingency fees.  

  • Hourly rates mean that every minute a lawyer spends on your case is billable, including phone calls, emails, research, and court appearances.  

  • Flat fees are one-time charges for specific services. 

  • Contingency fees are dependent on the outcome of the case. If we win, your lawyer will get a percentage of the settlement.  

Each of these methods has its pros and cons, affecting the total cost of a lawsuit. Please note that most lawyers do allow for payment plans.

What You Can Expect From Your Lawyers

At Gama Law Firm, we're committed to providing you with transparent, comprehensive legal services to find a solution that is both fair and feasible. We'll discuss our fee structure upfront, keep you informed about potential court costs, guide you through the discovery process, and advise on whether a settlement would be beneficial for you.  

Navigating a lawsuit can be overwhelming and costly, but you're not alone. We're here to help you understand the costs involved and work towards the best possible outcome for your case.