If you’ve heard anything about bringing a legal case to trial, it’s probably related to the high cost of doing so. And you’re probably thinking about attorneys’ fees. But in a personal injury case, attorneys typically work on contingency, which means that they get paid only if and when you obtain a settlement. They also get paid only a certain percentage of your settlement, so the amount they make depends entirely on the outcome of your case.
But did you know that there are other, more substantial case costs? And how these costs are funded can have a tremendous impact on you, your case and the potential outcome. Understanding the costs and their funding can be a crucial factor in helping you choose a trial attorney.
Attorney’s Fees Vs. Case Costs
First, let’s make a distinction between costs paid to your attorney for services vs. costs paid for out-of-pocket expenses. Your attorney’s fees will include costs for time and labor, usually in the form of an hourly rate. Or, if your attorney has taken your case on contingency, will typically be up to one-third of your settlement amount.
Case costs, on the other hand, are expenses incurred by your attorney during the course of the case. They can include case filing fees, costs for obtaining medical records, fees paid to expert witnesses and more.
Often, it’s the case costs, more than the attorney’s fees, that will affect your ability to bring your case to trial and what the outcome is more likely to be.
In a country that prides itself on equality under the law, nobody likes to imagine that justice depends on one’s financial means. But the reality is that mounting an effective case – especially one that goes before a jury – can be a costly endeavor, ranging from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars. This reality is what makes understanding case funding so crucial.
What Case Costs Can You Expect To Incur?
There are myriad expenses that come into play in a personal injury case. The most basic expenses include court filing fees, photocopying and postal or delivery fees, fees to file motions, fees for obtaining medical records, and fees for obtaining a letter from your doctor documenting your diagnosis, prognosis, and permanence of disability incurred from your injury (which is especially essential in a malpractice case).
More significant expenses include fees for expert witnesses who can provide testimony that will support your claims in front of a jury. While having an expert witness is not a requirement, they can substantially help your case by lending credibility, explaining otherwise complex issues, testifying to the defectiveness of a product that may have caused your injury, corroborating long-term effects and recovery options for your injury, and more.
In a medical malpractice case, a medical expert can testify to the standard of care and how a defendant deviated from that standard to result in your injury. In a slip and fall, an expert witness can determine whether negligence was present, provide detailed supporting reports, and testify on your behalf.
As you can imagine, none of this comes free. An average, relatively straightforward case can incur hundreds of dollars in fees, whereas a complex medical malpractice case can run into tens of thousands of dollars before a trial has even begun.
Who Pays Your Case Costs?
Unless you have a bottomless well of funds, it can be difficult to come up with the out-of-pocket expenses needed to cover case costs, and especially difficult to bring a case to trial. And your ability to bring a case to trial hinges on your ability to fund it.
That doesn’t mean you cannot pursue justice and compensation, however. An attorney may take your case on contingency and cover all case costs throughout the legal process, alleviating the pressure on you. And while that may seem like a welcome option, how your attorney covers those costs can make a substantial difference.
Some attorneys have a limited ability (or worse, no ability) to cover case costs, which motivates them to settle your case as quickly as possible. The fewer fees they incur and the faster they get a percentage of your settlement, the better it is for them to recoup their investment of time and money. Fast-tracking a case to settlement may mean that you get a lot less than you might have gotten if you’d had proper funding and the ability to pursue the case to its practical end.
There’s another consequence of choosing an attorney who cannot fund case costs: tipping your hand to the defense.
In the legal community, lawyers, judges and expert witnesses tend to work together frequently. Often, the same insurance companies are involved, as are their lawyers and witnesses. Chances are, the defense knows when an attorney cannot fund a case and knows that the case will not, in all likelihood, be brought to trial. Since they don’t expect you to be able to pursue the case, they are more likely to give you a low “take it or leave it” offer.
If, on the other hand, you’ve chosen a trial attorney who can and does fund cases, your chance of getting either a far better settlement or bringing the case successfully to trial are improved dramatically.
Choose Your Trial Attorney Wisely
An attorney is not obligated to disclose an ability to fund your case. That makes it your responsibility to ask. Before you hire an attorney, find out whether – and how – that attorney can fund case costs from filing right through trial if necessary.
A reputable certified civil trial attorney will have funding sources that include case cost loans so that whether your case requires a small investment or a substantial one, you can feel confident that your options will be pursued.
If you’ve been involved in a slip and fall, suffered an injury from a defective product, experienced suffering at the hands of a medical professional, or experienced some other personal injury, contact us for a free consultation. At Mikita & Roccanova we’re positioned to fund your case from start to finish. Let us advise you of your options and work to obtain the best possible outcome for your case.