Cost is a huge factor for anyone deciding whether or not to pursue a personal injury claim. In fact, cost alone is why many people decide not to pursue a claim. In the state of New York, the cost of a simple case is usually a minimum of $15,000 accounting for lawyers, court time, and other basic but necessary expenses. If the case is more complicated and requires multiple expert witnesses and attorneys, the cost easily could add up to $100,000 or more. Depending on your budget and the confidence you have in your case, you may want to look into a settlement. However, if insurance fails to compensate you fairly and the defendant doesn’t agree to a settlement, these are the costs to keep in mind for taking your case to trial.
Fees Vs. Costs
Generally speaking, the words “fee” and “cost” are synonymous. Yet, in the legal profession and in terms of your case, the two words are not. A “fee” is in reference to how your attorney charges, which can be done in several different ways. We will discuss this more in-depth later on. A “cost” is any other expense related to your case. The most common and most expensive costs for a personal injury case include court costs, expert witness costs, administrative costs, deposition costs, and investigation costs.
- Court Costs – Court costs include the charge that is associated with filing your claim, paying the jury and any other paperwork related to your case. For example, the paperwork for serving the defendant and paying the transcriber for their time in court.
- Expert Witnesses – Next to your attorney fees, expert witnesses are going to be one of your biggest expenses. Expert witnesses will need to be compensated to review your case, prepare their report, and testify in court. The courts only deem certain people with “expert status” and require specific credentials. For this reason, these witnesses may charge hundreds of dollars per hour. Additionally, if your case requires multiple expert witnesses, this cost alone could be a couple thousand dollars.
- Administrative Costs – Administrative costs include expenses such as postage, copying, travel, legal research, and producing trial exhibits.
- Deposition Costs – A deposition takes place when a witness, for example, takes the stand under oath during your trial. Deposition costs include compensation for a stenographer and any transcripts taken during the deposition.
- Investigation Costs – These costs account for obtaining medical records and police reports. Additionally, any special investigations or further research that may be necessary for your case to fall under the investigation cost umbrella.
Paying the Attorney
There are three ways an attorney will decide to charge: hourly fees, flat fees, or contingency. A combination of sorts can also be common, such as a flat fee up to a certain timeframe and then transitioning over to an hourly rate. In most personal injury cases, however, attorneys utilize a contingency-based fee. This means that the lawyer will only receive payment if the case ends in the client’s or the plaintiff’s favor.
A contingency fee can be anywhere from 33 percent to 40 percent of the final reward or settlement amount. Sometimes a “sliding scale” is applied, meaning the contingency fee percentage depends on the stage at which the case is resolved. So, the fee might be less if your case is settled versus going to trial. If your case proves fruitful, the check will often be sent to your attorney. This ensures that your attorney gets paid. He or she will deduct the contingency fee and any expenses if they covered any upfront costs of your case.
Time is Money
Time is an element of your case that is just as valuable as money. Still, many people overlook the time that is required to reach full resolution of your case. From the time you file a complaint to getting paid, the process could take anywhere from a couple weeks to a couple of years. Reaching a settlement agreement will most likely take the least amount of time, but it’s up to you to decide if that’s the right decision for you or not. After a resolution is determined, more paperwork and processes take place. Whether you decide to settle or go to trial and come out successful, chances are it will take an additional couple of months to receive a check or actual payment.
Weighing the Costs
If your claim is relatively small, you may want to handle your own case or take it to a small claims court. However, if your potential damages are fairly large, it is probably worth it to at least consider hiring a lawyer and start searching for an attorney that best fits your needs.
It is important to do a thorough audit of your case before making any decisions regarding your claim. Keep track of any expenses you have incurred and meet with multiple attorneys to gauge how much the attorney fee alone is going to cost you. If a fair settlement cannot be reached, take into account additional costs of going to trial and the additional time you will need to put towards a trial. At that point in your case, you will already have an attorney and they will help you estimate costs and reward but it’s important for you to do your own audit in the event that your attorney is acting in their best interest rather than yours.
Contact Us Today
The Cochran Firm has a long record of success: we have won cases for our clients that have also contributed to positive social change. If you have been hurt, if you have been abused, if you feel disempowered, The Cochran Firm can help. Visit The Cochran Firm New York online or give us a call at 1-800-THE-FIRM to schedule your free case evaluation. We will always work in your best interest and will stand with you against those who hurt you, seek every avenue of justice, and never take a settlement unless it’s what you want.