How Can I Keep Costs Down in My Personal Injury Case?

"Costs" associated with a personal injury case are different from lawyer's fees, and they can be tricky to understand. But keeping costs low shouldn't be your top priority.

The lower the costs associated with your personal injury case, the more money for you in your settlement, right? It might seem that way at first glance. But do you really want your personal injury lawyer to prioritize keeping case costs down and litigate your case on a shoestring?

Remember the old saying, “It takes money to make money?” Well, that’s just as true in personal injury litigation. Instead of focusing on trying to keep costs down, let’s talk about what costs are, what kinds of personal injury cases typically have higher costs, and why case costs can factor into how much you can expect to recover in your personal injury case.

What Are "Costs" In a Personal Injury Case?

In general, an attorney’s costs are for things like:

  • medical record requests
  • paying doctors to write opinion letters
  • travel
  • court filing fees
  • sheriff’s fees for service of legal papers and subpoenas
  • expert witness fees
  • deposition transcripts
  • appearance fees for doctors and other experts at depositions and trials
  • mediation fees
  • accessing online legal databases
  • overnight mail and postage, and
  • photocopying.

All of these are necessary costs and expenses in any personal injury case, and they can be expensive. But they're steps a lawyer has to take in order to properly represent a client. Learn more about the basics of costs in a personal injury case.

Costs Are Inevitable

Maybe you can find a lawyer who won’t charge for postage and photocopying, but those expenses are pretty common and are rarely going to be more than a couple of hundred dollars, and do you really want to be choosing a personal injury lawyer based on whether he or she charges for photocopying?

If a personal injury lawsuit is filed, then there is no way around incurring court filing fees, sheriff’s fees, deposition transcripts, and (often) mediation fees. If the case is in suit, your lawyer has to take depositions of parties and witnesses, or else the insurance company is going to think your lawyer is not serious. And if a lawyer takes a deposition, a transcript needs to be prepared and paid for.

With respect to experts, almost every personal injury case is going to require some type of expert witness. Even your treating physician is considered an expert, and experts don’t do depositions and trials for free. They charge, and often they charge a lot. Some doctors charge thousands of dollars for appearing at a personal injury deposition.

Be Realistic About Costs

Perhaps a better way to consider costs and expenses in personal injury litigation is to get a realistic idea of what they might be, and what they might be going toward. When interviewing prospective lawyers, ask them how much they anticipate costs being if a personal injury settlement can be reached going into suit, and how much the costs might be if the case does go into suit.

For example, for a straightforward car accident case that gets settled before filing suit, costs could be under $1,000. But if that same "easy" car accident case goes into suit, costs could increase to $3,000 to 5,000, depending on the expert witness fees.

In many personal injury claims, it is the expert witness costs that really make the difference. A car accident case rarely requires a liability expert. The only expert typically needed is your treating doctor. If your lawyer suggests that you go see a medical expert for trial, ask why. 95 times out of 100, your own treating physician will be a better expert witness for you at trial than a "hired gun" expert.

But once you get beyond basic car accident cases, expert fees are going to really add up. Product liability and medical malpractice cases can require multiple experts, who can charge thousands of dollars. A $50,000 to $100,000 bill for experts in those types of cases is not uncommon.

So, back to the original question of how to keep costs down in a personal injury case—you probably can’t, and you probably shouldn’t try. You are better off making sure you hire a competent and honest lawyer, and letting him or her build your best case. Learn more about what to ask a personal injury lawyer before hiring one.

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