It's no secret that litigation is expensive. We've all seen movies where the litigation costs in a toxic tort claim against a fortune 500 company bankrupt the participates. Those types of claims are seminal, and far afield from the typical case litigated in Baltimore, Maryland. But even straightforward motor vehicle accidents can cost thousands of dollars to take to trial. Baltimore personal injury lawyers that take their cases to trial are very well aware that the costs of litigation have a tremendous impact on the net value of case. Common litigation costs include:
- filing fees
- service of process charges
- deposition costs
- exhibit preparation
- expert fees
These are all things that must be considered in assessing the strength, and value, of a claim. The effect is indirect, not direct. But litigation costs can certainly affect the amount of money the client recovers, and therefore play a role in the decision to settle a case., and the settlement value of a case. For example, assume that a Baltimore car accident victim has a claim that her lawyer values at $25,000. Also assume that case will cost $1500 for filing, service and deposition costs, and $3,500 for a medical expert to appear and testify at trial. [We discuss the role of experts and their impact on the value of a case in another volume]. So, if, in the attorney's assessment, a good outcome in court is $25,000, but it will cost $5,000 in litigation costs to get there, it might make sense to consider settlement of the case at a number between $20,000 and $25,000.
A seasoned trial lawyer can give you a fair estimate of what you can expect to pay in litigation costs prior to making the decision to file a lawsuit.
This is a significant input. The client is, of course, responsible for the costs of litigation. I typically advance the costs of litigation to my clients. When we are successful, the advanced costs are reimbursed. If there is no recovery, the client owes nothing. This is one of the primary benefits of a contingency fee agreement. The reality is, most injury victims cannot afford to finance their litigation out of pocket, and this arrangement allows them to have their day in court.
-This Article was updated by Eric Kirk on 10/2/19.