The High Cost of Legal Malpractice Lawsuits
How Much Does a Legal Malpractice Lawsuit Cost?
It’s impossible to answer this question precisely, because the cost of pursuing a claim for legal malpractice (professional negligence) varies on a case by case basis.
If the plaintiff/claimant has clear, documented evidence of an attorney’s professional negligence, the costs of a lawsuit are generally lower–or may be avoided entirely, if the attorney or his or her malpractice insurer settles the case without a trial. Cases that settle are less expensive (generally speaking) than those which require full litigation and trials.
More commonly, the evidence of an attorney’s malpractice is circumstantial, and must be proven through discovery, expert testimony, and other forms of evidence. These legal procedures can be lengthy and technical, and thus are usually more expensive than clear-cut cases that settle without a trial.
What are the Costs Involved in a Legal Malpractice Claim?
Although a plaintiff’s individual costs may vary (sometimes widely) depending on the facts of the individual case, here is an overview of the common costs involved in bringing a legal malpractice action:
1. Attorney Fees. Unless the plaintiff/claimant represents himself (or herself)–which is not recommended–the claimant will need to hire experienced legal counsel to represent him (or her) in connection with the legal malpractice claim. While some attorneys work on contingency (a fee arrangement where the attorney receives fees for representing the client only if the client prevails on his or her claim) some bill hourly, and in those cases the plaintiff must pay for representation whether or not (s)he prevails on the malpractice claim.
2. Court Fees and Other Costs. Courts charge filing fees when plaintiffs and their attorneys file documents with the court. These fees vary depending on the type of documents filed, but normally range from $100-$500 per filing. (Some filings are more expensive, and some filings have no fees–consult your local court for a list of filing fees.) While some plaintiffs may be able to obtain income-based fee waivers in certain types of cases, the claimant is responsible for payment of all court costs and other fees (for example, copying charges and mailing costs). Normally, plaintiffs incur these costs even if the attorney agrees to represent the client on contingency–meaning, the plaintiff must pay these costs whether or not (s)he recovers money from the defendant at the end of the suit.
3. Expert Fees and Deposition Costs. Expert witnesses can be the most expensive single component of malpractice litigation (aside from attorney fees). Legal malpractice actions may require not only attorney experts (to testify regarding the alleged malpractice itself) but also medical experts, accountants, and other experts whose testimony may be required to establish whether or not the underlying matter (the one in which the alleged malpractice occurred) was properly handled. Many times, the claimant may also have to pay fees relating to party and witness depositions – from court reporters to transcript fees and, sometimes, additional expert fees for the time the expert spends in depositions.
This is not a complete or exhaustive list of the costs involved in malpractice litigation. Other costs and fees may arise, depending on the facts of a plaintiff’s individual case. However, even this short list reveals how costs can add up quickly in a legal malpractice claim. For this reason, it’s important for claimants to find and hire experienced legal counsel to review potential claims before a lawsuit is actually filed, and to obtain a review of the claim and its potential for success before jumping headlong into expensive litigation.
If you believe you have a claim against an attorney, Ross Law would be glad to discuss your case and situation with you. Please contact us for a consultation at the address and telephone number on this website.
Disclaimer: THIS ARTICLE IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY, AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE OR CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE AUTHOR AND ANY PERSON. Your rights and experiences may vary. Never use an article like this one to evaluate your legal claims. Speak with an experienced lawyer promptly to obtain a personalized evaluation of your claims, possible damages, and options. You may lose or compromise your rights if you delay in consulting legal counsel. Legal claims against lawyers or other third parties are a complicated topic. If you believe you have a claim against an attorney who failed to provide you with competent representation, consult an experienced lawyer immediately for an evaluation of your possible rights and claims.