PERSONAL INJURY AND NEGLIGENCE CASE COSTS
While Abrams Landau, operates on a contingency fee basis, we do not try cases “on the cheap.” There are far too many law firms that do not properly invest in their clients’ cases. If you do not secure the evidence of liability early in the case, then it may be impossible (or very expensive) to do so later. So, in appropriate cases, we may:
· send a court reporter to transcribe court proceedings
· have pictures taken of accident scenes
· engage private investigators
· hire engineers who test defective products
· consult medical professionals
· have building experts make measurements
· engage legal research services
· get witness statements and affidavits
Current costs and expenses customarily incurred bringing a personal injury case to trial in Northern Virginia are as follows:
Filing fee and service upon the defendant (this is what starts the case and is required before the Court will take any action to put the case on the trial calendar)
Cost estimate range: $250.00-350.00
Depositions of the Plaintiff, Defendant and one lay witness The Court reporter is paid an appearance fee and per page of transcript. So, the longer the deposition, the more expensive the transcript:
Cost estimate range: $300.00-900.00 each
Videotaped depositions (if necessary). The videographer is also paid for time and expenses. Examples of video depositions are out of state witnesses, expert and treating doctors who cannot commit to coming to court or whose charges for taking a day away from their offices or surgery is prohibitive.
Cost estimate range: $800-1,800.00
Deposition of opposition’s expert witness (if necessary). Expert witnesses are allowed to charge for their time, regardless of the outcome of the case.
Cost estimate range: $500.00-2,000.00
Doctor’s or other expert’s review and narrative reports. Treating doctors typically charge several hundreds of dollars to review their patients’ files and dictate reports covering such topics as the causal relation of the conditions complained of to the accident in question; the reasonableness of the types of treatment received; patient compliance; the impact of a subsequent injury, life expectancy, etc.
Cost estimate range: $500.0-800.00
Expert witness testimony in Court and preparation (or videotaped deposition)
Cost estimate range: $1,200.00-8,000.00 each
Subpoenas (and service of subpoenas by sheriff or private process server) for witnesses, depositions and production of documents.
Cost estimate range: $50.00-150.00
Private and public investigation, document duplication & transmission, messenger, transportation, exhibit preparation, misc. items
Cost estimate range: $500.00-750.00
The Courts, Police Departments, County City and State Government Departments in many jurisdictions have standard charges for copies of official documents, such as accident reports, final conviction orders, photographs, filed documents, certified copies, trial transcripts, inspection reports, etc.
In addition, exhibits, such as professionally prepared medical illustrations of a client’s injury, surgery or current condition can run over a thousand dollars by the time the artist has rendered the drawings from the medical reports, x-rays, CT-Scans, MRIs, operative report and hospital records.
We involve the treating doctor in the process so that the finished product is reflective of what the physician saw during surgery. Medical illustrations help a judge and jury to understand: the mechanism of injury, the medical care and what is going on inside the body of our client. Without some visual aids, a jury will have a difficult time understanding the medical terminology and expert testimony.
THE BOTTOM LINE: This office typically advises clients that it will likely cost from four to six thousand dollars to bring an automobile, premises or other negligence trial before a jury in Northern Virginia area. The following is a partial list of items that can lead to additional or increased costs to try a case:
1. out-of-state or foreign witnesses,
2. professional translators (we have clients who speak: Spanish, French, Arabic, Palestinian, Basque, Irdu, Hindi, Bulgarian, Farsi, Creole, Serbian, Portuguese, and other dialects),
3. unusual evidence,
4. difficult liability or coverage issues
Product liability and professional negligence cases will incur costs much higher because of the need for technical and expert witness testimony. It is because of these high costs, that a claimant can get a jury verdict and net very little compensation. It is also the reason that we will request that the client have a monetary investment in their case.
Does the Defendant incur costs or expenses if a case goes to trial?
Yes. But the Plaintiff and the Plaintiff’s lawyer have the burden of proof.
The defendants (and their insurance company) typically pay their lawyers, who are on retainer, by the hour, win lose or draw. They also face similar expenses in these cases, and take this into account when attempting to settle cases. One major difference is that the defense does not have to put on any evidence as the plaintiff has the burden of proof. However, most defense firms:
1. investigate the claims (which often includes getting every one of the injured plaintiff’s medical records, traffic infractions, litigation history, medical history, claims history, criminal history, marital history, divorce records, financial and other information);
2. perform discovery activities
3. pay to send the plaintiff to an IME (Independent Medical Examination) with one or more doctors of insurance company’s choosing;
4. depose the plaintiff and all important lay and expert witnesses.
Some defendants, like a corporation, may have their own personal legal counsel in addition to insurance defense counsel. These lawyers are also being paid by the hour, so sometimes they will delay the case as time is on their side, not the plaintiff’s. There is no law that says the injured person has to wait until they are completely healed before bringing a case to court.
Because of the contingency fee structure, this office is not compensated unless and until it concludes the case beneficially to the client (plaintiff), it is in our (and your) best interests to try to bring the claim to a swift and fair conclusion.
The insurance industry knows how expensive it is to try a personal injury case. Even when they are paying their lawyers bottom rate, it is still several thousands of dollars. However, they also know that the costs of a plaintiff taking a case to trial may outweigh the potential benefits of a slightly larger jury verdict. In other words, if there is a $50,000.00 offer, and the plaintiff gets a $55,000.00 verdict after spending $6,000.00 on such pre-trial costs as having doctors come to court and testify, then the plaintiff nets less money than if he/she had settled months earlier.