- Litigation Costs
- Assessing the Decision to File a Lawsuit
- Exploring Alternatives to Litigation
- Legal Representation: Contingency Fee Basis
One of the most significant expenses in personal injury lawsuits is attorney fees. Many personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, charging a percentage of the final judgment or settlement only if the case is won. This percentage typically is 1/3 or 33.33%, but it can vary from 25% to 50%. In Oklahoma, the ethical maximum for a contingency fee is 50%. Alternatively, some attorneys offer services at an hourly rate, starting at $200/hour.
Costs Before Filing a Lawsuit
Upon engaging a lawyer, they will need to acquire all relevant medical records and bills. According to the Oklahoma Statutes, under 76 O.S. § 19, medical providers are permitted to charge a “base fee” of $20 to the attorney, in addition to a postage/delivery fee and a per-page charge. For digital copies, the charge is thirty cents per page. A basic car accident case may incur a$300 in costs just for obtaining medical records.
Initiating a lawsuit requires a filing fee. This fee, including one summons, is $252.14 in the Oklahoma County District Court. Additional costs are incurred when serving the complaint and summons to the defendant, which must be done through official channels such as a sheriff, private process server, or certified mail.
During the discovery phase, a pre-trial stage where both parties exchange relevant information, various costs can arise, including:
- Court reporter fees for depositions and transcripts, each exceeding $300.
- Expert witness fees for both preparation and testimony.
- Fees for obtaining necessary official documents.
- Travel expenses related to the case.
These costs can vary greatly depending on the complexity of the case and the amount of evidence required.
Assessing the Decision to File a Lawsuit
Before filing a lawsuit, it’s important to weigh several factors:
- The potential total costs of litigation versus the expected recovery of damages.
- The probability of winning the case or achieving a favorable settlement.
- The personal time investment required by the lawsuit.
- The feasibility of covering legal costs upfront or the need for a fee-deferred arrangement.
- The attorney’s evaluation of your case’s merit and the likelihood of obtaining compensation that outweighs the costs.
These considerations are vital in making an informed decision about pursuing legal action.
Exploring Alternatives to Litigation
Settlement discussions can provide a resolution without the need for a trial, potentially offering a satisfactory outcome while avoiding the costs associated with court proceedings.
In mediation, a “neutral” attorney is paid by both sides to help the parties involved reach a mutually agreeable settlement.
Arbitration involves an arbitrator listening to the case and making binding decisions. This process is generally faster and less formal than traditional court litigation.
Legal Representation: Contingency Fee Basis
Choosing legal representation on a contingency fee basis eliminates upfront costs. Payment is only required upon winning your case, aligning the attorney’s interests with yours. A free consultation is advisable to discuss the specifics of your case and assess its potential for success before committing to legal action.
Fees Often Increase After the Suit is Filed
Although law firms may start their contingency fee at 25% or 1/3, many increase the fee after investing more time and money into the case. Common points for this increase include:
- Lawsuit filed
- Pretrial Conference
Considering the potential increase in attorney fees, the net settlement to the client might be more favorable if the lawsuit only marginally increases the total settlement amount.
What are the typical attorney fees for personal injury cases?
Attorney fees in personal injury cases usually follow a contingency fee model, with percentages ranging from 25% to 50% of the settlement or judgment.
How much does it cost to file a lawsuit in Oklahoma?
The filing fee in Oklahoma County District Court, including one summons, is $252.14.
Can I negotiate a settlement without going to court?
Yes, settlement negotiations are a viable alternative to court litigation, potentially leading to a resolution without the extra costs of a trial.