The cost to pursue a personal injury claim can vary greatly. Your attorney will pay these costs up front but the costs will be reimbursed from the settlement of your claim. There are a variety of factors that go into estimating the cost of pursuing your injury claim. A list of what must be considered is below:
- Ordering any Accident or Police Reports. These reports can run anywhere from $6.00 to $10.00 or more depending on which municipality responded to the scene and wrote the report. Some of the reports will be available online through DocView which is an online document service that some police departments use. The tradeoff is you can get them quicker but they cost a little more. Others, like the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department requires a letter written to their records division that identifies your firm and who you represent. They charge $6.50.
- Ordering Medical Records. If you are injured, there will be medical records. The records usually are not cheap and most likely are still delivered in paper form. Some hospital systems, like Mercy and University of Missouri, will send a disc with the records. The costs for these range greatly, but for a typical case, the cost will be around $40.00 to $50.00 per medical provider. However, in extensive injury cases, the costs for records can easily reach thousands of dollars. Many hospitals use outside companies, like Healthport, to prepare their records. This can slow the process down and create some headaches. Generally, it can take 2-4 weeks for records to come in.
- Deposition Fees. In any case that is filed with the court, depositions will be taken. If your attorney wants a copy of a deposition, he or she must pay for it. Deposition charges are usually by the page and vary with each court reporting company. We generally use GorePerry and believe they do a very fine job. Costs for a basic deposition transcript can be anywhere from $150.00 to $250.00 per witness deposed. The cost will increase if you wish to have the deposition videotaped or want a rush on the delivery. Your attorney can get electronic copies, commonly known as e-tran, and paper copies. Most lawyers still get both.
- Filing Fees. There are fees to file a case with the court. The cost varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction but is generally around $150.00 or so per circuit case. This will include the cost of having the sheriff serve (or deliver) the petition to the defendant. You can ask the court for permission to have your own person (a special process server) deliver the papers but they are generally more expensive than the sheriff. The filing fee can and will be changed frequently. As of July 2014, St. Louis County increased their filing fee by $5.00. The filing fee also depends on whether you are filing a small claims case, associate case or circuit case. The fees increase as you go from small claims to circuit. The best practice is to call the clerk of your jurisdiction and they will tell you the most up to date cost.
- Expert Witness fees. If you have a case where an expert witness is needed, your attorney will pay that witness a fee. A retainer will be sent to the expert in exchange for the review of the case and deposition testimony. If your attorney wants the witness to testify in person at trial, the cost will go up. Witness fees vary depending on the need. Generally, in a serious case, one witness can cost $4,000.00 to $5,000.00. If your case requires several experts, the cost can increase quickly. However, your case may depend on an expert’s opinion so the cost is a necessary requirement to pursue your case. In other cases, experts can be around $250.00 to $500.00 an hour. Some charge smaller rates for review of records and more for testimony. It all depends on the case. In most cases, your attorney will front this cost as well but reimbursement comes from the settlement amount.
- Witness fees. In Missouri, any witness who testifies, even if they are not an expert, is entitled to a witness fee for showing up. That fee is $25.00 plus mileage. You can look up the mileage in RSMo 33.095. In most cases, 2-3 witnesses will cost around $75.00 to $100.00.
- Costs for Exhibits. If your case is going to trial, there will likely be costs to have exhibit prepared. Exhibits help explain your case to the jury and visual illustrations cannot be underestimated. Places like High Impact, (www.highimpact.com) can prepare fantastic visuals to help in your case. Costs vary widely so you need to contact them for an estimate. It all depends on what you would like and what you want to spend. It could be several hundred dollars or tens of thousands.
- Court Costs. If your case is filed, there is a cost to use the courtroom and staff. Most of it is covered by taxpayers but there are “taxable court costs.” Generally, the losing party will pay these and they are likely about $150.00 or so.
As you can see, costs to pursue litigation can add up depending on the case. It is important to select and pursue cases that have are valid and have merit.