What are "Costs"?

Costs are expenses necessary to prosecute your case to a successful completion. They can run to many thousands of dollars, so it would do you well to get a handle on what should be your attorney's responsibility, what he can hire out to do, and whether he will advance the payment of costs and charge you interest until they are paid.
Such things as the expense of a doctor's testimony, or hiring an expert witness are obvious as legitimate costs. But what about postage on letters sent to you every time your attorney sends out a letter? How about hiring a nurse to outline your medical care-isn't that something that many attorneys will either do themselves, or hand off to their legal assistant? Why, then, should you have to pay for him to hire someone outside the office to do something that other attorneys do for no charge?
There follow some examples of allowable costs. Again, it depends on the contract that you negotiate, because some attorneys don't include some of these costs and some attorneys include all of them.

Why can't my Attorney pay these Costs?

As noted elsewhere, attorneys cannot pay costs, but they may advance costs for the client. What are "costs"? It depends on the office, but costs usually include everything that the attorney has to pay out to resolve your case (e.g. medical record costs) together with fees (e.g. doctor or expert witness) that you, the client, are to bear in the matter.
Costs Billable to Client and to be paid by Client:

  • Accident report copy
  • Medical chart note copies
  • Medical copying service charges
  • Doctor's reports
  • Letters written by doctors for the attorney
  • Doctor's time charges for attorney consultation
  • Doctor's time charge for deposition set by the plaintiff (note that depositions set by the defendant are paid for by the defendant)
  • Court filing fees
  • Court reporter fees for depositions set by the plaintiff (defendant pays same if deposition is set by defendant)
  • Deposition copy (usually based upon number of pages reported)
  • Subpoena Service charges
  • Mediation expenses (usually half to each side)
  • Arbitration expenses (sometimes half to each side, but if UIM, it should be paid by insurance company)

Costs Paid and Incurred by Attorney, but Billable and Chargeable to Client:

  • Long distance charges
  • Extensive copy charges (miscellaneous letters should be furnished for free)
  • Extensive fax charges (watch this-every office should have a fax machine and there is really no need to charge for faxes. The time and effort of the staff in sending outgoing faxes should be part of the fee, and the pages of incoming faxes are something the attorney should absorb.)
  • Investigators (be sure you have the right to authorize first)
  • Photographers (be sure you have the right to authorize first)
  • Travel expenses (motor vehicle mileage is okay, but you shouldn't have to be paying for meals or overnight stays unless specifically negotiated)

Costs Are to be Paid by the Client as Incurred:

  • Most attorneys will let you know up front that they are not your banker. Still, most are also likely to pay the costs as necessary, and to bill you monthly until you get them paid.
  • Usually there is a 1% per month carrying charge. If your attorney isn't charging any interest, be happy, but still try to keep up with the payments.
  • Anything you can't or don't pay as it is billed will be deduced from your settlement proceeds at the time of disbursement. Interest, if accrued, will also be deducted.

Costs Paid and Incurred by Attorney:

  • These costs are to be borne by the attorney and should never be passed on to the client. Here is a prime example of potential abuse that has recently surfaced. Attorneys have taken to sending out the client's medical records to someone who will summarize them and create an outline of the treatment and progress of the client.

The attorney incurs no cost to her office, and no effort is expended. Instead, she simply passes along the bill for this outside work to her client.
We believe that the client contracted with the attorney's office for representation, and included in the fee is this type of work. It is the attorney's job to outline the medical records and the course of treatment. Usually the attorney will have her legal assistant perform such a task. If the attorney is going to try to pass the cost of such work on to the client, we believe the attorney should have specifically disclosed this up front, and should make an adjustment in her fees if she is asking the client to pay for services she would usually be expected to render.