What is the Difference Between Fees and Costs?

what is the difference between fees and costs

Before,during, and after your case, you’ll hear your car accident attorney reference “fees” and “costs.” To you as the client though, this is one number. Because at the end of the case, the entire amount is subtracted from the final settlement or verdict. It’s important to know the distinction between a fee and a cost, however.

When you hear “attorney’s fees,” whether that is a contingency fee or one that is billed by the hour that is what the attorney is paid. Costs on the other hand, are not compensation for the attorney. These go to third parties for services necessary in building your case. Examples of costs in a car accident injury case would be medical bills or liens, expert witnesses, filing fees, deposition transcripts, court reports, travel, postage, etc. Costs are unrelated to the attorney’s compensation.

In California, the filing fee for an unlimited civil lawsuit (claim above $25,000) is $435. The cost is the same for the defendant to appear. The lawsuit must be personally served on the defendant in the case. This cost can range from as low as $40 to several hundred dollars. Once a case is underway, there are additional costs that can arise. For example, filing a motion with the court costs $60.

Typically, the biggest expense in car accident cases will be expert witnesses. An expert witness is a specialist in their field, like a doctor or economist. They will present evidence based on their expertise to the jury in an effort to support their given side. Many cases will require more than one expert witness. For example, a car accident case may need several expert witnesses: one specific to the injury, one to the surgery, one to the cost of surgery and other medical treatment, an economist for loss of earnings, and one who reconstructs the accident scene. Depending on how much time the expert will need to put in, the cost of each one can easily exceed $10,000.

This is why many lawyers won’t take cases below a certain amount. Because it’s simply not economically feasible based on the injury and insurance available. Almost all injury attorneys will front the costs of litigation in the hopes of recouping them at the end. The risk then falls to the attorney because if the case is lost, they will not be able to get the money back that they spent.

Car accident attorneys will try to create a budget at the outset of cases. But as discovery gets underway, things can arise that change course. This is why costs are always a moving target in litigation.

It’s easy and understandable that when a client looks at a settlement amount they see one number coming out at the end. But it’s also important to know that those costs are all a necessary part of building up a case.

San Diego Car Accident Attorney

My name is Daniel Hanecak and I am a San Diego Car Accident Lawyer. I know from personal experience how stressful and time consuming a car accident can be. When you call Hanecak Law Inc., you will speak with me directly. It is my aim to provide you with free and friendly advice. Call me today at (858) 206-4326 for a free case evaluation.

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