Understanding the Differences in Fees and Costs of a Personal Injury Attorney


If you’re thinking about filing a personal injury claim, you’ll need a personal injury attorney. You can get one under a contingency fee agreement, which means that if they don’t win the case, they don’t get paid! However, in order to successfully present your lawsuit, there are a number of personal injury attorneys who can explain and negotiate what additional costs that you’ll need to cover.

Is There a Difference Between Fees and Costs?

Yes. There are two words that make up the legal profession. Costs and fees. You might think the terms mean the same thing, but they don’t. The term “fee” typically means the amount an attorney charges to handle a case.

A good example is the contingency fee, which is the percentage of the recovery the plaintiff’s attorney will receive as reimbursement for handling a plaintiff’s personal injury case.

The most common (and largest) expenses or “costs” in a personal injury lawsuit usually include things like medical bills, lost wages and property damage. To make sure that you get the best possible outcome, it’s important to budget for these costs before you start. Costs can include:

  • Court costs
  • Administrative expenses
  • Deposition
  • Expert witness fees
  • Costs of investigation and information gathering

What Kind of Court Costs can I Expect?

Court costs comprise the filing fee for the complaint (usually $400 or less), reimbursing the jurors’ daily stipend (if your case goes to a jury trial) and having the summons served on the defendant. The plaintiff can get their own copy of the transcript by paying the court reporter for the transcript, which will cost anywhere from $2 to $4 per page (often around $400.00).

Assuming you are suing for bodily injury, you can expect to spend a significant amount of your time and money on medical treatment. If you don’t have insurance, it may be worthwhile to find a physician willing to negotiate for their fees. Often times your lawyer will negotiate medical costs and deduct that once a settlement is made.

What are Expert Witness Costs?

Personal injury cases often require plaintiffs to present technical arguments (such as the cause of an injury) that the average person would not know anything about. In complex medical malpractice cases, for example, to win your case in court, a credible witness explains:

  • How your doctor acted negligently
  • How that negligent conduct caused the injuries you claim

In certain situations, testimony from someone who is not an expert can actually distract a jury and cause more confusion. Court rules recognize this.

An expert witness will charge a few hundred dollars an hour to review your case, prepare an expert report, and testify at trial. When you need personal injury representation, you need to be prepared for the financial ramifications. In a simple personal injury case, expert witness fees can amount to several hundred dollars. In a complex case, it can be tens of thousands of dollars, especially if your case requires several expert witnesses.

Expert witnesses are in high demand, because it’s rare for someone to have both the credentials and the ability to explain complex subjects in a way that’s easy for a jury to understand. This is one of the highest expenses of a jury trial, but it’s worth it when you need the most comprehensive and credible testimony.

What are Administrative Expenses?

All court cases will incur some administrative costs which are necessary for the administration of justice. These include postage, copying, travel time, legal research, and producing trial exhibits.

In a simple and short case, this won’t be much. The cost for this kind of case is usually less than a few hundred dollars. But the administrative costs of a personal injury lawsuit (which are common in lawsuits that go to trial) can total a few thousand dollars within several years.

What are Deposition Costs?

A deposition is the taking of sworn testimony outside of a courtroom setting. A witness is asked questions with a stenographer recording everything said, so that it can be used in court.

The party requesting the deposition will pay for the stenographer’s time, as well as a copy of the transcript. For a deposition lasting a few hours, this can amount to about $500.

What are Investigation and Information-Gathering Costs?

The cost of obtaining a medical record or police report is minimal in many cases. You can obtain these documents for free, or for a small fee. However, there are certain sorts of investigations or research that can only be done in person. These cases will incur higher costs and should be discussed with an investigator beforehand.

Balancing Costs and Possible Reward.

When deciding whether to file a personal injury lawsuit, you’ll have to weigh the cost of the suit against the potential for recovery. Even experienced attorneys can’t always get it right. It is important for you as a client to understand that it is your attorney’s duty to have this discussion with you and help you make an informed decision.


Injury claims are typically worth a lot of money and usually decide on who will be the winner and who will lose in the end. You should definitely search for Pennsylvania personal injury attorneys wh0 will give you the best chance of winning your case.

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