What Will it Cost Me to File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?

September 2, 2021 Posted In Medical Malpractice

Suing for medical malpractice can be a long, expensive, and complex process. What it will cost you out-of-pocket will highly depend on whether you choose to hire an attorney. 

The Cost With a Lawyer

Many attorneys handle medical malpractice cases on a contingency basis. That means you do not have to pay to retain them or for any court costs upfront. Your attorney will advance all of the costs associated with preparing and litigating your claim. Once you recover compensation, your lawyer will take their contingency fee plus court costs. Contingency fees are generally between 25 to 40 percent of your award, but on average is 33 and 1/3%. If you’re filing on behalf of someone in a wrongful death claim, a lawyer is even more necessary to guide you through the legal process.

California is one of 16 states with statutory restrictions on the amount a medical malpractice lawyer can charge as a contingency fee. Under California Business & Professions Code § 6146, attorney’s fees for medical malpractice cases, settled or tried, cannot exceed the following amounts: 

  • 40% of the first $50,000 recovered
  • One-third (33 and 1/3%) of the next $50,000
  • 25% of the next $500,000 recovered, and 
  • 15% of any recovered compensation exceeding $600,000. 

Attorney’s fees can be taken from “recovered” compensation, which means the amount you will receive after case costs are deducted (not including your medical expenses or the attorney’s overhead costs). 

What hiring a lawyer means for you is that there is no financial risk since you only have to pay if you win. However, you may still be responsible for court costs, filing fees, and expert witness compensation when applicable, regardless of your case’s outcome. 

The Cost If You Represent Yourself

Filing a medical malpractice case on your own might mean there is no one to share a settlement or court award with, but the costs and risk of losing are significant. Medical malpractice lawyers spend an average of $20,000 to $50,000 on building a solid case, and in complicated cases, $50,000 to $100,000. Unfortunately, there is no way to determine the exact cost to you if representing yourself, but you will be responsible for: 

  • Court fees for filing the lawsuit—typically between $100 to $500.
  • Requests for medical records—which can cost up to $1,000 just to order copies from all of your healthcare providers.
  • Fees for expert witnesses—a medical malpractice claim’s success heavily relies on expert witnesses. Hiring expert witnesses will be the most costly expense, as many charge hundreds or even thousands of dollars per hour. One expert witness can spend an average of 20 to 30 hours on your case. 

Other fees associated with pursuing a medical malpractice claim are the sheriff’s or constable’s fee for serving legal papers, requesting deposition transcripts, mediation fees, photocopies, trial and jury consultants, etc. If you lose, you will be responsible for these costs and more.

Because of the extraordinary level of costs, medical malpractice lawyers will heavily weigh the expense of handling a case against the potential damages. Therefore, if an attorney accepts your case, you will know they believe you can win. Think you have a case? Contact our Riverside medical malpractice attorneys for a free case evaluation.

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