The number one question for patients bringing a malpractice lawsuit is, “How much will it cost?” And the answer to that question depends on whether or not you use a lawyer or go it alone. Just keep in mind that it’s not uncommon for it to cost less when you use an attorney. And there are also other benefits of using an attorney.

The Lawyer’s Fees: Common Fee Structures

Most medical malpractice attorneys have their fees structured on a contingency basis. That means that the legal fees are paid out of the award or settlement. And if the attorney loses the case, no fee is charged. Contingency fees vary depending on the attorney and can be fixed or sliding, but most charge between 33 percent and 40 percent. Some will charge 33 percent if the case settles prior to trial, while others charge 40 percent if the case winds up in the courtroom. In some cases, attorneys charge by the hour.

The regulatory framework of the state may affect lawyer’s fees. For example, in California, the lawyer’s fees in a medical malpractice are limited: “40 percent of the first $50,000 recovered, 33 percent of the next $50,000, 25 percent of the following $500,00 and 15% of anything over $600,000.”

In addition to legal fees, there are other significant fees, such as expert witness fees. These experts don’t come cheap and can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Most experts will charge to review documents, testifying during depositions, travel, prep time and in-court time. Other costs include obtaining medical records and court filing fees. Lawyers are paid out of monies from the settlement and basically split the winnings with their client. Typically, the out-of-pocket expenses for a medical malpractice suit are paid initially by the attorney. That being said, the cost for a patient to bring a medical malpractice suit is zero.

It’s important to shop around for the best attorney fees. You may be able to get a better price with a different attorney. It’s wise to consult with a number of attorneys and compare prices along with qualifications. One thing to remember is that lawyer fees are negotiable along with other terms. For example, even in a contingency structured fee, a lawyer may require for some litigation fees as they arise. In this circumstance, you can engage in a bit of bargaining letting the attorney know that better terms are available elsewhere.

The Cost to Go It Alone: Is It Worth It?

Although the plaintiff of a medical malpractice lawsuit won’t have to split the winnings with anyone, there are generally substantial costs involved. Filing a lawsuit costs around $500, and then there’s the cost of getting all those medical records and deposition transcripts. However, the high price tag really comes along with hiring expert witnesses. The average cost of a medical expert is $50,000. And in a highly complex and severe medical malpractice suit, it can be a lot more. This will definitely be the costliest monetary expenses. But it’s money well spent. Often, it is the medical experts that will determine whether the suit is a win or a loss. It is this expert who persuades the jury as to whether or not the physician’s actions or inactions were in accordance with the acceptable level of care.

Keep in mind that medical malpractice cases aren’t anything like fender bender cases. They are highly complex both legally and medically. Plus, the defendant’s insurance companies are ready to go to war at every step of the way. Before you decide to go it alone, it’s wise to at least consult with a medical malpractice first. Not only will there be upfront and ongoing expenses, you’ll have to take the time to develop your own legal strategy. Do you really have the legal and medical knowledge to do that? It’s also important to note that those who hire an attorney for a medical malpractice lawsuit are twice more likely to get an award than those who go it alone. It’s certainly something to consider.