My lawyer just settled my personal injury case. At the time the lawyer distributed my share of the money to me, he withheld $322.56 for airfare and $150 for a hotel bill. When I asked him what those expenses were for he said he had to travel to New Orleans to take the deposition of a witness in the case. Can he do that?
Yes, if the fee agreement that you signed provides that he is to be reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses incurred in connection with the case. That type of provision is part of the typical fee agreement in personal injury cases and therefore I would not be surprised if the fee agreement you signed contained that provision. Your lawyer will give you a copy of your fee agreement if you cannot find the your copy.
Of course, the expenses incurred should be reasonable. What is reasonable? A Motel 6 is on the cheap end and a Ritz Carlton is usually too expensive. Something in the middle should do nicely. Most attorneys do not asked to be reimbursed for first-class air travel, although some may do so for international flights or cross-country flights. You shouldn’t expect that your lawyer is going to eat at Taco Bell, but you should not be asked to pick up the tab for a big meal and expensive wine at a five-star restaurant.
If you have a problem with the expenses the lawyer charges simply ask about it. I think you will find that most lawyers will be happy to fully explain all charges and will bend over backwards to treat you fairly.