Case Expenses in Tennessee Injury and Wrongful Death Cases

Virtually all, if not all, Tennessee personal injury and wrongful death lawyers will work on a contingent fee – which means the lawyer receives a percentage of the total recovery for the client in the case.  If there is no recovery, the lawyer charges no fee whatsoever.

However, not all personal injury lawyers have the same approach on the question of expenses incurred during the preparation and trial of personal injury cases.  Litigation expenses can be relatively small – $100 – $300 in a case involving minor injuries which is settled before a lawyer is filed – to hundreds of thousands of dollars in complex medical malpractice and product liability lawsuits.

Here are the common approaches to the issue of case expenses in personal injury and wrongful death cases in Nashville and throughout Tennessee:

  1. Some Tennessee lawyers refuse to advance any case expenses and require the client to come up with the money.  If you have a good case, there is seldom any reason to hire a lawyer who insists that you come up with the money for case expenses.
  2. Other Tennessee lawyers will want you to borrow the money for the case expenses and pay a relatively high rate of interest on the money that is borrowed.  You may or may not be responsible for the expenses if the case is lost – look carefully at the fee agreement with the lawyer to determine what responsibility you have if the case is lost.  And look carefully at the interest rate and other charges for borrowing money so your lawyer can pursue your case.
  3. Other Tennessee lawyers  advance case expenses at no charge – but if the case is lost the client is obligated to re-pay the lawyer the expenses incurred.
  4. Finally, a few Tennessee lawyers will pay the expenses and, if the case is won the client has to re-pay the lawyer the case expenses but, if the case is unsuccessful, the client does not have to re-pay the lawyer for the expenses.  

Our firm takes the later approach to case expenses:  we advance all litigation expenses, get re-paid if the case is successful but do not charge the client if the case is unsuccessful.  We do not charge interest, file opening fees, or other similar charges that have the effect of the reducing the net recovery of our clients.  We have deviated from this general rule only a couple of times in our years of practice. 

Why do lawyers have different case expense practices?  Some lawyers do not have the money to advance expenses on behalf of their clients.  Other lawyers lack confidence in the merits of the case and thus do not want to invest their own money in the case.  Other lawyers do not have enough money to advance case expenses in all of their cases and do not want to borrow money at their own expense to finance the cases.  Other lawyers may have the money for case expenses in all of their cases but would rather earn investment income on their savings and put the burden of borrowing money on the client. – doing so increases the lawyer’s profitability on the case. 

Our view is that in virtually every case the contingent fee we charge adequately compensates us for the work we do and the money we advance for case expenses.  We agree to bear the ultimate responsibility for case expenses if the case is lost because many of our clients simply cannot afford to do so.  

So, one of the things you need to look for when you hire a personal injury or wrongful death lawyer is how the lawyer charges – both fees and expenses.  Read this legal guide for other items you should consider when hiring a personal injury or wrongful death lawyer.


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