I believe I have a medical malpractice claim against a Tennessee hospital. It is my understanding that lawyers who accept representation of patients in medical malpractice cases only get paid if they win the case but that they also charge for the expenses they incur in pursuing the case. What type of expenses are incurred in the prosecution of a medical malpractice case?
Most lawyers who represent patients in medical malpractice litigation ask to be reimbursed for expenses they incur in prosecuting your case. Some lawyers hold the client responsible for those expenses if the case is unsuccessful. Other lawyers will “write-off” some or all of those expenses if the case is unsuccessful. The written fee agreement between you and the lawyer should disclose whether the client will be responsible for expenses if the case is unsuccessful, and therefore you should examine it carefully before agreeing to employ any lawyer.
Here is a list of the types of expenses that may be charged to your case:
i. Expert Witness Fees. Some cases require, and many cases benefit from, the use of one or more expert witnesses. Expert witnesses charge by the hour – some medical experts charge as much as $1500 per hour to consult with a lawyer and give testimony at trial. In some cases there are no expert witnesses and therefore no expert witness fees. In medical malpractice cases expert witness fees frequently exceed $50,000.
ii. Doctor Fees. In cases involving personal injury and wrongful death, including medical malpractice cases, a doctor usually must testify that the incident that is in dispute caused the client’s injury or death. These witnesses also testify about whether the injuries caused pain, suffering and disability and whether there is any permanent pain, suffering or disability caused by the incident. These doctors – usually the doctors who treated you in the hospital or on an out-patient basis – charge $300 to $1000 per hour to testify in your case.
iii. Court reporter Fees. Court reporters transcribe depositions and trial testimony. Court reporter charges vary, but it costs about $2000 per day to have a court reporter present at a deposition or trial and to have a copy of a transcript prepared.
iv. Videographer Fees. Experienced personal injury and wrongful death lawyers know that video-taped depositions are very useful at trial and will ask that depositions of certain witnesses be video-taped if the dollar value of the case justifies the expense. Professional videotaping of a deposition costs about $1000 per day.
v. Demonstrative Aids (Exhibits). Some exhibits (photographs) are inexpensive. Other exhibits (computer animations of medical procedures) are very expensive. Experienced personal injury and wrongful death lawyers take the dollar value of the case into account in determining what exhibits are necessary to maximize the value of the case.
vi. Travel. Sometimes the case involves out-of-town witnesses and thus the lawyer must travel. The expenses attendant to such travel are charged to the client as case expenses. The amounts of those expenses vary from case to case, but these expenses can be significant in medical malpractice cases because expert witnesses frequently reside in another state. Two other points must be mentioned here. If you employ an out-of-town or out-of-state lawyer you may be charged for travel expenses for that lawyer to work on your case in Tennessee. This will decrease your recovery. Make sure you understand if you have to pay the lawyer’s expenses for traveling to see you or to work on your case and weigh that factor in determining whether you should hire that lawyer or a local lawyer. Second, some lawyers use the fact that they have private planes to impress clients. If you hire such a lawyer, make sure you understand how much you will be charged for use of the private plane during your case. Private plane expenses can be much higher than commercial air travel or ground travel, and you need to know how you will be charged. Responsible lawyers who use private planes in their law practice will charge you only the cost of what a commercial airline would charge for a pre-purchased, coach ticket on a commercial airline for the same flight.
viii. Miscellaneous Expenses. Lawyers also include as case costs the out-of-pocket expense incurred for conference calls, long-distance calls, photocopies, postage and express delivery service.