How Much Will a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Cost to Prepare and File?
If you’re considering filing a legal claim for medical malpractice, you probably are concerned about the costs. Expenses related to preparing, filing, and litigating a case can add up, especially if the claim does not settle and instead goes to trial.
While exact totals cannot be predicted with any degree of certainty, there are some types of costs that arise in any medical or dental malpractice matter, though. Not every case will incur every type of expense, and some cases will involve costs particular to the nature of the case and not described below. (For example, handwriting analysis might be necessary occasionally, but it is by no means a common expense in a malpractice claim.)
Keep in mind that every case is unique. You should consult with our staff if you are concerned about the necessary expenses associated with pursuing your claim.
What Expenses Might I Have to Pay?
Medical Records Fees – The first step in determining if a valid malpractice case exists is for both the lawyers and medical expert(s) to review all of the relevant medical records, including original films or x-rays. We must initially obtain medical or dental records related to the injury in the claim, as well as records of any treatment related to that injury.
Eventually we will need to obtain additional records, including up to 10 years of medical history from ALL healthcare providers, even those providing unrelated care. This is necessary in order to understand any conditions that might have an impact on the claim. .
In Virginia the law limits fees charged to provide medical records, and other states jurisdictions impose different requirements. Most healthcare providers or their records services do charge for records, however, and these costs can range into the hundreds of dollars in total, depending on the type and quantity of records to be obtained.
Public Records and Criminal History Checks – Fees for background checks will vary depending on the source of the information required. These types of expenses are necessary periodically to obtain information needed for the case.
Court Filing Fees – This fee will vary depending on the court, the type of case, the amount sought in the complaint, and the type of filing. That said, the initial filing fee averaged between $350 and $400 in the Commonwealth of Virginia for medical malpractice cases that we filed in 2022.
Electronic Filing Fees – In some jurisdictions, such as Washington DC, electronic filing is required by the Court and each document filed (complaint, motions, etc.) incurs a filing fee. These fees are generally small — less than $15 individually — but they can add up over the course of an entire legal case.
Courier Expenses – This expense is often related to transporting documents to and from the courthouse for filing but can also include courier services elsewhere in the course of litigation. These fees may range from less than $50 to several hundred dollars, depending on the locations and the items to be transported.
Process Server Fees – These are the service fees charged by a process server commissioned to ensure that such items as court summons, complaints and subpoenas are served properly upon the defendants, as required by law. These fees can range from less than $50 to several hundred dollars or more, depending on the number of defendants to be served, their locations, whether the process server has difficulty making contact (sometimes multiple attempts are necessary), and the urgency with which they must be located, etc.
Copy Fees – There is much less paper involved in a lawsuit than in days past, but we still must copy and produce certain documents on paper. In many cases these expenses are generally minor, unless your case involves an unusually large amount of documentation that must be physically copied, such as bound, hand-written journals.
Mail and Shipping Fees – Postage and fees for shipping through UPS, Federal Express or other mailing services are costs associated with many aspects of a case. These fees can range from the cost of a postage stamp to several hundred dollars to send a package for overnight delivery.
Medical Certification – This expense is related to the requirement that medical and dental malpractice cases, in addition to wrongful death cases that are related to malpractice, require qualified a health care provider certify in writing that the facts of the case tend to support a malpractice claim. Experts who provide such certification will charge professional fees for their time to review the medical records related to the claim of malpractice.
Private Investigator Fees – Sometimes we employ a private investigator to track down people who would rather not be subpoenaed or summoned to Court. These fees are variable but range from several hundreds to multiple thousands of dollars.
Depositions – A deposition is a costly, but necessary, part of nearly all cases that proceed toward trial. Virtually all depositions are recorded and transcribed by a court reporter, and many are also video recorded. If the person testifying is a medical expert, he or she will require a fee, usually based on time. These expenses vary so widely that it would be difficult to provide even a generalized estimate. For example, a deposition held over Zoom is much less costly than an in-person deposition that would require travel; and a lay person deposition involves fewer expenses than an expert witness deposition. Even the cost of deposition transcripts (including appearance of the court reporter) can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand.
At a minimum, in all depositions, a court reporter is required. Below are additional expenses that may also be incurred during depositions.
- Conference space or meeting room
- Videographer’s fee
- Translation services
- Travel expenses
- Food and beverages
Expert Witness Fees – Expert fees are an important and significant expense associated with medical and dental malpractice cases. In these cases, witnesses who are expert in the field of medical or dental practice at issue in the case must provide expert opinion and testimony to support the claim that the defendant’s care fell below the standard of care. This testimony is evidence required to support the claim of malpractice. Depending on the amount of their time required, fees charged by such experts can run into the multiple thousands of dollars, and sometimes into five figures, though the bulk of such charges arise when experts must appear in court during a trial.
Consultant Fees – Some cases require a non-medical expert to opine on subjects like financial records, electronic evidence or other technically complicated issues. Fees of such consultants can vary wildly from several hundred to multiple thousands of dollars.
Mediation – Some cases go through formal mediation proceedings, either by agreement of the parties or by order of a Judge. This is an opportunity, when the details of both sides’ cases have been well developed but before trial, to come to a solution and avoid a trial (and its expense). This process too involves costs, most significantly a mediator’s fee, which can be substantial. Sometimes the costs of mediation are split between part. As in depositions, mediation can involve additional expenses, including:
- Conference space
- Mediator’s fee
- Travel expenses
- Food and beverages.
What Does it Cost if My Case Goes to Trial?
If your case proceeds to trial, the ultimate cost may reach into six figures. A trial may require further expenditure in many of the above categories (additional expert witness time and travel, for example), as well as expenses unique to the courtroom litigation process and not addressed above.
For example, it is common in medical and dental malpractice cases that detailed and customized medical illustrations, animations, three-dimensional models or other presentation materials can clarify concepts for a judge or jury. Professional fees for production of such items can range into five figures.
These materials can literally “make or break” your case, however, so that the expenses are well worth it when needed. The support of a courtroom technologist may be deemed necessary to ensure graceful and seamless presentation of document excerpts and video evidence to the jury. For the most part these expenses arise only when a case is presented before a judge or jury.
Other expenses that come into play only when a case goes to trial might include focus group/mock trial.