The True Costs of Court

The mantra “almost nothing in life is free” is largely true with the American judicial system.  Some fees may be waived if you qualify to file as an indigent (Click here for the North Carolina form to file as an indigent) but this only applies to people of very modest financial means.  The usual rule is that each party is responsible for his own costs and expenses in pursuing a legal matter unless a statute or court order dictates otherwise. 

There is a plethora of possible expenses that can be incurred in handling a case depending on the type of case.  Some people seek to skimp on expenses and wind up hurting their case.  Some more common case-related expenses include:

  • Court filing fees
  • Service of process (for summonses, subpoenas, etc.)
  • Fees to files most motions in North Carolina state court
  • Deposition costs (Ex:  fee for court reporter, fee for deposition transcript and CDs which would be used in preparation for subsequent motions and trial)
  • Retainers and fees for expert witnesses
  • Creation of copies of documents, poster displays, or exhibits for trial
  • Attorney fees
  • Copying
  • Postage
  • Travel

For some cases such as motor vehicle collisions, workers’ compensation, and Social Security Disability, an attorney may be willing to enter into a written agreement to advance the expenses (a/k/a pay them without seeking money “up front” from the client) and recover them at the conclusion of the case.  In many other cases, however, the attorney may require the client make some financial contribution toward the anticipated expenses anticipated to be incurred.  NOTE:  In North Carolina, the client is ALWAYS ultimately responsible for the costs and expenses of a case.  Even if the client does not recover a settlement or judgment the client is financially responsible to reimburse the lawyer or law firm for the costs incurred in handling the case.  costs of court

The cost of litigation is a key consideration when deciding whether or how far to pursue/defend a case.  This is territory where listening to friends, family, Internet research will probably not be enough.  Consult a lawyer and get relevant and correct information for your situation.


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