Q: What costs are involved in prosecuting a legal malpractice case?
Usually, the most significant cost in a legal malpractice case is for experts. If negligence is disputed, the plaintiff will almost always need to present a lawyer expert to testify at trial that the acts or omissions of the defendant lawyer were below the standard of care. That lawyer will need to be paid to review the facts of the case in order to render an opinion, which can be very time-consuming, and paid to prepare for his deposition and trial testimony, and to travel to and testify at trial. The expert lawyer's hourly fees vary, including based on his/her area of specialization and geographic market.
Often, multiple experts are necessary. For instance, in a legal malpractice case involving an underlying personal injury case, in which liability and damages are disputed, a personal injury lawyer expert may need to be called by the plaintiff to establish that the defendant personal injury lawyer’s acts or omissions (for instance, failing to make proper arguments and cite relevant case law opposing a successful defense motion to dismiss the personal injury case), were negligent. In addition, in order to prove damages, the plaintiff may need to present the "case-within-a-case," demonstrating that the personal injury case would have been a winner if presented to a jury instead of dismissed. To do this, the plaintiff may need to present medical testimony to support the existence and extent of physical injuries, just as he or she would have needed to do in the underlying case if it had not been dismissed. So the plaintiff may need to hire a medical doctor to testify as well.
Other significant expenses usually include deposition-related fees. These are the costs of hiring a "court reporter" (private stenographer) to take shorthand at the formal questioning of witnesses, usually well before trial, and to produce a written transcription of the deposition testimony for counsel.
Regarding the amount of costs, each case is different. The more voluminous and complex the facts and issues that must be absorbed and addressed by one’s expert(s), generally the higher the costs. Malpractice cases handled by this firm have involved expert costs ranging from nearly zero to nearly $200,000. Deposition-related expenses have ranged from approximately $1,000 to over $20,000. The Rundle Law Firm determines on a case-by-case basis whether to accept cases subject to the client’s responsibility to pay costs as they are incurred, or whether to advance costs for the client subject to reimbursement out of any recovery from the defendant. Effort is made to make an educated estimate of costs for the client before proceeding.