How Much Will My Lawsuit Cost?

Aside from personal injury cases which are handled on a contingent fee basis, most attorneys charge their clients for the time they spend working on the case – the proverbial ‘billable hour’.

This means that the cost of the lawsuit will be based upon how many hours an attorney spends working on the case. The difficulty faced by the client is that, in many cases, it is impossible to know in advance how many hours the attorney will spend on the case once the lawsuit is filed. However, the following factors can be utilized to at least formulate an estimate of the cost of a lawsuit:


For example, if a landlord wishes to evict a tenant who is not paying rent, the law prescribes a series of steps that the landlord’s attorney must follow to obtain a judicial order for the tenant to vacate the premises. Experience with past evictions enables the attorney to provide a reasonably accurate prediction of the cost of the eviction case.

By contrast, if a lawsuit is filed by a homeowner against a contractor who built a defective house it is difficult to predict the cost of litigation.  Even before the trial, it may require many hours of pretrial discovery (conducting depositions, etc.) resulting in a large attorney bill. Or, the case may end quickly if the contractor, once served with the lawsuit, quickly settles to avoid bad publicity and the expense of his own legal bills.


A person who is sued will hopefully view the matter in a rational manner and will evaluate the cost of litigation versus the cost of settling shortly after the lawsuit is filed. On the other hand, a lawsuit filed against a hot head may push his buttons to the point where he says, “I’d rather spend $100,000 fighting this case rather than settling it for $25,000.


Thus far we have only been addressing the expense of the attorney’s time working on the case. Litigation costs add another dimension to the cost of a lawsuit. Litigation costs are the out-of-pocket expenses paid to move forward with litigation. Some costs are small (e.g., the $221 court filing fee). Other costs are more substantial, such as the fees that must be paid to a court reporter for every deposition that is taken (generally about $300 per deposition). Finally, there are costs that are extremely expensive, most notably the fees charged by expert witnesses. For example, an independent physician hired to testify in a medical malpractice case may charge up to $10,000 to review all of the medical records and spend hours in deposition and a day in trial.

Keeping the cost of litigation manageable requires close cooperation between attorney and client. This means that there should be a candid initial meeting between them before the lawsuit is filed, at which time the attorney should inform the client of the possible low and high range of what the case could cost. Secondly, the attorney and client should have periodic budget meetings to discuss the number of attorney hours and litigation costs that will be devoted to the case.

Finally, there are some types of cases in which Idaho law allows the judge to make the losing party pay the attorney fees of the winning party. These statutes should be considered by the client in making the decision to use or not to sue.

The above factors do not apply in the same way for contingency fee cases normally used in personal injury lawsuits. The expense for these types of cases will be discussed in future articles.

While this is general information, we may be able to provide a more detailed estimate of the costs of your own lawsuit. Schedule your free consultation to learn more about your case in a one-on-one conversation with one of our attorneys.