Although expert witness fees make
up the bulk of the case costs in a medical malpractice
case, big cases have many other sources driving
the costs of the case. Some of these other case
costs include the costs associated with (i) copying
the medical records, (ii) enlarging exhibits at
trial, (iii) rental of visual and audio equipment
for display of trial exhibits, (iv) video animations
and medical illustrations, and (v) scanning and
storage of the medical record for computerized
access at trial.
Moreover, if the case involves a
substantial loss of wages or wage earning capacity,
expert economists and vocational rehabilitation
specialists will need to be retained to analyze
these components of recovery. If the medical malpractice
has rendered the patient paralyzed or with permanent
brain damage, a separate expert in the field of
life care planning will need to conduct an extensive
cost analysis of how much money will be needed
to take care of the patient's medical needs for
the rest of their life.
In brain injury cases, a neuropsychologist
expert may be necessary to evaluate the patient's
loss of cognitive thought processes and memory.
Rehabilitation counselors may also be necessary
to testify about the physical challenges that
a severe brain injury imposes on the patient.
All of these other costs have the
potential to be very substantial. For instance,
a typical life care report costs about $10,000
to put together. Likewise, video animations and
medical illustrations can cost thousands each.
Even the costs of making 6-12 copies of the medical
records for use as exhibits at trial can approach
several thousand dollars if the records are voluminous.
All out of pocket expenses must
be tracked by the attorney for the client to review.
Although most attorneys do not routinely seek
a client's permission before expending the costs
necessary to properly work up a medical malpractice
case, clients should ask at the beginning of the
case for guidance on the expected amount of costs
their case may involve.
Remember, in a contingency agreement,
the client will usually owe the attorney nothing
if a recovery is not obtained on his behalf by
the attorney. This is one reason why the client
must reimburse the out of pocket costs of the
litigation if a recovery is made. A client should
also keep in mind that the attorney not only invests
his own money for the costs of the case over the
life of the case, but he does not usually charge
any interest on the use of this money when a recovery
is made. Since most medical malpractice cases
take many years to conclude (in some cases as
long as 7-10 years), the loss of the use of the
attorney's own money can be substantial.
Therefore, medical malpractice cases
must be carefully screened for both merit and
potential recovery before undertaking the representation
of an injured patient.
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