If I Lose My Case, Do I Owe Money To My Lawyer For The Case Expenses in Kingston, New York?

Do lawyers get paid if they lose? That depends. You must read the “fine print” on your retainer agreement.

The retainer agreement controls your rights and responsibilities in your relationship with lawyer. Yet, incredibly, few persons read the retainer agreement!

Until several years ago, you (“the client”) were always responsible for the case expenses, known as “disbursements” in New York. If you lose your case, there was no legal fee, but you still had to pay your attorney for the case expenses. This means, win or lose, you were “on the hook” for case expenses, which can range from $15,000 in a small case to as much as $150,000. Not a pretty picture if you’re on the wrong end of a lawsuit. Many of my clients would face personal bankruptcy if they had to reimburse the case expenses.

Now, things have changed (fortunately for you). Your lawyer is ethically permitted to advance the case expenses of your case without any expectation of reimbursement. In other words, if you lose your case, you don’t owe your lawyer a penny.

But there’s a catch and it’s a big one. Attorneys are “permitted” (but not required) to advance case expenses without any expectation of reimbursement from you. Some lawyers still insist that you are ultimately responsible for case expenses whether win or lose.

So, what do you do? Read your retainer agreement carefully! The agreement will have a paragraph stating whether you are responsible for case expenses if you lose your case. You want to make sure that the agreement states clearly and concisely that you are not responsible for case expenses whether you win or lose your case.

Do not accept your lawyer’s word when it comes to your responsibility for case expenses. If your lawyer tells you that you will not have to pay the case expenses whether you win or lose your case, make sure that promise is in writing and preferably on the retainer agreement.

You cannot afford to get stuck with a $50,000 bill at the end of your case. The only way to make sure that doesn’t happen is to insist upon a specific provision in the agreement stating that you will not be responsible to reimburse your lawyer for case expenses, especially if they lose. If your lawyer refuses, it may be time to find a new lawyer.

If you have any questions or want more information, you are always welcome to request my FREE book, The Seven Deadly Mistakes of Malpractice Victims. We can also provide more answers about how lawyers get paid and what you can expect in your malpractice case.