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.