Who Pays Legal Fees in Civil Cases?

Last Updated on October 13, 2021 by Fair Punishment Team

You often hear a lot about criminal cases, but civil cases actually work a lot differently. This is mainly because civil cases are simply going after financial reparation for those who have been wronged.

In criminal cases, a lot of the fees will be covered by the State, but this is not the case for civil cases. So who pays the legal fees in civil cases?

In civil cases, there is a general rule. This general rule is that the loser of the case pays the legal fees for both themselves and the winner of the case.

In criminal cases, it is always the State vs the defendant. But in civil cases, the State is not involved, and so both parties incur legal fees throughout the process. 

Who pays legal fees in civil cases

Legal fees are not cheap, and a lot of people can put themselves in serious financial burden when pursuing their civil case.

This is why the loser will pay the fees for the winner, as the loser has been determined as ‘guilty’ for whatever the civil case was pursuing. 

So, if you pursue a civil case and do not win the case, you will be responsible for paying the fees for bringing the case for court, and the legal fees of your competitor.

However, if you pursue a civil case and win it, your competitor will be required to pay the legal fees that you incurred for taking the case to court. 

Do judges award attorney fees?

As we have mentioned, when it comes to civil cases, there is a general rule that the loser pays the legal fees of the winner. However, this is a fairly recent development, and a lot of States still dictate who pays the attorney fees by using the ‘American Rule’. 

This rule is completely different from what is now becoming general practice in the USA, as it dictates that each party involved in the case pays their own legal fees.

Regardless of whether they win or lose the case. However, this rule is starting to become less common as judges have the authority to award attorney fees. 

Despite the American Rule, the judge in a case always has the authorization of whether to impose this, or to alter the way in which fees are paid.

In a lot of cases, judges are starting to award attorney fees as part of the win, placing the burden of these fees onto the loser. While this is not common practice across the whole of the USA, a lot of judges are starting to award attorney fees. 

This was once a frowned upon practice, but there are now regulations in place which limit the cost of these fees, ensuring that the loser will not be forced into a bad financial position by paying these costs.

This is also becoming a lot more common as a lot of civil cases are completed by large corporations, or against large corporations, so paying the costs of the legal fees for the winner will not be an issue. 

So, yes, judges can award attorney fees. In fact, this is actually becoming a lot more common due to the reduction in costs for bringing a civil case to court. 

Do lawyers get paid if they lose?

It is a common misconception that lawyers only get paid when they win the case. However, this simply isn’t true. Regardless of whether they win or lose a case, a lawyer will always be paid for the case that they represented.

So, if you pursue a civil case, and you lose, you will still need to pay your lawyer for their service. 

The majority of lawyers are financially secure, and this would not be possible if they were only paid for cases that they won. After all, any court case is a battle, and there is always a good chance that you might lose the case.

Regardless of whether you win or lose a case, your lawyer will have put a lot of work into battling on your behalf, so of course they have to be paid for their services. Regardless of the outcome. 

The majority of lawyers will only take on your case if they are confident that they can win it. But, unfortunately, confidence isn’t enough to ensure that you win your case.

There are lots of different factors that will impact your success, regardless of how good your lawyer is. So you cannot simply refuse to pay your lawyer, simply because they did not win it. 

When it comes to understanding this, it is important that you remember you are simply paying your lawyer to fight your case, you are not paying them to win it. So, yes, lawyers do get paid, regardless of whether they win or they lose. 

What is a reasonable attorney fee?

It is difficult to determine exactly what is a reasonable attorney fee, as it will depend on lots of different factors.

In particular, what you see as reasonable will be influenced by the amount of money that you have to spend, and the amount of time that it will take to fight your case. It will also depend on the area that you are based in. 

Generally, if you live in a smaller area, you will find that attorney fees are often cheaper than in larger cities. In smaller areas, you might expect to pay up to $200 per hour in legal fees, and this will seem like a reasonable amount as this is what you are used to paying.

In smaller areas, lawyers generally don’t try to out price each other in terms of fees, so you will find that no matter what firm you go to, you will be charged a similar amount per hour. 

However, if you were to venture into a city and look at the costs of legal representation, then you might find that some lawyers charge more than $400 an hour. This will not seem a reasonable price when you compare it to the costs that you are used to paying. 

However, when you really think about it, it is understandable that the costs of legal representation would be higher in a city than in the countryside. This is because it is generally more expensive to do or buy anything in the city, than it is to do the same in a less cosmopolitan area. 

So, what dictates a reasonable attorney fee really is relative to you. Generally speaking, when you receive an invoice from a lawyer, they will break down where all the different costs have come from.

When you look at this, you might begin to think that a price that you once thought was unreasonable actually isn’t that bad. So, it really depends on you, how much money you have to spend, and how important the case at hand is. 

Why are legal fees so high?

If you are experiencing a legal battle for the first time, you might be overwhelmed by the cost of legal fees.

There is no denying that lawyers charge a lot of money for their services, and as these charges are usually billed by the hour, the overall cost of fighting your battle can quickly build up. But why are legal fees so high?

There are lots of reasons why legal fees are so high, and there are lots of factors that impact these costs other than the lawyer themselves.

First and foremost, legal fees are high because this is a specialist subject, and so lawyers deserve to be rewarded for the hard work and training that they have put in to become qualified. 

However, this isn’t the only reason why legal fees are high. As we mentioned earlier, if you are seeking legal counsel in a city, you should expect your fees to be even higher.

It is generally more expensive to do anything in a city, so it is understandable that legal fees are also higher.

There are lots of reasons behind this, but one of them is the fact that the cost of living is higher in the city, so lawyers have to charge more in order to survive. 

So, there are lots of reasons why legal fees are high. However, there are some lawyers who do charge very cheap rates to help the disadvantaged.

So, if you want to fight a civil case, but think you can’t afford it, there is probably a lawyer out there who can help.