Growing up, we all heard the phrase, "Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers." At our Herndon Virginia law office, we are often asked if American courts make the loser pay. Because our injured and disabled clients cannot afford to pay us (since they are out of work and confronted by large medical bills), they are understandably worried that they might have to pay for the Defendant's insurance company's lawyers, litigation expenses, filing fees, subpoenas and other costs. So the question in many Loudoun, Fairfax and Prince William County car crash cases is, "What costs would a Virginia Circuit Court allow a winning party other than what they are actually suing for in their lawsuit ?"
Under the American justice system, the losing side generally does not pay the attorney fees of the winner. In other posts, Herndon Virginia injury lawyer Doug Landau has discussed the payment of per-judgment and post-judgment interest. Other costs and fees a losing Defendant may have to pay are very limited. They are generally limited to just filing fees (required to start a lawsuit in the County or City Circuit Court), writ tax, and service of process (the cost to have a Sheriff "serve" or give the papers to the Defendants). Jury costs are generally taxed against the losing party, but that is paid to the court, not the winner. A winning Plaintiff may be able to get an award of costs for a transcript of a deposition used in lieu of live testimony.
Generally, unless otherwise specified by statute, a trial court's discretion to award costs under the Virginia Code is limited. The Virginia Supreme Court stated in the case of Advance Marine v. PRC, Inc. (1998), the Circuit Court's "discretion to award costs…is limited only to those costs essential for prosecution of the suit, such as filing fees or charges for service of process." If you or someone you know or care for has been injured as the result of a car, truck, bicycle or motorcycle crash and there are questions about what laws apply, what the costs of a lawsuit may be or how long cases take in the Circuit Courts of Virginia, please e-mail or call us at ABRAMS LANDAU, Ltd. (703-796-9555).