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What Are Court Costs?

Court costs are those outside of attorney fees that are related to the running of a court system.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 30 October 2014
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Court costs are costs other than attorney fees which are linked with a lawsuit. As a general rule, the court bills attorneys for these costs, and they pass the costs on to their clients. In some nations, the person who prevails in a case may be awarded damages to compensate for court costs. This is often used as a disincentive to file nuisance cases, as people who file suit do so in the awareness that they could end up paying court costs if they lose.

Many courthouses assess fees which are designed to help with the costs of running the court, and also to put funds into the public defender fund which provides lawyers for people who cannot afford their own representation. In addition, courts bill people for things like filing documents in court, serving witnesses, copying documents, compensating jurors and witnesses for mileage costs, and so forth. All of these things are considered court costs.

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The structure of court costs can vary. Courts usually make information about their costs available so that people can get a general idea of how much they can expect to pay in costs, and lawyers who are familiar with a particular court can also provide an estimate, based on their experiences. It is possible for court costs to exceed awarded damages, in which case someone may be victorious in a civil suit, be awarded damages, and still end up owing for court costs. This is an important possibility to consider when considering a civil suit and determining how much to request in damages.

In rare cases, attorney fees may qualify as part of the court costs. Depending on the nation, this may be a stipulation of an individual case, or it may be a broadly accepted practice with certain types of cases. People who are considering suit should familiarize themselves with the standards and practices so that they are aware of what to expect. A competent lawyer can also provide clients with more information, including a reasonable assessment of whether or not a suit is worth it, and how much the client may expect to actually pocket once court costs and attorney fees are paid.

In nations where losers must pay the court costs, it is not uncommon for the loser to fail to pay the costs or to be unable to pay them in full. While there are legal steps which can be taken to attempt to recover the monies from the loser, it is often more cost effective to simply pay them.

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Discuss this Article

Emilski
Post 4

As far as court costs go i have a question as to how far a judge can go with their decision.

Besides court costs can a judge rule that the loser of the case must also pay the attorney fees of the person that won the case?

I know that this may sound a bit excessive, but attorney fees, court costs, and the decision itself, if civil, could wind up being a lot of money and three different things that a person may have to pay for and if they have to pay for all, that seems pretty excessive in a lot of cases.

I really have to wonder though if this is the case as some lawsuits that are really unnecessary could cause a person to spend a lot of money defending themself and may require the other person to cover the costs of their fees.

Although this is a bit unrelated to the court costs it it does connect as it is part of the costs rendered during the trial by both parties and I wonder if this is ever factored in or if there are laws that prevent this from happening?

jmc88
Post 3
@titans62 - You are absolutely correct in your thinking, as I can clearly remember one case where this is a perfect example.

When a Major League Baseball player broke the home run record one person sued claiming ownership of the ball and the two people who claimed to own the ball went through a really long and drawn out legal battle.

In the end the judge ruled that both people had justifiable ownership of the ball so they could split the profits off of auctioning off the ball.

However, by the end of the trial the two parties had incurred so much in legal fees and court costs that it ended up being more than what the ball was worth and because they had to split everything that meant that they had to split the court costs.

This is one instance in which court costs may have been a little unfair in the matter, but in most cases making someone pay court costs is a justifiable reason and definitely something for a judge to consider in their ruling.

titans62
Post 2
@JimmyT - You are absolutely correct, as there are way too many unnecessary lawsuits filed every year. Making someone pay for court costs can definitely make someone think twice about going through a lawsuit.

That being said I really have to wonder though if this is necessarily fair from the legal sense as it can be argued that it is a penalty thrown on top of another penalty.

Say someone gets sued for a certain amount of money and they are also ruled to pay the court costs that means the person is having to pay for two different things.

I really have to wonder if this is fair in all decisions as a lot of cases do not have clear black and white winners and losers and the court costs could wind up being more than what was being argued about in the first place?

JimmyT
Post 1

I really do not understand why that in some places court cost cannot be figured into a civil decision.

Like the article said court costs can be figured in to keep people from making silly lawsuits, realizing that doing so may cost them something.

That being said I am sure that every year there are hundreds if not thousands of lawsuits filed that should not be and figuring court costs into decision should be utilized as a way to keep these instances from occurring as often and tying up the legal system even more than it already is.

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