When discussing various legal options with a client, specifically when there is a possibility of a lawsuit,whether the other side will pay the client’s attorneys’ fees is typically within the top 10 questions clients ask me. The answer to this question is a resounding, “It depends!”
Generally speaking, reasonable attorneys’ fees may be awarded by a judge to the prevailing party in alawsuit in two situations: When the contract, which was the basis of the lawsuit, contained an attorneys’ fees provision; or when allowed by state law for the specific type of lawsuit. Many lawsuits will end without an award of attorneys’ fees to the prevailing party. In the cases where a lawsuit ends with an award of attorneys’ fees, the judge must award reasonable attorneys’ fees, where “reasonable” is at the judge’s discretion and often means an award of attorneys’ fees considerably less than what was charged by the prevailing party’s attorney.
Considering this and the fact that filing a lawsuit is a serious matter, often taking years to resolve, it is important to evaluate your financial ability to proceed with a lawsuit (not relying on an award of attorneys’ fees) and discuss your options with your attorney. You may not only be required to pay your attorneys’ fees, but you may be required to pay the other party’s attorneys’ fees if you lose the lawsuit.
– Gregory J. Chilina, Attorney at Law