Published in Plaintiff on March 21, 2016
One of the most frequent questions I get from my clients is whether the defendant in their lawsuit (or the insurance company who is paying the claim) can be forced to pay my clients’attorney fees. In almost all cases, the answer to that question is “no.”
Most states follow the “American Rule,” which requires parties to pay their own fees if they choose to bring a lawsuit. The only exception to that rule is (1) where the legislature has passed a law that allows a winning party to recover its attorney fees (like in many employment discrimination cases and consumer protection cases) and (2) where the parties have an agreement that provides that the winning party can recover its attorney fees from the loser.
There have been many attempts to change the general rule to a “loser pays” system, but for now, the American Rule is still the majority rule. Even where the other party has acted particularly bad and is required to pay punitive damages, each party will be required to pay its own fees.