Court & Hearings
Worried about doing this on your own? You may be able to get free legal help.Apply OnlineNote: Covid-19 is changing many areas of the law. Visit our Covid-19 articlesfor the latest information.If I sue someone and win, do they have to pay my lawyer fees?Displaying information for 71606 [ change ]PRINTSHAREQUICK EXITDONATE
The following question was submitted to John Roska, whose column, "The Law Q&A," ran in theChampaign News Gazette.
In a court case, how does one side end up responsible for the other sides lawyer fees? If I sue and win, does the other side have to pay my lawyerfees?
You cant just make the loser pay. It takes a contract or a law to make the other side liable for your lawyerfees.
This policy on lawyer fees is called the American Rule. In 1975, the U.S. Supreme Court said that in the United States, the winner can't collect lawyer fees from the loser.
Thats the opposite of the English Rule.In England, the loser pays the winners lawyerfees.
The main argument in favor of our American Rule is the same argument against the English Rule. A loser-pays system discourages people from going to court. The American Rule has each side pay their own lawyer fees, win or lose.It is oneway to keep the courthouse door open to all.
As with any good rule, the American Rule has exceptions. Those are when a contract or a law shifts fees to the other side.
Shifting fees by contract is OK because its done by agreement. If a party signs something that says theyll pay the other side's lawyerfees, theyre bound by it.
Leases often say the tenant is liable for the landlords lawyer fees. Its OK for a contract to shift fees only one way.
Laws and ordinances can also shift lawyer fees. This is usually done to encourage the enforcement of laws designed to protect the public.
Some laws make the other side pay your lawyerfees if you win, and prove they violated the law. Awarding fees to the prevailing plaintiff shifts fees one way.
Other laws shift fees either way, by awarding lawyer fees to the prevailing party.That imposes the English Rule, where the loser pays the lawyer fees, even if they filed the suit.
Illinois divorce law can also make the other side pay lawyer fees, but not depending on who wins or loses. The Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Acts lawyer is designed to even the playing field. Here, the Act removes the advantage a rich spouse has over a poor one.
When one spouse asks for the other to pay their lawyer fees, a judge can make the other pay an amount necessary. This way, the petitioning party can participate in the litigation.
Its also possible for one party to be ordered to pay the others lawyer fees as a punishment. But that is rare, and then only applies to the unacceptable part of the case, not the whole thing.
When a contract or law does make the other side pay lawyerfees, they can only go to the lawyers. But lawyers who represent themselves cant get lawyer fees.t Lawyers' fees are only for hired lawyers.Last revisedMay 24, 2020
FormsSmall claims complaint Easy FormA program to help you make the forms to sue someone for $10,000 or less.Federal court complaint - Northern District of Illinois Easy FormA program to help you complete the forms to start a case in the Northern District of Illinois federal court.Pro se complaint and summons - Chicago Blank formUse this form to start a lawsuit for $3,000 or less in pro se court (no lawyers). Only for use in Cook County.
Learn moreWhy do I have to pay court fees when I'm sued?Considerations before deciding if you want to hire a lawyer
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Worried about doing this on your own? You may be able to get free legal help.Apply OnlineNote: Covid-19 is changing many areas of the law. Visit our Covid-19 articlesfor the latest information.