Houston Personal Injury Attorney: Why the “American Rule” Is Important

March 26, 2015 by

As a Houston personal injury attorney, one of my main issues of concern is threats to the “American Rule,” which has been a part of our laws since our country’s birth. This is the principle that each litigant will pay his or her own attorney’s fees, whether the case is won or lost, unless a contract or statute is in place that states otherwise.

In Britain, things were done differently — the loser paid the legal costs of the opposing party. But our forefathers chose a different route. Why? Because lawyers and their clients are free to enter into a contract for a rate they both agree on, so how is it fair for a losing party to have to pay them when he had no say in that original deal? The American Rule prevents the losing party from being stuck with over-the-top legal expenses that he or she had no control over.

Houston Personal Injury Attorney: What Happens Without the “American Rule”

Consider this: if you are being sued for a minor Houston traffic accident involving an injury by someone of vast financial means, they have little at risk if they hire a lawyer who charges $5,000 per hour since they can afford the costs. But imagine if you lose the suit. Even if it’s a small settlement of just a few thousand dollars, you’ll now have excessive legal fees to pay for a minor Houston traffic accident just because your opponent chose such a pricy Houston personal injury attorney.

Of course, that’s not the only scenario where getting rid of the American Rule can lead to problems. What if you hire a Houston personal injury attorney right out of college for a small suit involving a $1000 award that you seem sure to win? Instead of allowing it to be settled out of court, he clocks hundreds of hours at $500 each and then sets the case for trial for that $1000 award plus thousands in legal fees.

The American Rule provides incentive for all parties to avoid litigation since both sides have to consider the cost of pursuing or defending the case. It encourages people to take a reasonable settlement when it is available to them, lessening the burden on our judicial system and speeding up the dispute resolution process, but also allowing for a fair outcome for both parties. And most importantly, it protects the rights of people who want to fight for their rights in court against very wealthy individuals or large corporations. They can do so without the fear of being stuck with exorbitant fees in the end, and they are able to find a Houston personal injury attorney at a reasonable rate with the current system.

If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident, contact Marc Whitehead and Associates,LLP or download our free ebook.