Breach of contract suits come in all shapes and sizes. Disputes between a landlord and tenant over a deposit are contract disputes, but so are fights over millions of dollars between multinational corporations. Your costs will depend on how litigious the parties are, how much your attorney charges, the cost of filing a lawsuit in your state and the amount of funds or value of property in dispute.
One of the first costs you'll likely have to pay will be the filing costs for your lawsuit. Each state establishes its own filing fees, which vary depending upon the type of suit. For example, in Georgia, civil suits cost $52.50 to file as of the date of publication, while in Oregon the filing cost is $240. In Georgia, as in many states, you'll also have to pay for the sheriff to serve each defendant, and the cost per defendant is $50. Every state establishes its own criteria for fee waivers. You might have to get a specific form from the clerk or file a pauper's affidavit indicating you can't afford to pay the filing costs. If you're the defendant in the lawsuit, you won't have to pay filing fees, but if you lose, you could have to pay the other side's filing fees.
Paying Your Attorney
You'll have to pay your attorney for your lawsuit, unless your lawyer is working on a contingency basis, meaning he doesn't get paid unless the result is favorable. When you agree to pay on a contingency basis, the attorney is compensated with a percentage of your winnings -- usually between 25 percent and 40 percent, a figure that may or may not include expenses. If your attorney is working on a non-contingency basis, you'll pay regardless of whether you win, based either on the number of hours your attorney works, or an upfront flat rate. The more complex and challenging your case is and the longer it goes on, the more you can expect to pay your attorney.
Other Side's Attorney
If you lose your case, you could be stuck paying the other side's attorneys. State laws vary regarding attorney's fees.You'll generally only have to pay the other party's attorney fees if your case is deemed frivolous or you were unnecessarily litigious. The other side will generally have to prove that its attorney's fees were reasonable and similar to other attorneys' costs for breach of contract suits. If the contract in dispute provides for attorney's fees, however, you'll likely have to pay them regardless of your state's laws.
Losing the Suit
If you lose the suit, you'll be stuck paying damages to the other side. The judge will determine the amount of damages, which might be less than the other party originally requested. If you fail to pay, your wages could be garnished and a lien could be placed on your property -- but you can't be put in jail for failure to pay the other party.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.