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Attorney Fees in Injury or Property Damage Cases

It is always frustrating for clients – and frustrating for me as their civil lawyer – when they are informed that in the U.S., parties generally bear the costs of their own attorney fees. Individual small businesses are faced with a tough decision regarding whether or not to proceed with civil litigation when faced with the prospect of paying their civil attorney fees.

Owners feel like the company owes nothing to the plaintiff, but are forced to make the decision between settling and paying business attorney fees to their lawyer. Alternatively, the small business may feel like they have been wronged or that their insurer is not giving them full value for their damaged property, but don’t want to pay the legal fees to file a civil lawsuit. I always remind clients in these situations that it’s important to act as a rational decision maker when acting in business litigation; make the best financial decision for the business when faced with this dilemma.

There are, however, some statutory rights where North Carolina has determined that parties can be compensated for their attorney fees. Many involve acts of deception or fraud but North Carolina has an interesting statute involving personal injury and insurance. In any lawsuit involving personal injury, property damage, or a suit involving an insurance policy, upon a finding by the Court that there was an unwarranted refusal to pay the claim which constitutes the basis of such suit, where the judgment for recovery is $10,000.00 or less, the Court may allow a reasonable attorneys fees to be taxed to the defendant as part of the court costs.

Ostensibly, the purpose of this statute is to keep defendants from forcing plaintiffs into that tough rational decision that was discussed above. When the recovery is going to be less than $10,000.00, it might not make rational sense to pursue a civil judgment given the expense of attorney fees. Fortunately, North Carolina allows plaintiffs to pursue that remedy and doesn’t let defendants or their insurers strong-arm you into minimal settlements.

If you are facing damage to yourself or your property and want to pursue civil litigation, contact a civil lawyer at Maginnis Law, PLLC. Maginnis Law, PLLC is a Raleigh law firm with a civil attorney taking on business law matters in Cary, Apex, Wake Forest, Clayton, and the rest of Wake and Johnston Counties. Contact the firm at 919.526.0450 or visit our website at for more information.