Court costs are costs other than attorney fees which are linked with a lawsuit. As a general rule, the court bills attorneys for these costs, and they pass the costs on to their clients. In some nations, the person who prevails in a case may be awarded damages to compensate for court costs. This is often used as a disincentive to file nuisance cases, as people who file suit do so in the awareness that they could end up paying these costs if they lose.
Many courthouses assess fees which are designed to help with the costs of running the court, and also to put funds into the public defender fund which provides lawyers for people who cannot afford their own representation. In addition, courts bill people for things like filing documents in court, serving witnesses, copying documents, compensating jurors and witnesses for mileage costs, and so forth. All of these things are considered court costs.
The structure of court costs can vary. Courts usually make information about their costs available so that people can get a general idea of how much they can expect to pay in costs, and lawyers who are familiar with a particular court can also provide an estimate, based on their experiences. It is possible for costs to exceed awarded damages, in which case someone may be victorious in a civil suit, be awarded damages, and still end up owing these costs. This is an important possibility to consider when considering a civil suit and determining how much to request in damages.
In rare cases, attorney fees may qualify as part of the court costs. Depending on the nation, this may be a stipulation of an individual case, or it may be a broadly accepted practice with certain types of cases. People who are considering suit should familiarize themselves with the standards and practices so that they are aware of what to expect. A competent lawyer can also provide clients with more information, including a reasonable assessment of whether or not a suit is worth it, and how much the client may expect to actually pocket once the costs and attorney fees are paid.
In nations where losers must pay the court costs, it is not uncommon for the loser to fail to pay the costs or to be unable to pay them in full. While there are legal steps which can be taken to attempt to recover the monies from the loser, it is often more cost effective to simply pay them.