If you have suffered an injury due to negligence by a hospital nurse, doctor or another health care provider, you might be contemplating filing a medical malpractice claim. If so, you will want to hire a lawyer. But what do they charge? Well, here is a comprehensive look at how medical malpractice attorneys charge fees for their services.
Typical Medical Malpractice Fee Arrangements
The vast majority of medical malpractice attorneys represent their clients under the arrangement of the contingency fees. This means that a medical malpractice attorney will get paid from a percentage of a settlement or court award in the case. Therefore, if the case proceeds to trial where the client loses, or if there is nothing paid to the client in terms of the settlement, the lawyer walks away empty-handed.
The percentage of the settlement or award that the lawyer receives tends to vary. However, 33 percent of the settlement or award is pretty standard. Some arrangements may use different numbers for various circumstances. For instance, there can be an arrangement which states that the lawyer gets 33% of the settlement in case the case settles before trial, and then 40% in case it goes to a full-blown trial.
There is also the cost of litigation as another issue, and it can be significant. These fees do include court filing fees, expert medical witness fees, and the cost involved in obtaining hospital medical records. The vast majority of lawyers use agreements that state the lawyer will meet these costs, at least at the start.
For example, a lawyer and the patient might agree on a contingency fee of 33%, with the lawyer being responsible for litigation costs. However, if the case is successful, the cost will be deducted from the award first, and the remaining shared according to the agreement. To illustrate this, assume that a case settles for $100,000. If the costs of litigation amounted to $10,000, the lawyer will first be reimbursed for their expenses, leaving $90,000. If the agreement was a 33% contingency fee, the lawyer takes $30,000 and the patient goes home with $60,000.
Laws Governing Medical Malpractice Fee Arrangements
There have been arguments by some medical malpractice experts that large contingency fees are driving up the healthcare medical costs. This has resulted in some states passing laws curbing contingency fees in these cases. States that have passed these laws include Florida, California, Connecticut, Wisconsin, and Tennessee. The laws also vary. For instance, California law puts the attorney’s fees to 40% of the first $50,000 they recover, 33% on the next $50,000, 25% on the next $500,000 and 15% of any amount above $600,000.
Other Important Considerations
It is important to know that the fees paid to medical malpractice attorneys may be negotiable. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should talk to 5 different attorneys and compare qualifications and prices. However, you have every right to look around for the best medical malpractice lawyer. Generally, initial consultations are free.
Apart from the fee percentage being negotiable, other terms might also be open to discussion. A lawyer, for instance, might suggest an agreement requiring that a client pays for arising litigation costs. If that is the case, the client might request that the lawyer covers these costs “upfront”, and then the lawyer/firm will be reimbursed if the client gets an award or settlement.
Most medical malpractice lawyers use a contingency fee arrangement when charging their clients. This means the client doesn’t pay anything upfront, which makes it easy for them to hire lawyers. The arrangement means the lawyer will be paid a certain percentage of the award or settlement that the plaintiff gets. As with most things, you can negotiate for a lower contingency fee percentage with your lawyer.