Attorney's Contingency Fee
Most medical malpractice attorneys
charge at least a 40% contingency fee to handle
medical malpractice cases. A contingency fee means
that the lawyer does not get paid unless a recovery
is made. In other words, the lawyer's fee is contingent
upon getting a recovery.
In routine personal injury cases,
a typical contingency fee is 33 1/3 % of the recovery.
Medical malpractice contingency fees are higher
because they are much riskier and require the investment
of substantial more money and time than the average
personal injury case.
The lawyer charges his fee on the
total amount recovered. Thus, in a case where the
lawyer recovers $100,000 for his client, the lawyer's
fee would be $40,000 or 40% of $100,000. This is
the lawyer's fee for his time and effort. In addition
to the lawyer's fee, the client is also obligated
to reimburse the lawyer for any out of pocket expenses
incurred in prosecuting the successful case.
In the above example, a client would
pay the lawyer a $40,000 fee plus his out of pocket
expenses. The expenses are paid out of the remaining
$60,000 the client recovers.
Many people ask the question why do
the expenses come out of the client's portion of
recovery instead of the lawyer's portion of the
recovery? The answer is simple. If the lawyer was
reimbursed his expenses out of his portion of the
recovery, and the case expenses were high, he would
have taken all of the risk, performed all of the
work and received little or nothing in return. He
would have effectively acted as a bank to finance
the case without compensation for his time. The
only service a lawyer offers is his time and he
must be compensated fairly for it.
This explanation raises the question
that if the lawyer takes 40% of the recovery and
the experts must be paid large sums from the patient's
recovery, the patient will then recover almost nothing.
This is true in cases where the damages do not exceed
$150,000. Thus, unlike most personal injury cases,
medical malpractice cases should not be undertaken
if the damages are not at least $150,000 and significant
time and expense is required.
In short, contingency fees must reflect
the degree of risk and the time and expense involved
in handling medical malpractice cases. Remember,
even if the lawyer spends $50,000 of his own money
on the case and you lose, you owe the lawyer nothing.
On the other hand, lawyers who defend cases get
paid whether you win or lose.
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