Medical malpractice in the U.S. affects millions of patients every year. While this is unfortunate, it’s true. The negligent acts of doctors and nurses can mean injury and even death for countless innocent patients every year. Many injured parties want to pursue legal recourse for their damages. However, they often feel hindered on account of what could become exorbitant legal fees.
Believe it or not, a patient is typically not charged a dime for bringing a medical malpractice suit, unless their suit proves successful. Further, if successful, there are limits in place as to how much an attorney can recover in a given case. Let’s take a further look at both of these concepts.
Attorneys take medical malpractice cases on what is known as a contingency basis. This means an attorney will not charge his client a professional legal fee unless the attorney handles the case successfully. No, there’s no catch.
In a contingent fee arrangement, an attorney agrees to accept, as compensation for his services, a fixed percentage of any damages ultimately recovered in a case. The fixed percentage is often one third. If a case proves successful, an attorney receives his fixed percentage from the money awarded to his client. If the case is unsuccessful, both the attorney and his client receive zero dollars; and, the client does not have to pay the attorney for work done on the case.
Since we all like success, let’s consider a quick example where John, an injured patient, is successful in a medical malpractice case against his doctor. John hired attorney Sarah to represent him in the matter. The two agreed on a contingent fee arrangement whereby Sarah would receive one third of any monies recovered in the lawsuit. At trial, a jury awards John $900,000 in damages. According to the fee arrangement, this means Sarah would receive one third of the award (or, $300,000). John would receive the remaining $600,000.
Despite this success, many may still question the total amount paid to Sarah for her legal services. Some might find this amount unfair or excessively high. Individual states within the U.S. have shared in these questions and concerns. As a result, most states have enacted statutes that pertain to limiting attorney’s fees in medical malpractice cases. These limits serve to protect an attorney’s client. These limits, further, usually come in two forms…percentage limits and court review.
Percentage Limitations on Attorney’s Fees
Over a dozen states have statutes that limit an attorney’s contingent fee arrangement, for medical malpractice cases, on the basis of percentages. Recall that in contingent fee arrangements, an attorney agrees to a fixed percentage of ultimate recoveries as compensation for the attorney’s services. Percentage limitations essentially limit the fixed percentage an attorney may use in his contingent fee arrangement. For example, the State of Tennessee imposes a strict limit that an attorney’s fees may not exceed a percentage of one-third of any overall recovery.
Court Review and Approval
In some states, including Washington, limits on contingent fees come in the form of court review and approval. Let’s consider Washington law as an example. Here, our laws state that if a client is unsatisfied with his attorney’s fees arrangement, he may petition the court for a determination as to whether any fees charged were reasonable.
Whether or not a fee arrangement is “reasonable” depends on several factors. Some of these include:
- The time involved and the requisite level of skill required by the attorney
- The amount of damages involved and the damage award actually obtained
- The length of the attorney’s involvement in the given case
- The experience, reputation, and ability of the attorney involved in the matter
The Phillips Promise
The Phillips Law Firm has a no fee promise when it comes to medical malpractice cases. This promise is simple: If we do not recover anything for you, you do not owe us an attorney fee. Yes, we operate on a simple contingent fee arrangement when in comes to medical malpractice cases.
We also offer a free evaluation of your case. We do this all to ensure that you don’t waste your money or time just so that you can gain the justice you deserve. If you’ve been a patient recently injured in a medical context, please contact our firm today. Our talented team of attorneys is ready to answer your questions and assist in building your case.