No matter what the maximum contingency fee is in your state, a lawyer should give you a better deal if he is able to settle your medical malpractice case or dental malpractice case quickly, than if he does a lot of work or has to go to trial. You should ask for such an arrangement and have it spelled out in the contract you sign with the lawyer.
If the lawyer wants to refer you to a “legal expert”, find out what percentage of the legal expert’s fee he is getting for the referral. It is accepted legal practice for a lawyer to receive a fee for referring a client to another lawyer, and there is nothing wrong with the referring lawyer trying to increase his fee by doing some of the preliminary work on a case. However, some unscrupulous lawyers may receive as much as 50% of the fee just for referring a good case to a legal expert.
This is bad for you. You end up paying for it by your case being turned over to another lawyer for unnecessary work. If you talk to a lawyer who says he will refer your case to a legal expert, ask him how much work he plans to do on your case and the percentage of his referral fee. It should not be more than 25% of what you are paying the legal expert.
If you think you were overcharged when you signed a contingency contract, you can contact the judge in your case, after the case has been settled but before you sign off with the lawyer, and ask the judge to review it. No matter what you signed, if the judge finds it is not fair, or exceeds the maximum fee for your state, the judge has the power to adjust it. If the case involves a minor, or a person who is mentally disabled, and you win, the judge will automatically review all lawyers’ fees and legal expenses to make sure the injured person’s interests are protected.
Do not sign a contingency contract because a lawyer tells you it is his usual fee arrangement. It is a binding contract for personal services that cannot be spelled out precisely, because no one can tell how much work will be involved or how large your award may be. Take your time. Discuss it point-by-point with the lawyer. Think about it, and talk to your family. Talk to other lawyers. Every percentage point you give up can cost you dearly.
JD.MD, Inc., has served the legal communities in the U.S. and Canada since 1978. Contact us at 800-225-JDMD (5363) to have your malpractice cases reviewed by our medical experts and dental experts.