Paying an Attorney
Product liability lawsuits account for 1 in every 6 civil cases filed in U.S. federal courts. A comparable number is likely reflected in state courts as well.
These cases are staunchly defended by manufacturers and distributors. This makes sense when you consider that product liability cases net the highest average and median awards across the personal injury spectrum. According to Thomson Reuters’ Current Award Trends in Personal Injury, 54th Edition, the average 2013 personal injury jury award in product liability cases was $6.4 million. The median was $3.1 million. Compare that to medical malpractice cases in which the average was $3.5 million and median was $745,000.
At Jeffrey Glassman Injury Lawyers, we know those kinds of damage awards are well-deserved – but they don’t come without considerable upfront investment. This can include:
- Evaluation of thousands – sometimes hundreds of thousands – of documents;
- Retaining and deposing numerous qualified expert witnesses;
- Extensive interviews with plaintiff, loved ones and other witnesses;
- Depositions of defendant witnesses;
- In-depth investigation of the complete history of the product;
- Identifying the dealer, distributor, purchasers, lessees and users;
- Gathering all manufacturer and distributor written material and warranties on the product.
It is not unheard of for the cost of investigation and litigation in this type of case to exceed $100,000 – easily.
But most people can’t afford that – or even a quarter of it – upfront.
That’s why our law firm offers to handle these cases on a Contingency Fee Basis. Contingency fee arrangements allow a lawyer to receive a portion of client’s recovery. If plaintiff loses, he or she is not responsible for paying those legal fees.
This means experienced injury lawyers may be choosy about the cases they accept. But it offers a low-risk option that allows plaintiffs to successfully face multi-billion dollar corporations in court. It’s a way of leveling the playing field by removing the cost-prohibitive bar that would otherwise keep legitimate plaintiffs out of the courtroom.Types of Attorney Fee Arrangements
The vast majority of medical device lawsuits are going to be handled on a contingency fee basis. The exact terms are agreed upon before legal action is initiated.
Here are some of the other types of fee structures:
- Fixed Fee. This is sometimes called a “standard fee.” It’s often used in routine legal matters, such as drafting a simple will, and it’s usually paid upfront or in installments.
- Hourly Fee. Many lawyers charge by the hour for a wide range of legal services. The bill can be estimated at the outset by projecting the amount of time a case is going to take.
- Retainer Fee. This is something of a “down payment” made to ensure the attorney will be available to provide legal services, should they become necessary. It’s most often used by businesses, government agencies or certain service providers.
- Statutory Fees. This is when the cost of legal work is set by law. In some cases, courts have to approve the fee ahead of time.
With a contingency fee agreement, clients will pay their lawyer if and only if the case is handled successfully.
In a contingent fee arrangement, the attorney will agree to accept a fixed percentage – usually about one-third – of the total recovery that is eventually paid to the client, either by way of a pre-trial settlement or a jury award.
If plaintiff loses, neither the client nor the attorney will get any money. Plaintiffs in contingent arrangements won’t be required to pay attorneys for the work done on the case. In some cases, plaintiffs may be responsible for nominal costs associated with depositions or court filing fees, but that should be clearly explained before the agreement is signed.
There are some situations in which the method of resolving a case can impact the overall fee. For example, a case that goes to trial is going to take more time and work investment than one that is settled prior to trial. Thus, the former may be less costly. However, any fee percentage variations have to be made clear at the outset.
Other factors that may impact the contingency fee amount, per Rule 1.5 of the American Bar Association’s Model Rules for Professional Conduct:
- Time and labor involved
- Novelty and difficulty of the case
- Likelihood that acceptance of this case will preclude other employment for attorney
- The customary fee for that service in that region
- Time limitations imposed by client or based on circumstances
- Experience and skill of lawyer involved
- Amount involved and anticipated results obtained
While the exact amount owed is based on a percentage and that figure can vary, as explained above, most cases will have a set contingency fee of 33 percent.
In Massachusetts, the law is clear that attorney fees must be both “fair and reasonable.” That terminology may be subject to some interpretation, and unfortunately, there have been unscrupulous attorneys who have taken advantage of clients. That’s why the state legislature stepped in to establish contingency fee limits.
Per Mass. Gen. Law ch. 231 § 60I, attorneys offering contingency fee agreements may not charge more than:
- 40 percent of the first $150,000 recovered
- 33 and 1/3 percent of the next $150,000 recovered
- 25 percent of the next $200,000 recovered
- 25 percent of any amount by which recovery exceeds $500,000
Your lawyer may not be able to give you an exact amount during the initial consultation, but it’s fair to expect an estimate based on past experience.