A patient injured by a negligent doctor or another healthcare professional considering filing a claim might wonder, “how much does a medical malpractice lawyer cost?” Most medical malpractice lawyers have contingency fee structures. Simply put, you pay only if you receive a payout through an insurance settlement process or court award.
State laws determine the percentage and structure of the contingency fees. So, the cost of a medical malpractice lawyer varies from state to state. Besides the lawyer’s fees, there are other necessary expenses involved in prosecuting your case. These expenses usually affect the cost to hire a medical malpractice lawyer. Fortunately, however, most medical malpractice lawyers pay for these expenses upfront and deduct them from any compensation received.
Common Payment Arrangements for Medical Malpractice Lawyers
Contingency Fee Arrangement
A contingency fee arrangement is the most common payment arrangement for medical malpractice lawyers. In this arrangement, you will only pay your lawyer if settlement negotiations are successful or the court rules in your favor.
Contingency fees are typically a percentage of the compensation amount recovered. Most medical malpractice lawyers set their fees at 33%. So, if you recover $200,000 to cover your medical malpractice injuries and other losses, your lawyer would deduct $66,000 from that amount.
Other lawyers use a variation of the typical contingency fee arrangement called the sliding scale. In this arrangement, a lawyer takes a smaller percentage as the compensation amount recovered increases. The sliding scale structure can be an excellent choice if you expect a high compensation award.
Contingency fee agreements also specify how and when other expenses related to your case will get paid. Some lawyers may cover these expenses and deduct the money from your share of the settlement or award. Others may require you to pay for these costs upfront.
Some lawyers or law firms may require you to repay these costs regardless of your case outcome. Others may not require you to repay these costs if you lose. So, it is wise to carefully review and understand the terms of the fee agreement with your would-be medical malpractice lawyer before signing it.
Some lawyers use hourly fee structures. The amount charged per hour varies from one lawyer to another. A lawyer with a proven track record of resolving cases like yours might charge a higher hourly rate than a lawyer with a beginner- or intermediate-level experience.
Hourly fees are not a common payment arrangement in medical malpractice cases. A lawyer may, however, agree to take up your case on this payment plan if the lawyer feels that the available evidence is not compelling enough to secure a favorable outcome.
A retainer is a down payment you make when you enter into an hourly-fee agreement with your lawyer. The lawyer keeps the retainer in a separate account and gets the money to cover the cost of legal services rendered from this account as it accumulates.
Flat or Fixed Fees
Flat or fixed fees are charges covering the overall cost of a legal service. Flat or fixed fee payment agreements often apply when lawyers handle simple tasks with a defined scope.
Flat or fixed fee agreements are rare in medical malpractice cases. Your lawyer may, however, recommend this payment arrangement if you want the lawyer to perform a one-time task, such as reviewing a settlement offer from an insurance company.
Mixed Hourly-Contingent Arrangement
This payment arrangement requires you to cover a specific portion of your lawyer’s hourly rate upfront. The remaining amount gets paid if you win your case and receive compensation. If your lawyer charges you $300 per hour, for instance, you may only have to pay your lawyer $50 per hour until you receive compensation. You will pay your lawyer the remaining $250 per hour from the payout received through settlement or court verdict.
Laws that Affect Payment Arrangements for Medical Malpractice Cases
Several states have laws limiting the amount of attorney’s fees in medical malpractice cases. Illinois, for instance, puts a limit on contingency fees a medical malpractice lawyer can receive at:
- 33% of the first $150,000 received;
- 25% of the next $850,000 received; and
- 20% of any amount exceeding $1 million of the total compensation received.
This sliding scale arrangement creates a win-win situation for you and your lawyer. It ensures you receive a reasonable financial recovery as the recovery size increases, while repaying your lawyer for agreeing to work on your case on a contingent fee basis.
Is It Worth Hiring a Medical Malpractice Lawyer?
The odds of winning a medical malpractice case are much lower than other injury-related cases, such as those arising from car accidents. In fact, a National Institute of Health study found that medical providers win 70% of cases whereby harmed patients present disputable evidence. They also win 50% of cases with compelling proof of medical negligence. Hiring a seasoned medical malpractice lawyer can help maximize your odds of winning a case.
A lawyer who has worked on hundreds or even thousands of cases identical to yours knows what qualifies as malpractice and can guide you on how to prove medical malpractice. The lawyer can present strong evidence and arguments to prove all the elements in your medical malpractice case.
Injury cases involving negligent medical providers are often costly to pursue. They may involve a huge volume of paperwork, a lengthy discovery process, multiple expert witnesses, and spending several hours working on the case. Most medical malpractice victims cannot meet the cost of pursuing the claim while still covering the medical bills and other expenses associated with their injuries.
If you hire a lawyer with adequate resources to work on your case on a contingency basis, however, you can still pursue the claim without incurring out-of-pocket expenses. You will pay the attorney’s fees and other costs related to your case from the financial recovery you obtain.
A lawyer can also determine a settlement amount that covers the full scope of your losses and increases the chances of securing a favorable result. Besides that, the lawyer will negotiate effectively with the negligent medical provider’s legal team and insurance company.
The cost to hire a medical malpractice lawyer depends on the attorney you retain and the value of your claim. Most medical malpractice lawyers operate on a contingency basis, whereby they collect a fraction of the money you receive in a settlement or court award. They do not collect any legal fees if your case is unsuccessful.
Medical malpractice lawyers generally do not charge for initial consultations. You can use a free consultation to learn whether you have a strong medical malpractice claim. You can also learn the process your prospective medical malpractice lawyer would use to maximize your chances of receiving compensation. Then, you can assess your interaction with at least three lawyers to determine who is a perfect fit for you.
Upfront Cost to Hire a Medical Malpractice Lawyer
If no lawyer is willing to enter a contingency-fee agreement for your medical malpractice case, then you might have a weak case. Medical malpractice lawyers often take cases they are highly likely to win.
If you work with a lawyer who charges upfront, you will be required to pay a retainer. The lawyer will start working on your case soon after you pay a retainer. You might also be required to make payments every month until the case is resolved.
Ensure you get an impartial review of the strengths and weaknesses of your case before paying an upfront fee. Ask the lawyer to discuss the potential fees and costs of litigating the case in court versus settling it out of court. The objective is to choose an option that will give you a maximum return on your investment (upfront fees).
Common Medical Malpractice Fee Arrangements
Most lawyers handle medical malpractice cases on a contingency fee arrangement. In this arrangement, your medical malpractice lawyer will get a percentage of the compensation recovered as attorney fees. Your lawyer does not get any fees if settlement talks fail and you lose at trial.
Different lawyers have different medical malpractice fee arrangements. The most common fee arrangement is 33% of the money recovered in a case. Some arrangements adjust the percentages depending on the stage at which compensation is obtained. An arrangement might specify a 33% contingency fee for a case that settles out-of-court and 40% for one that resolves at trial.
Contingency fee arrangements also specify who pays other expenses associated with a medical malpractice case. These expenses include court-imposed filing fees, costs of obtaining certified medical records, and costs of hiring expert medical witnesses. Most arrangements specify that the lawyer will cover other case expenses out-of-pocket and recover them from any compensation obtained.
Example of a Contingency Fee Arrangement
Let’s assume your fee arrangement provides that your lawyer’s legal fee is 33% after recovering other case expenses.
- You win the case and receive an award of $120,000.
- Expenses associated with your case amount to $20,000.
- The lawyer deducts the case expenses from the award and leaves $100,000.
- You will receive $67,000 after subtracting the attorney fees of $33,000, which represents 33% of $100,000.
What Is a Contingency Fee Structure?
A contingency fee structure is a payment arrangement whereby a lawyer only gets paid after successfully representing a client. In other words, payment of attorney fees is contingent on the case outcome. The lawyer usually receives a fixed percentage of the money received by the client after winning or settling a case. Contingency fee structures are frequently used in personal injury cases like medical malpractice.
A contingency fee structure should be a written document signed and dated by a client. It must provide a method for determining the fee. It must also outline all the client’s duties, including the expenses the client is responsible for paying.
Do You Need to Hire a Medical Malpractice Lawyer?
You still need legal support even if you think you can handle your claim yourself. Satisfying the legal requirements of your claim while recuperating from your injury can be hard. You might also make errors at the initial stage of the process that compromises your ability to recover compensation for your losses. The court, for instance, might dismiss your case if you miss your state-specific statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims.
Working with a knowledgeable lawyer allows you to navigate the case effortlessly and stand a better chance of securing maximum compensation. A medical malpractice lawyer can help you do the following:
Understand Your Rights and the Best Legal Option
A lawyer who knows how to differentiate medical malpractice facts from myths can review the specifics of your medical malpractice case. The lawyer can then discuss your rights and available legal options. The lawyer can also help you choose the best legal option for your situation.
File all the Required Paperwork
A lawyer can help you navigate the confusing legal terms and the mountain of paperwork associated with medical malpractice cases. Your lawyer will be familiar with all the required documents in your case, how to obtain and organize them, and how to file them properly and timely.
Determine the Accurate Value of Your Claim
A lawyer who has dedicated his or her legal career to medical malpractice cases can calculate the value of your claim accurately. The lawyer can work closely with several professionals to determine a compensation amount that will cover the full extent of your losses. These professionals include expert medical witnesses, economists, and investigators.
Handle Insurance Companies
A lawyer can handle all communications with the liable medical provider’s insurer on your behalf. The lawyer can also initiate settlement talks by sending a well-written demand letter to the insurer. That way, you can focus on getting the appropriate treatment and recovering from your injuries without worrying about the claims process.
Get the Highest Compensation Possible
Your lawyer will assemble the evidence for your case. The lawyer will then present your case during negotiations with the insurer to help you secure the highest settlement possible. If necessary, your lawyer will move to court and fight to maximize your chances of a successful court award. Once the settlement is awarded, you can calculate the cost of hiring a medical malpractice lawyer.