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If you received substandard medical care resulting in harm, you may consider hiring a medical malpractice attorney. Of course, the cost of hiring an attorney weighs heavily in your decision. Luckily, many medical malpractice attorneys offer free initial consultation services during which they explain the process involved in a lawsuit and the viability of your case. If the attorney agrees to represent you, and you wish to hire him or her, most medical malpractice lawyers do not require payment until the successful resolution of your suit. This may take the form of either a settlement or a jury award.
What to Consider
The cost of hiring a medical malpractice attorney depends on a number of factors. These include what method the lawyer employs to bill for his or her time, the lawyer's actual rates, whether the case goes to trial or settles, and the success of your lawsuit and the amount of the settlement or award. Typically, medical malpractice lawyers charge either a contingency fee or an hourly rate.
Contingency Fee Attorneys
Most medical malpractice lawyers work on contingency, meaning he or she takes a percentage of the award or settlement amount. This is due to the intense hours these cases involve. Lawyers and their team devote hundreds of hours to research, discovery requests and motions drafts and responses, and working with witnesses. The contingency percentage varies by state law, but one-third is the most common amount. This means that, whatever amount your case settles for, the attorney receives one-third of the total award. Since they don't get paid unless you win your case, lawyers who work on contingency are highly selective when choosing clients to represent.
Hourly Rate Attorneys
Lawyers who charge hourly rates typically request a retainer, an up-front amount you pay in the beginning. From there, you make monthly payments as the case proceeds. Hourly rates typically range from $100 to $300 per hour, with larger firms usually charging higher rates. In addition to paying for each hour of your attorney's time, you'll pay additional costs if the case goes to trial.
Think carefully before hiring an attorney who charges hourly, as contingency lawyers typically refuse a case they believe isn't a strong one. That doesn't mean you should never hire an hourly lawyer, only that you should consider the merits of your suit and likelihood of winning. Before paying a retainer, request an honest assessment of your case as well as the full amount you can expect to pay.
The cost of a lawsuit goes beyond paying attorney fees. Expect to pay court fees as well as expenses such as copying document, postage, and mileage. Additionally, you pay for expert testimony, nearly always required in a medical malpractice suit. These fees are above and beyond the price of the lawyer, even in a contingency case. If you lose your case and you hired a contingency lawyer, he or she may waive these fees, but not always.
In some jurisdictions, these fees are the responsibility of the losing party. Discuss these with your attorney to find out who pays these fees if you win and if you lose.
Schedule a Free Consultation
If you believe you have a valid medical malpractice suit, schedule a free consultation with an attorney (or attorneys, if you'd like to compare services and costs). Prepare for your consultation with a list of questions, as well as the facts of your case. Bring a pad of paper and something to write with, to make sure youdon't forget anything.
Keep a journal of costs you've incurred, time missed from work, each and every way your life has been impacted by your medical situation. This includes future issues, such as reduced earning potential and medical care.
Questions to ask the attorney include:
- What is your billing method, hourly or contingency?
- If contingency, what is your percentage of the settlement or award?
- If hourly, what is the rate?
- What additional fees would I owe if I lose my case?
- What additional fees would I owe if I win my case?
- What do you think my case is worth if it settles?
- What do you think my case is worth if it goes to trial?
- What are the fees if I settle versus if I go to trial?
Take this list of questions, as well as any others you want to ask, to any lawyer you consult about your case.