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How Much Does a California Medical Malpractice Lawyer Cost

If a doctor's mistake has left you with even more medical bills to treat the new injury, you may be thinking about hiring a lawyer. But what will that cost? This article will explain the financial aspects of hiring a California medical malpractice lawyer.

Many factors will affect your legal bill. Among them are:

  • The billing method your attorney prefers
  • How much your attorney charges
  • Whether your case settles or goes to trial
  • How much you incur in legal expenses (the ancillary costs of litigating your case, such as court filing fees and expert witness fees)
  • Whether you are able to collect any money from your healthcare providers and how much

Even more than how much your attorney charges, his or her preferred billing method is the biggest determiner of how much you will pay. Most California medical malpractice lawyers charge a contingency fee or an hourly rate.

When a lawyer charges a contingency fee, he or she takes a cut of any money received in a settlement or court award, plus expenses. If you do not collect anything, you typically do not owe any money, as most California medical malpractice attorneys will waive your legal expenses in this situation.

When a lawyer charges an hourly rate, also called an hourly fee, he or she simply bills by the hour for the time spent litigating your medical malpractice case. You would be responsible for any legal expenses on top of the hourly rates, regardless of whether your case is successful.

Hiring a California Medical Malpractice Lawyer on Contingency

Most California medical malpractice lawyers prefer to bill their clients a contingency fee. This is because such a set-up offers many benefits to the clients, including:

  • You don't have to pay any money up front
  • You owe nothing if your case is not successful
  • Your lawyer's paycheck is tied to the success of your case, so you can be sure he or she will work hard to get you the best result possible

One major disadvantage to hiring a lawyer on contingency is that you may feel-should the case settle quickly or for a large amount-the attorney did not work hard or long enough for such a large payday.

With some lawyers who charge a contingency fee, there may be room for negotiation. Just make sure that all negotiations are done before you hire an attorney, not after. Some areas for wiggle room may include:

  • The percentage the lawyer wants from your final settlement or award
  • A graduated percentage, paying one percentage rate if the case settles and another (usually larger) share if it goes to trial
  • Calculating the contingency fee based on your net award, or how much you receive after paying legal expenses, not the gross fee

Hiring a California Medical Malpractice Attorney for an Hourly Rate

Many lawyers who practice in other areas of the law, such as family or corporate law, charge for their services by the hour. Most California medical malpractice lawyers do not because they know that their clients need to use their available funds to pay for the medical expenses associated with their injury.

Whether you are from San Diego, Eureka, or any point in between, if you do decide to hire an attorney by the hour, you will most likely be asked to pay a retainer, or an up-front fee not unlike a down payment. You would then receive monthly billing statements for the duration of your case.

If you have been having trouble finding a California medical malpractice lawyer to take your case on contingency, it may be an indication that your case is not very strong or worth much money. Before you hire a lawyer by the hour, make sure you get an honest assessment of your case's strengths and weaknesses.

Also, make sure you understand how much your case could cost should it go to trial and rack up a lot of hours of the attorney's time. In addition, you'll want to know what your bill will be like if the attorney is unable to negotiate a settlement or prevail in court.

The Cost of Hiring a California Medical Malpractice Lawyer

As you interview several perspective California medical malpractice attorneys about representing you, find out what billing method each uses and either how much the contingency fee is or how much the hourly fee is. Make sure you understand the financial impact of going to trial versus settling your case. Specifically, ask:

  • How much do you believe my case is worth if it settles or if it goes to trial?
  • About how much would my legal fees be if I settle or go to trial?
  • About how much would my legal expenses be if I settle or go to trial?
  • Could you show me how much I would net after paying legal fees and expenses if I settle or go to court?

Once you have the answers to these questions, you will have a much better grip on how much a California medical malpractice attorney costs.