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How Much Does a Medical Malpractice Lawyer Cost

If you're considering hiring a medical malpractice attorney to file a lawsuit against a medical professional who injured you, you're probably concerned with the costs of hiring an attorney.

The cost of hiring a medical malpractice lawyer depends on many factors, including:

  • The method the lawyer uses to bill for his or her time
  • How much the lawyer charges
  • Whether the case settles or goes all the way to trial, and the various expenses associated with each
  • Whether you are successful in receiving a financial award and the amount of such an award

The method a medical malpractice lawyer uses to bill his or her clients will impact how much-and when-you will pay. Many lawyers who practice medical malpractice law will charge either a contingency fee or an hourly rate

A contingency fee allows you to skip paying anything up front. Instead, you will give your lawyer a portion of whatever financial settlement or award you receive from the medical professionals who caused your injury, plus expenses. If you recover no money, you owe the attorney nothing. (Most lawyers will waive the expenses if you do not receive a financial award.)

With an hourly rate, also known as an hourly fee, you pay the lawyer for his or her time spent working on the case, regardless of whether you are successful with your lawsuit. You are also responsible for paying the lawyer's expenses-such as photocopying, expert witness costs and filing fees-in connection with your case.

Hiring a Lawyer on Contingency

Many medical malpractice lawyers choose to work on contingency, because of the attractive advantages it offers clients:

  • You do not have to put up any money up front
  • You do not have to pay your lawyer if your case is unsuccessful
  • Because your lawyer has a financial motivation to achieve a large financial award, you know he or she will work hard toward that end

One disadvantage to a contingency fee is that you may not feel your attorney earned his or her entire fee if your case settles quickly. He or she may also receive more than had the attorney just billed at hourly rates.

A lawyer who works on contingency may be willing to work on a graduated scale, for example, taking a smaller percentage if the case settles quickly. Any rate negotiations should occur before you agree to hire an attorney, not after.

Hiring a Lawyer for an Hourly Rate

Lawyers who oversee business dealings or divorces often charge an hourly rate. Lawyers who handle personal injury cases, which include medical malpractice lawsuits, often do not. This is because many of the clients are unable to front the money for the lawyer while still tending to their medical needs and the associated costs.

If you do hire an attorney at an hourly rate, you will most likely be asked to pay a retainer, which is an up-front payment to get the case started. Then you'll likely make monthly payments while the case is proceeding.

If you cannot find an attorney who will take your medical malpractice case on contingency, that may be a sign that it is not a strong case. If you decide to proceed with a lawyer who charges by the hour, make sure you get an honest assessment of your case's chances before you pay the retainer fee.

Also, ask the attorney to describe the fees and costs associated with trying the case in court, which may be much higher than the fees and costs if you settle a case before going to trial. Consider your retainer and hourly fees an investment-one you want to ensure pays off.

The Cost of Hiring a Medical Malpractice Attorney

p>When talking to prospective malpractice lawyers, ask for a detailed cost estimate before you decide which one to hire. You'll want to know the fee arrangement the lawyer uses, what the billing rate is if paying hourly or percentage if paying on contingency, and what-if anything-you would have to pay if the case is not successful.

You should also learn:

  • How much the attorney thinks your case is worth if it settles and if it goes to trial
  • How much your legal fees will be if it settles or goes to trial
  • How much the additional legal expenses will be if your case settles or goes to trial
  • How much money you could expect to bring home after fees and expenses if your case settles or goes to trial

Once you have discussed these issues with your lawyer, you will have a much clearer understanding of the financial aspects-both the upside and the costs-of your medical malpractice case.