Does a judge have the ability to award attorney fees to a prevailing plaintiff in a personal injury suit? 2 Answers as of May 19, 2011Does a judge have the ability to award attorney fees to a prevailing plaintiff in a personal injury suit in Washington State? I am in process of negotiating with my previous lawyer's malpractice insurance to settle a 4 yr old, other driver at fault, accident. Things were going well, but now they are trying to tell me that they are deducting 33% of what they would have offered if I had an attorney because I won't have to pay a lawyer their third of the settlement. I am wondering if this is a valid point, or if I had gone to court against the other driver's insurance and won, would there have been the possibility of having the attorney fees ordered by the judge to be paid by the insurance co. Please advise. Thank you
Magnuson Lowell P.S. | Richard S. Lowell
This question was addressed in the case of Shoemake vs. Ferrer, 143 Wn.App. 819, 182 P.3d 992 (2008) where the Court of Appeals specifically held that "Because Washington cases are unambiguous that legal malpractice damages should fully compensate plaintiffs injured by attorney malpractice, we hold that the modern majority rule adopted by the Restatement is the metadatabest rule for Washington. Reducing a successful malpractice plaintiff's damages by the amount that the attorney would have earned had the attorney not been negligent necessarily fails to put the injured plaintiff in the position he or she would have occupied in the absence of negligence." In sum, the amount of damages can not be reduced by the amount of contingent fees that attorney would have earned had he not been negligent.
Answer Applies to: Washington