How does an attorney's contingency fee work in an auto accident? 27 Answers as of August 15, 2012

My case is a little different in that I was hit by a county government school bus. The county is self insured and is only liable for medical costs up to $100k. They have sovereign immunity from any other tort action. Thus, the bus driver's personal auto policy has agreed to pay policy limits for pain and suffering. I have 2 questions. In this case, should my attorney be getting 33.3% when the medical bills will be paid in full by the county policy which will be separate from the pain and suffering settlement payout from the driver's policy? Secondly, I have out of pocket medical expenses incurred and lost wages. Is my attorney entitled to collect 33.3% on my out of pocket expenses and lost wages that will be included in the medical settlement with the county?

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Douglas M. Philpott, P.C. | Peter J. Philpott
You will split any recovery giving the attorney 1/3 after costs of litigation is deducted.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 8/15/2012
Steven Harrell, Attorney at Law | Waymon Steven Harrell
Attorney's fees generally cover one third of the gross proceeds of any settlement, regardless of what components the settlement may be broken into.
Answer Applies to: Georgia
Replied: 8/15/2012
Law Offices of Ronald A. Steinberg & Associates | Ronald A. Steinberg, BA, MA, JD
The contract between you and your attorney spells out everything. What happens here seems to vary from lawyer to lawyer. Some attorneys take a fee from everything. Some will take a fee only from portions of the recovery. I do not think that there is a true "right or wrong." Typically, the costs incurred or expended by the lawyer are reimbursed "off the top," and that the balance is then divided between the lawyer and the client. Additionally, from the client's portion, any liens will be paid. The liens usually are money owed to Medicare, Medicaid, healthcare insurance, worker's compensation, long term/short term disability insurance. You may want to have a conference with your attorney, to make yourself comfortable.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 8/15/2012
DEAN T. JENNINGS, P.C.
DEAN T. JENNINGS, P.C. | Dean T Jennings
Yes. He gets 1/3rd.
Answer Applies to: Iowa
Replied: 8/15/2012
David F. Stoddard
David F. Stoddard | David F. Stoddard
It depends on how a contingency fee agreement is worded and what the claim or lawsuit is for. Normally, the attorney is entitled to 33% of everything recovered, including recovery for medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering. I'm not sure what you mean by medical bills being paid separately. If the County is paying 100K on a claim, but is also paying medical bills separately not as a result of the claim or suit, then it is possible the attorney would not be entitled to a fee for the separate payment for medical bills. However, one must be careful what is meant by the bills being paid separately. Often a portion of medical bills that result from and accident are paid by the victim's health insurance or Medicaid. In that case, the health insurer or Medicaid has a lien on the proceeds and must be paid out of the settlement. However, the attorney normally is entitled to a percentage of this recovery also 9ususally the health insurer or Medicaid reduces its lien by 1/3 so that they are paying the legal fee for this portion of the settlement. Not the victim.
Answer Applies to: South Carolina
Replied: 8/15/2012
    Gonzalez & Cartwright, P.A.
    Gonzalez & Cartwright, P.A. | Charles Cartwright
    In Florida, the attorney may only collect a fee of 25% on cases against Florida State governmental entities. The lawyer may collect a fee of 33% on cases against non-governmental persons or entities.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 8/15/2012
    Victor Varga | Victor Varga
    That's a discussion you need to have with either your attorney, or Bar Counsel.
    Answer Applies to: Maryland
    Replied: 8/15/2012
    The Lucky Law Firm, PLC
    The Lucky Law Firm, PLC | Robert Morrison Lucky
    Check your contingency fee contract with your attorney. The way in which the fee is figured should be outlined. In most contracts, the fee is taken on all monies collected by the attorney. It is our goal to always put more in our clients' pockets than ourssometimes this requires us to reduce our fee to make this happen.
    Answer Applies to: Louisiana
    Replied: 8/15/2012
    Gebler & Weiss, P.C. | Jerrie S. Weiss
    Usually an attorney is entitled to a fee from all of the compensation you receive for your injuries. Many attorneys will agree to a reduction of their fees but they are not required to do so.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/15/2012
    Dennis P. Mikko Attorney at Law | Dennis P. Mikko
    What your attorney can collect should be clearly spelled out in the contingent fee agreement. Typically, the attorney is entitled to 1/3rd of the recovery after expenses incurred in obtaining the recovery are deducted.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/15/2012
    Law Office of James J. Rosenberger | James Joseph Rosenberger
    It's hard to imagine that the county is so limited in their insurance coverage. They are as susceptible to a claim/lawsuit as any other entity and do not carry bare bones coverage. You may be getting misinformation if you are handling this yourself. Attorney fees are usually 33% of the gross recovery as defined in a written fee agreement.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 8/15/2012
    Law Office of Gregory Crain | Gregory Crain
    Read your contract. It should answer all questions.
    Answer Applies to: Arkansas
    Replied: 8/15/2012
    Darrell B. Reynolds, P.C. | Darrell B. Reynolds
    Refer to your contract with your attorney. That is what determine the fees the attorney is entitled to receive.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 8/15/2012
    Kelaher Law Offices, P.A.
    Kelaher Law Offices, P.A. | James P Kelaher
    Your attorney is entitled to collect whatever your contingent fee contract says he's entitled to collect, unless it is money from a governmental entity, then he is limited by statute to 25%.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 8/15/2012
    Pearson, Butler, & Carson, PLLC
    Pearson, Butler, & Carson, PLLC | Matthew R. Kober
    This is a great question. Technically, I would imagine that your fee agreement with you attorney entitles him/her to take 1/3 of the entire recovery. Most fee agreements have that format. Many clients oftentimes think that the fee should not be calculated on the medical bill portion and assume that they were automatically entitled to have their medical bills paid for. The reality is the only part you are really guaranteed to have paid is the amount your own insurance pays for through PIP or MEDPAY, which is generally a very small amount. After that, whether the other side pays for those bills is a matter of their willingness to do so. If they were to reject liability and refuse to pay, you would be personally liable for those bills out of your pocket. A recovery of those amounts is a benefit to you that your attorney negotiated. If you think your attorney should not calculate the fee on a certain portion, then you should talk to your attorney about it and come to an arrangement.
    Answer Applies to: Utah
    Replied: 8/15/2012
    Paul Whitfield and Associates P.A.
    Paul Whitfield and Associates P.A. | Paul L. Whitfield
    Your atty will be paid whatever you agreed to pay him. Usually that is one third of the GROSS settlement. I don't know what you have agreed to.
    Answer Applies to: North Carolina
    Replied: 8/15/2012
    Mike Yeksavich | Mike Yeksavich
    It depends upon your contract with the attorney so ask him or her about the agreement.
    Answer Applies to: Oklahoma
    Replied: 8/15/2012
    Tuttle and Associates | Jeffrey Brook Tuttle
    All of this is a matter of contract. Read your contingency fee contract. I would guess he is entitled to 33 1/3 of the gross amount collected.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 8/15/2012
    Salladay Law Office | Lance Salladay
    The attorney takes a percentage of whtever is actually recovered for the client- the client is responsible to pay all costs of the litigation, and the percentage can fluctuate usually form 1/3 to 40 or 50% depending on if and when the case is resolved. If nothing is recovered then the attorney gets no fee- but the client is still responsible for the costs.
    Answer Applies to: Idaho
    Replied: 8/15/2012
    Lapin Law Offices
    Lapin Law Offices | Jeffrey Lapin
    I cannot answer your questions about what your attorney is entitled to from any monies collected on your case without knowing what your fee agreement, which should be in writing, says about attorney fees. Your attorney is only entitled to fees as set forth in the fee agreement. If the fee agreement says he or she is entitled to 33.3% of all monies collected in your case, he or she is likely entitled to money from the "county policy" as well as from monies paid for your "out of pocket medical expenses" and lost wages. I would suggest looking over your fee agreement. It should answer your questions.
    Answer Applies to: Nebraska
    Replied: 8/15/2012
    Law Offices of David M. Blain
    Law Offices of David M. Blain | David Blain
    A contingency fee agreement between an attorney and his/her client must be in writing, unless the total expense, including attorney's fees, will not foreseeably exceed $1,000.00. Failure by the attorney to have a written contingency agreement renders the contingency fee voidable at the option of the client, and the attorney will then be entitled to his/her reasonable fee. See Bus. & Prof. Code Sections 6147 and 6148. Thus, my first piece of advice would be for you to make sure that a written agreement exists between you and your attorney. If there is none, then you have the choice of voiding any contingency agreement that may have been verbal or otherwise understood. This does not mean the attorney gets nothing, what it means is the attorney will only be entitled to a reasonable fee. A reasonable fee may in fact be less than 33.3%, and very likely to be more than that. However, if you do have a written agreement then I would look at that agreement to see what it says about the attorney's fee. It likely says something to the effect that the attorney is entitled to 33.3% of any compensation received by way of judgment, settlement, award or otherwise. This means the attorney collects 33.3% of the gross amount of whatever you recovered. So, for example, if your case settled for $150,000.00 total then this represents compensation for medial expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering. The attorney is entitled to collect approximately $50,000.00 of that amount.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/15/2012
    Lee Law Group | Ernest Lee
    Friend. If you signed a fee agreement that states the attorney is to get 33.3% he gets that amount. Moreover, if you look at it fairly he should get all he can in that without him you may get 100% of nothing.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/13/2012
    Salberg Murdock
    Salberg Murdock | Jeffrey D. Salberg
    Some attorneys charge one third of the gross amount collected, while others will charge one third after medicals are paid unless they negotiate a reduction in the medical amounts due. The has to be a written fee agreement wit the attorney that should clearly explain how the monies collected are to be distributed.
    Answer Applies to: Utah
    Replied: 8/15/2012
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