Legal Question in Personal Injury in Massachusetts

I was in a car accident where the othe driver swerved into my lane and hit me @ approx. 45 mph. The other driver was found at fault and my medical insurance was about to run out so I looked for legal rep. I dn't think I was in the right state of mind while looking and hiring my attorny due to my pain and heavy medications. But know that I have the pain and meds. undercontroll I viewed over my lawyers paper work and notice that he gets one third of my settlement, which might be standard but there is a part in which after the settlement and he gets his third, then I have to pay his medical teams and researches their cut. And then I also have to pay my insurance company 48% of my medical bills back, leaving me with earning less than my attorney. That just dosn't seem fair gving him 33and1/3 plus other expenses when I'm the victim laying in bed for a minimum of 8 weeks! thanks for listening, Al

Asked on 10/09/10, 7:25 am

5 Answers from Attorneys

Maurice lariviere jr Law Office of Maurice LaRiviere Jr

In Massachusetts the contingent fee agreements are not controlled by law but rather are set by a contract between the client and attorney.

The standard charges that I give are 25% of the settlement after the clients costs are deducted from the settlement amount. I only assess 33% if it going to trial.

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Answered on 10/14/10, 7:38 am
Joseph Lamy Law Office of Joseph Lamy


1/3 of the total settlement is standard. It is not, however, a law written in stone. Depending on the circumstances of the case and the insurance available, some attorneys such as myself, will consider a lower percentage fee. Or, perhaps, a sliding scale. For instance, 1/3 of the first 25k and then 20% of the remainder. In fact, a sliding scale is the law for medical malpractice cases in Massachusetts.

I am also unsure what the fees to his "medical teams and researchers" is all about. If he has to hire an expert witness, you are in fact responsible for those fees. However, if the research is performed by members of his or her firm, then that fee should be included in the 1/3 fee.

Finally, your health insurance provider is entitled to return of the money they paid on your case, but there are potential ways to reduce the amounts owed to them as well.

In the end, there is nothing very unreasonable about your agreement, although there are a few things that could be changed to help ensure you obtain more money. You can leave your attorney at any time, however, you will owe him a lien for the work that he has already performed to date. Many attorneys, including myself, are willing to pay the lien out of their fee.

Best of luck.

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Answered on 10/14/10, 7:40 am
Christopher Vaughn-Martel Charles River Law Partners, LLC

Take your case to a new lawyer. You can simply request that your file be transferred to a new law office, especially if you are only just getting started. The 1/3 attorney fee on a contingent case is pretty standard. After all, you are asking them to work for free! You may have to reimburse your insurance company if they come after you, but that is between you and your insurance company/medical providers. As far as payment for your lawyer's 'medical team and researchers', that sounds unethical to me and I have never heard of such a thing. Please feel free to give my office a call if you would like to talk. 617-357-4898.

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Answered on 10/14/10, 7:41 am

If you want to try to save money, you can agree to an hourly rate and put up a retainer and pay the lawyer for exactly as many hours as he or she works. I am always fearful of clients who do not understand contingent fee is an alternative to traditional arrangements, and a contingency practice sometimes overpays and sometimes underpays the lawyer. When the lawyer goes to trial and the jury awards nothing he get paid nothing. It's tough to criticize a person who would take your case, spends time on your case and not some other matter that might pay his bills this week, on the chance of getting paid a while from now, after he spends money on your case and runs his office and pays his secretary's health insurance every month. I would ask you to consider checking your ungratefulness at the door.

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Answered on 10/14/10, 9:10 am

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