Attorney Compensation: Contingency Fees
Interviewer: We are getting close to the end, just so you know. In terms of contingency fees, how are attorneys compensated for medical malpractice cases?
Charles Price: The cases are handled, as I said, on a contingency basis, which means that the retainer agreement provides that out of the total recovery, the lawyer is paid one-third of the total recovery and is also reimbursed for any expenses that the lawyer incurs during the course of the case. I won’t go too far down this road, but there is a statute in Connecticut that provides for what is called a sliding scale of attorney’s fees. For example, for the first $300,000, it’s a third. For the next $300,000, it’s 30%. For the next $300,000, it’s 25%. It goes all the way down up to 1.2 million dollars, where the fee is 15%. Generally most lawyers who do medical malpractice do not handle cases on a sliding fee scale because the cases are too complicated and too difficult.
Virtually all medical malpractice cases in the state of Connecticut by any firm that handles them are done on a straight one-third contingency, which simply means that if we don’t recover money by way of settlement or a trial, we don’t get paid for what may have been years of work on the case. When we do get paid, we get a third of the total amount recovered.
Interviewer: You subtract the expenses for the case first, right?
Charles Price: We take out the attorney’s fees first. For example, in a $300,000 settlement, the attorney’s fees would be $100,000, the expenses in the case might be $25,000, and the client’s net recovery would be $175,000.
Interviewer: The client gets the lion’s share but since you as the law firm put out all this money to hire an expert witness and research the medical conditions and all that, obviously you’re going to get that money back, right?
Charles Price: Exactly. We get that money back as our expenses and because we’re also working for free throughout most of the case. That is why the fee is as large as it is.
Choosing an Attorney
Interviewer: That makes sense. What would happen if you were injured yourself, God forbid? How would you know whom to hire? What would you look for and what questions would you ask attorneys?
Charles Price: You would obviously perhaps look online and you would get the names of some reputable firms. You would certainly ask around as to who are some of the top medical malpractice lawyers in, for example, New Haven County or in the state of Connecticut or in Fairfield County. Of course, depending on whom you call, you’re going to get different names. Generally speaking, there is a very select number of lawyers that handle these cases in the state of Connecticut. Most of the lawyers who do this kind of work are pretty good at it because you can’t be not good at it and still do it.
Interviewer: After years of talking, you sound like a medical professional with stuff you’re talking about with cases.
Charles Price: Yeah, I’ve had to learn a lot of medicine about 40 years, believe me. Way more medicine than law, I can tell you that.
Interviewer: That’s interesting. Last question. What do you believe makes your firm and your representation unique and particularly well-suited for people with these kind of cases?
Charles Price: Besides the fact that I’ve been doing it for a very, very long time, I think that we bring a certain level of thoroughness to the way we handle a case. We don’t wait until the last minute to do everything on a case like many firms do. We try to jump on a case very early. We are very thorough in our investigation and on our review of the medical literature and the records.
We look at every document, even if it’s a thousand pages of records. We look at all four corners of every single page to see what evidence might exist on that page that would be helpful to the case. We review and I research thousands of medical articles online to basically make myself as conversant in the medicine as the doctor I’m going to have to question. I think that that’s the one main thing that other lawyers say about me: I am extremely prepared and very thorough.
I like to think I’m pretty good in the courtroom; that is to say you have to have a certain style and a certain demeanor in the courtroom that connects with juries, because there are six people you don’t know and you’re trying to get them to award your client money. I tell my clients that if the jury doesn’t like the client, you lose. If the jury doesn’t like the lawyer, you lose. The jury has to like the client and the lawyer, putting aside the facts, for you to have a chance to win. I think that’s what we bring.