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How much does a medical malpractice lawyer cost?

How much a medical malpractice lawyer will cost is one of the first things you'll want to understand if you are thinking about pursuing a claim.

evident Editorial Team
published
July 27, 2021
Stethoscope on white sheet

If you are considering whether to pursue a medical malpractice claim, you may also be concerned about the costs involved in hiring a medical malpractice lawyer. That is understandable, and how much an attorney will cost is front of mind for basically everyone who considers whether to hire a lawyer.

An important thing to know about medical malpractice lawyers is that they generally work on a contingency basis, which means that they get paid a percentage of your award if your application is successful. In other words, their fee is contingent upon the success of your case.

Additionally, many medical malpractice lawyers offer free consultations. A free consultation can help you evaluate whether you should hire a medical malpractice attorney, and whether the lawyer you speak with is a good fit for you.

Key Takeaways
  • Most medical malpractice lawyers work on a contingency basis, so you only pay if your case is successful.
  • The size and structure of those contingency fees are often dictated by state laws.
  • There could be legal costs associated with your case separate from the lawyer’s fees, but lawyers often cover these costs upfront.

Contingency Fee Structures

The size and structure of contingency fees vary, but they are often around 33% of any award. Some states place limits on the size of the contingency fee that a medical malpractice lawyer may charge, including sometimes by using what’s referred to as a “sliding scale.”

For example, in New York state law caps medical malpractice contingency fees at:

  • 30% of the first $250,000 recovered
  • 25% of the next $250,000 recovered
  • 20% of the next $500,000 recovered
  • 15% of the next $250,000 recovered
  • 10% on any further amount recovered

These sliding scale arrangements can sound complicated, but they are really just a way that different states have sought to balance rewarding lawyers for taking cases with no upfront fees on the one hand with ensuring an appropriate amount of the award goes to you, the claimant, particularly as the size of the award increases.

Lawyer’s Fees vs. Legal Costs

Separate from the lawyer’s fees, though, there could be legal costs associated with your case which will also impact your take-home portion of the award. Examples of legal costs include:

  • Expert witness fees
  • Costs for obtaining medical records, including postage or copying fees
  • Filing fees (for filing documents with the court)

Many medical malpractice lawyers do not ask clients to pay for these expenses in advance and will instead recover the costs through the award if your claim is successful, and then take their fees from the remaining balance of the award.

In practice, this means the way an award might work is:

  • You hire a medical malpractice lawyer on a contingency fee arrangement where the lawyer’s fee is 30% after deducting costs
  • Your claim is successful and you win an award of $100,000 with litigation costs of $10,000
  • The medical malpractice lawyer, having covered the costs upfront, would be reimbursed from the award leaving $90,000
  • Your take-home portion would be $63,000 after deducting the lawyer’s fee of $27,000 (30% of the $90,000 net award)
Pie chart example of a medical malpractice lawyer fee

Your fee agreement with the medical malpractice lawyer will address who is responsible for paying legal costs, and whether they are to be deducted before or after determining the lawyer’s fees.

Finding a medical malpractice lawyer

An experienced medical malpractice lawyer can be a crucial resource in advancing your case - whether it’s navigating the applicable statute of limitations (time limits) or coordinating the expert testimony necessary to prove your case.

As mentioned, though, medical malpractice cases can be complicated and tough to win. Contingency fee arrangements help alleviate some of the risks for you in bringing your claim.

But the flip side to that is that it may be harder to find a lawyer willing to take your case. Because a medical malpractice lawyer’s fees are contingent upon the success of your claim, and because they often agree to cover the legal costs associated with pursuing your case, many medical malpractice lawyers will carefully evaluate what they think the likelihood of success is for a claim, and how large the payout might be.

So, these factors mean it can be tough to find a medical malpractice lawyer and that it is important to reach out to several lawyers.

The final word on medical malpractice lawyer costs

In sum, there are three important things to know about how much a medical malpractice lawyer costs. First, most medical malpractice lawyers work on a contingency basis, so you only pay if your case is successful.

Second, the size and structure of those contingency fees are often dictated by state laws, so how much a lawyer can charge depends on where you live.

And third, there could be legal costs associated with your case separate from the lawyer’s fees, but medical malpractice lawyers often cover these costs upfront and seek reimbursement out of any award.

The end result of all this is that contingency fees can be a great arrangement to help you pursue a claim with less financial risk, but it may also be tougher to find a lawyer willing to take your case than in some other areas of law. This makes it particularly important to reach out to multiple lawyers to find a medical malpractice lawyer who is the right fit for you.

If you are considering hiring a medical malpractice lawyer, be sure to read our top questions to ask a medical malpractice lawyer before your first meeting.

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