As many as 440,000 Americans die from medical malpractice each year. These patients represent only a fraction of the wrongful deaths that occur nationally each year. Yet many families hesitate to take wrongful death cases to court.
Often, this hesitation is due to misunderstandings or a lack of understanding about how these cases work and how wrongful death lawyers get paid. If you have lost a loved one, here’s what you need to know about hiring a wrongful death attorney.
How Does a Wrongful Death Attorney Get Paid?
Wrongful death cases can be complex. Grieving families need professional help to navigate the system and get the compensation they deserve. But how much does legal advice cost?
In many other forms of law, clients must pay attorney fees by the hour. Often, they must pay a large portion of the anticipated total cost in advance. This is called a retainer.
Wrongful death lawyers work differently. Instead of charging hourly fees or set rates, they work on contingency.
How Does Contingency Billing Work?
In contingency billing, you as the client pay nothing up front. In fact, if you lose your case, you pay your lawyer nothing at all.
If you win your case, your lawyer takes a set percentage of the amount you are awarded as their fee. For standard cases, the average percentage ranges from around 30 percent to 40 percent. For particularly complicated cases, the rate may edge closer to 50 percent.
So, for example, imagine that you win your case and are awarded $100,000. If your lawyer’s fee rate was 40 percent, they would take $40,000, leaving you with $60,000.
In some cases, the rate may vary depending on how your case is resolved. For instance, your lawyer may charge a lower rate for cases that settle out of court and a higher rate for cases that go to trial. Some states limit or proscribe what rates lawyers may charge in wrongful death cases.
While contingency fees work the same everywhere, different lawyers will handle case expenses differently. Some lawyers will simply charge a higher rate and pay for your case expenses out of pocket. Other lawyers will charge a lower rate, but bill you for some portion of your case’s expenses if you win.
Common case expenses can include:
- Expert testimony
- Procuring copies of medical records
- Filing fees
- Making copies
It is important to work with a reputable law firm and to ask how they handle expenses before contracting to work with them.
It can also be helpful to ask attorneys you are considering working with how much they expect you will be eligible to receive if you win your case. This can help you more accurately estimate your total costs and winnings.
This can be particularly helpful as wrongful death suits can often net millions of dollars in compensation from the courts. Knowing what you are agreeing to in advance can prevent sticker shock after the fact.
How Much Do Lawyers Get Paid?
Wrongful death attorneys get paid differently than most other lawyers. Since they work on contingency fees, you have nothing lose by seeking one out to help you take your case to court. Check out our law section for more helpful information on how to navigate the legal system successfully.