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YOU'VE BEEN HURT IN AN ACCIDENT; DON'T BE A VICTIM A SECOND TIME BY SIGNING A RIP-OFF RETAINER AGREEMENT THAT FAVORS YOUR ATTORNEY OVER YOU!
PAYING MORE TO YOUR ATTORNEY DOESN'T NECESSARILY GET YOU BETTER RESULTS; IT MAY JUST GET THE LAWYER BILLBOARDS AND TV ADS AND A LUXURY LIFESTYLE
The retainer agreement you sign for a lawyer to represent you in a personal injury or malpractice claim has a lot of important parts. Here is what to look for:
Is the Percentage Fee a Flat Percentage or an Escalating Percentage?
In other words, does the percentage rise the longer the case drags on? At Reed & Mansfield we don't have escalating percentages, but many lawyers do. Lawyers who claim to be "discount" or "half-price" might have a low percentage fee for a personal injury case but then buried in the retainer agreement are provisions that say the percentage fee will increase after certain events, such as filing suit, getting within 30 days of trial, or even if the case fails to settle within six months of signing the agreement.
We never want to have an incentive (a higher percentage fee) to drag out your case.
Don't be fooled by failing to to consider the higher percentage rates allowed for in the retainer agreements of some of our competitors. At Reed & Mansfield we have 3 different percentage fees that stay the same even if we have to file suit to get you top value. We offer a no gimmick, low discount 25% fee for favorable police report car, truck, motorcycle, pedestrian and boat accidents in Las Vegas and in Nevada. Low Fee for Favorable Police Report Cases Unlike most of our competitors there is no small print saying that if we have to file suit the percentage increases or if the case goes on for a certain amount of time the percentage increases.
For other personal injury case our fee is a flat one third regardless of whether we have to file suit or not.
For professional legal malpractice cases our fee is a flat 40%.
What Happens if Medical Bills are Huge Compared to the Settlement?
Unfortunately, it sometimes happens that because of low insurance policy limits and defendants without much money, or without much money that cannot be hidden, or for some other reasons, it sometimes makes sense to settle a case for an amount that would leave the client, after deduction for medical expenses and legal costs with less than the attorney fee. At Reed & Mansfield we promise to reduce our fee as much as necessary so that your net (after medical bills and payment of legal fees and costs) will not be less than our attorney fee. Before you sign someone else's retainer agreement see if they will make you that promise and put in writing.
Additional Fee for Knocking Down Medical Bills?
Another issue involves whether the lawyers wants to charge an additional fee for negotiating your medical bills down. At Reed & Mansfield we believe that part of the lawyer's job is to negotiate medical bills down if that can be done, so we don't ever charge extra for that, but some attorneys do.
Who Advances and Pays for Costs?
Running a case involves "costs." These include payment for medical records, payments for depositions, filing fees, sometimes payments to arbitrators, payments for experts, postage etc. It is perfectly legal for an attorney or lawyer to demand that the client pay these costs as the case goes along. In fact, I just saw a retainer agreement that provided for the attorney to withdraw and bill the client $500/hr. for his time if the client ever failed to immediately pay the lawyer back for these costs.
At Reed & Mansfield we typically advance costs as long as we believe your case is worthwhile. Our "skin in the game" includes not only our time but these costs. When we win we get these costs back out of the settlement or judgment. So, ultimately, our clients pay us back for the costs, but only if and when they win.
Some lawyers take out a loan to advance cases costs if the case has to be prepared for trial and then when the case is finally resolved, the lawyers charge the client not only the costs but also the interest for the cost loan. We never do that.
Is there a Mandatory Arbitration Provision?
A sneaky issue is a provision that requires arbitration if there is ever any dispute between client and attorney.
Attorneys who represent claimants in accident and malpractice claims hate it when the client has signed a mandatory arbitration agreement. Arbitration is not expensive compared to a full trial, but arbitration is an expensive way to initiate a claim and since most non-arbitration claims are resolved without a trial, arbitration tends to, on average, add expense to making a claim and therefore to discourage claims.
Some lawyers make their clients sign an arbitration clause in the retainer agreement. We think this is not in the client's interest. We don't have such clauses in our retainer agreements and we wonder if lawyers who do are thinking ahead to protect their own interests more than their clients' interests.
What Does the Agreement Say About Firing Your Attorney?
Many retainer agreements provide for you to owe the attorney hundreds of dollars per hour if you fire the attorney before the case is over. On the one hand, there is some logic in spelling out what will happen if you choose to fire your attorney part way through the case. On the other hand, such a provision could be a tip-off that lots of people have dumped this attorney in the past. At Reed & Mansfield we prefer to assume that you we will earn your trust and respect. If you fire us after we have worked on your case, depending on the circumstance, we might or might assert an attorney's lien. However, if we do it will be for what is fair under the circumstances. We do not try to tie clients to us by claiming huge hourly fees that must be paid if the client wants to leave.
You always have the legal right to fire your lawyer. However, it is generally wise, especially if the lawyer you signed with can claim some work on your file, to consult with another attorney before you fire your existing lawyer. WHY? Because some lawyers don't want to take a case another lawyer started and even if the new lawyer does want to take over your case, you will want to know if the new lawyer will pay the old's lawyer's claim to fees out of the fee you pay the new lawyer. (This applies to contingency fees.) You don't want to get stuck with double fees.
In fairness to many fine personal injury attorney we respect, there are good arguments for writing retainer agreements differently than we do. We hope, however, that this page will educate you as to some of the choices you have when hiring an attorney to represent you in an injury case.