There is a very important reason why accident lawyers in New York and medical malpractice lawyers in NY do not charge you an hourly fee. This goes back to the mid-1950s. At that time, the only way to hire an attorney would be to hire them and pay them an hourly fee. Lawyers soon realized that injured victims did not have the wherewithal and financial resources to pay for really experienced attorneys to represent them in an accident or wrongful death case.
That gave birth to something known as a contingency fee.
A contingency fee means that you can hire an experienced lawyer without having to pay any money out of your own pocket initially. It means that the lawyer is willing to pay all of the expenses necessary to prosecute your case and then, only if successful, will he share a percentage of whatever he recovers as part of his fee. This allows an injured victim to hire the best attorney that is right for them without having to pay any money out of their own pocket or an hourly fee.
Interestingly, the defense lawyers are all paid an hourly fee. Insurance companies hire them and agree to either pay a flat fee for specific work that is done to defend the case or an hourly fee payable in installments.
Some critics argue that the contingency fee system is to blame for many lawsuits that would not otherwise have been brought and should not have been brought into the court system.
However, most attorneys who represent injured victims would argue that the contingency fee system is the fairest way to allow an injured victim who cannot afford to pay an hourly rate to hire the best attorney possible.
In New York, I am not aware of a single personal injury or medical malpractice attorney who charges an hourly fee. Our fee is based on what we recover. That fee is set by law and is the same whether an injured victim goes to us or any lawyer in the state of New York. Importantly, the attorney's fee in a negligence or accident case is one third after the attorney's expenses have been paid and reimbursed to his law firm.
In a medical malpractice lawsuit, the attorneys fees are drastically less and is known as a sliding scale. In that instance, the attorney's fee only starts at 30%, after the attorney's expenses are reimbursed, and then continues to decrease by 5% as we increase the amount we have recovered for you. There is a ceiling in the amount of attorney can recover. That means that anything we recover over $1.25 million, the attorney's fee is only 10% of that amount.