You're a great negotiator.
You love haggling.
You love getting a bargain.
You love to know you just got a great deal.
You feel great pride knowing you just devalued an object or a service.
You believe that every service has negotiable fees.
And yes, you believe that doctors, attorneys and accountants all charge too much.
You believe that those professional services can always be negotiated down.
Let me share with you why that last statement is incorrect as it applies to lawyers who handle accident cases, medical malpractice cases and wrongful death cases here in New York.
You see, there are two ways to hire an attorney.
You can hire him and pay him an hourly fee that you agree upon.
Many attorneys work this way.
Real estate attorneys.
The other way is when an attorney only agrees to be paid if he is successful in obtaining a result for you.
That's known as a contingency fee.
That means his fee is dependent upon his winning or settling the case for you.
If you lose your case, you get nothing and your attorney gets a share of your nothing. That means he also gets nothing.
That means your attorney will have spent thousands and thousands of dollars of his own money to prosecute your case.
It means he will have invested hundreds and thousands of hours of his time and resources and be left with absolutely nothing if you lose your case at trial.
In a medical malpractice case, the attorney's fee is set by law in NY.
It is less than 1/3 of the amount obtained for you.
A malpractice case is not like a personal injury case where the attorney typically will receive as his fee 1/3 of the recovery.
A malpractice fee only starts at 30% and then drops in increments.
That's called a sliding scale.
It really means that as we get more money for you, the attorney's fee drops by 5% increments.
If we get anywhere from 0-$250,000, the attorney's fee is only 30%.
If we get anywhere from $250,000-$500,000, the attorney's fee drops to 25% and so on.
This scale continues down so that if you recover more than $1.25 million, then the attorney's fee for that segment above $1.25 million is only 10%.
Let's now go back to the original question I posed in the headline.
You're a great negotiator.
You come looking to hire the best attorney you can find to help you in your medical malpractice case.
You want a deal.
You want your attorney to take less than the fee set by law.
I will tell you that I have handled medical malpractice cases for almost 28 years and the best attorneys will NEVER negotiate their fee down. It's just not financially feesibile.
There are two exceptions to this.
The first is if the malpractice case involves a child.
In that instance, the trial court will often reduce the attorney's fee if the attorney is successful in getting a good result for the child. The reason why is the court wants to insure the child gets as much money as possible.
The other instance where an attorney's fee will change is if the lawyer actually petitions the court for a larger fee.
There are some attorneys who achieve a remarkable result.
That result may have been achieved solely as a result of the efforts of the attorney and the hundreds and thousands of hours he put into prosecuting your case.
In that instance, assuming you agree with the attorney getting a larger fee, he can petition the court for a larger fee.
That does not happen often.
You think you're a great negotiator.
You probably are.
However, you will find that the best trial attorneys will refuse to take your case if you demand that they take a lower fee.