Birth injury cases are often complicated, lengthy, and require extensive resources; the process can be expensive. Families faced with the financial demands of raising a child with physical and/or cognitive impairment often lack the funds to pay expensive hourly legal fees on top of the child’s regular expenses – especially since the case may take one to five years to fully litigate.
At Stern Law, PLLC, our legal fee structure aims to relieve financial pressure on families already struggling under the weight of a birth injury. For a free review of your options, please call us at (800) 462-5772.
Six common types of legal fee structures
Common fee structures employed by other lawyers and law firms include:
- Contingent fee agreement – The lawyer is paid a portion of any settlement or judgment only if a settlement or judgment is reached in the client’s favor. Typically, this is a certain fixed percentage of the award or settlement. State regulations provide stipulations on this type of fee arrangement. This arrangement allows families to avoid the substantial upfront costs which are incurred while the case is being investigated and litigated, allowing them to use their money in support of their child. This agreement may or may not include the various other expenses that arise during case preparation and/or a trial, such as court costs, expert witness fees, travel costs, and administrative charges.
- Monthly retainer agreement – You agree to pay a monthly fee, for which the law firm bills against as services are rendered. The law firm will typically issue monthly invoices which contain hourly billing rates detailing the time utilized during the month by the legal staff. The bill will likely include any expenses incurred during the month, as well. The agreement should stipulate how the funds are approved and tendered if more funds are required than what was retained for that month. It should also detail how funds are handled if not all of the monthly allotment was utilized for the month.
- Prepaid retainer agreement – Payments are issued to a law firm in advance for an agreed upon package of service care. The law firm will then provide billing statements showing expenses incurred against the payment already made. Procedures for overage or underage should be detailed in this type of agreement.
- Hourly fee agreement – Legal services are paid on an hourly basis, as needed. Lawyers provide a list of hourly rates for the various levels of personnel that may be required on the case. Monthly, the law firm will issue a bill for the previous month’s legal fees. You have a set number of days to pay the bill.
- Flat fee agreement – You and the lawyer establish a fixed fee for the lawyer to litigate your matter.
- Pro bono services – In some cases, lawyers will agree to take a case on a pro bono basis, meaning they will provide their services free-of-charge.
The cost to pursue litigation
Legal fees are unique to each individual case. All legal fees should be reasonable, based upon the type of case, the difficulty of the case, the location, and any possible settlement or judgment. Other factors that influence rates include:
- The time and work needed for the lawyer’s staff to litigate the case
- The number of lawyers needed for the case
- The lawyer’s capability and reputation
- The number and type of experts that may be required during trial
- The amount of work a lawyer may need to turn down in order to represent your case
In all fee agreements, it should be stipulated how expenses will be handled. These are generally thought to be outside the realm of cost associated with lawyer services, but are necessary to successfully litigate a case. Expenses can include, but are not limited to:
- Administrative expenses (copies, filing, packaging, postage, and delivery)
- Court filing fees
- Court reporter fees
- Court transcripts
- Document recovery
- Deposition fees
- Expert witness review and expense
- Medical exams
- Medical record recovery
- Summons and subpoena fees
- Travel expenses
In addition to the costs of the case, the fee structure should outline when and how payment is to be made.
How is compensation awarded?
Awards or settlements are often packaged in an investment vehicle, such as an annuity, to provide tax protections for the funds received. Special needs trusts may be devised to protect assets, provide structure, document preferences, and provide for contingencies unique to a child with special needs.
Before an arrangement is agreed upon, parents should consult a tax advisor, estate planner, or financial planner to take advantage of tax benefits, asset protection, wills and trusts, and address other concerns that protect and secure a child’s future care. These advisors may have advice that can actually enhance settlement talks.
Our firm understands that you are struggling with the events that have occurred and their impact on your child. Stern Law, PLLC has the extensive resources to zealously pursue justice for your child and the compassion to work closely with you to ensure your needs are met during such a difficult time. Please call (800) 462-5772 to discuss aspects of your case for free.