Smithers, WV asked in Personal Injury for West Virginia

Q: When you hire a lawyer for an injury case, does the client pay for any Dr. to come and testify on my behalf? or who pays

Also, once you hire an Attorney for the 33.1/3% are they to tack additional fees like money for research from like West Law? because I have many many charges for them some were over $800. at one time then there were $200. and the some, plus I had to pay for my Dr $5000. to come to testify for me, and when we had run out of time and he didn't get to even testify till the next day, I had to pay him again an additional $2500, is this legal for him to change me to have him come 2 times even though it wan't my fault he had to come back, I'm just wondering if I have been used and taken advantage of?

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2 Lawyer Answers
William E. Johnson
William E. Johnson
Answered
  • West Palm Beach, FL

A: Look to your initial contract that you signed with your attorney. It should specify when and where the costs should be deducted.

Jonathan Craig Reed
Jonathan Craig Reed
Answered

A: Expert witnesses charges are a very unpleasant part of the personal injury practice. I have been the lawyer in the situation you have described: a high priced expert witness comes to town to testify on day 3 of the trial and the trial goes slower, or the judge breaks early and now the high priced expert charges for the second day. Trouble, is, without the high priced expert the case might not be winnable.

Of course, this is why we like to settle our cases if we can get a decent settlement rather than try them. Unfortunately, sometimes you just can't get a decent settlement so you have to go trial (with all of the expenses of trial) or give up.

Most contingency fee agreements provide that the lawyer advances the costs and the client pay them in addition to the percentage fee.

Although I don't know all of the facts of the case I am tempted to say you should be glad that you had a lawyer who was at least willing to advance the costs.

Finally, there is the issue of what you netted versus the lawyer's fees (not costs and fees). Some lawyers voluntarily promise their clients that they will not take a fee larger than what the client nets. However, this is a matter of personal preference and, as far as I know, is not required by any rule of professional conduct in any state.

Unless a trial results in a super large verdict that is collectible, trials are usually "lost leaders" for plaintiff personal injury law firms. In other words, when you consider the money the lawyer must advance, and the time taken to prepare for and win a trial (and all the time that goes into all the pre-trial motions and discovery that the client is often unaware of) the lawyer does not usually come out with a great return on his or her time or money. Rather we take cases to trial, in most cases, because we feel the case is worth more than the insurance company is offering. We would love to get fair settlement offers in all of our cases so that we aren't paying a doctor $7,500 to come to court or getting all ready for a trial only to have the court postpone the trial a year. And, of course, most clients would love to get a fair settlement offer rather than have their case drag on for years.

Also, many plaintiff personal injury lawyers escalate their fee beyond 33.33% if the case goes to trial. I don't do that but the first firm that I ever worked for as a lawyer escalated the fee to 45% if the case went to trial.

All, in all, I hope you got a decent net recovery.

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