When you go to the supermarket, do you know what to expect a gallon of milk to cost? If you are a careful shopper, you should. What about when you go to see a New York personal injury lawyer? Do you know?
First, you need to understand some basic concepts. The “gross recovery” in a personal injury case means the full amount of money the insurance company pays to settle the claim or to satisfy the judgment after trial. The “net recovery” means the insurance company’s payment minus expenses. The “expenses” on a personal injury are all the monies your attorney pays to others to perform services to move your claim forward. Such expenses include, for example, the money he pays to the process server to serve the claim, Court filing fees, expert fees, and copying expenses.
New York law allows a New York personal injury attorney to charge a maximum of 1/3 the “net” recovery. For example, if you settle your case for $100,000 and there were $10,000 in expenses, your attorney should charge you 1/3 of $90,000, which amounts to $30,000. This leaves you with $60,000. This is the law in New York State.
Any New York personal injury attorney who tries to charge you 1/3 of the gross recovery is breaking the law. And I have seen lawyers do this! I have reviewed retainer agreements for New York personal injury cases in which the lawyer charges “1/3 the recovery plus expenses”. In a case that settles for $100,000, in which there were $10,000 in expenses, this lawyer will take $33,333 in fees, charge all the expenses to you, and leave you with only $56,666.
Generally these illegal retainer agreements are prepared by New York lawyers who only “dabble” in personal injury law. They don’t know what they are doing. I don’t think it is deliberate. The rules in other States are different. Many States allow attorneys to charge 1/3 of the gross recovery and have the client foot the full bill for all the expenses. So maybe these New York lawyers are copying and pasting from retainer agreements from another States.
A New York lawyer who claims to handle personal injury cases but doesn’t even know what he can charge doesn’t inspire much confidence, now does he? That’s just another reason why you should hire only a New York personal injury lawyer who handles a high volume of personal injury cases. Your case is too valuable to have some attorney “learn the ropes” on your case. Let him cut his teeth on a less careful shopper’s case!
Hope this was helpful.
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org I’d love to hear from you!
Michael G. Bersani, Esq.
michaels-smolak.com Central NY Personal Injury Lawyer Michaels & Smolak, P.C.