That is a a fairly reasonable contingency fee. However, a lawyer has no authority to settle without your permission.
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I am a bit unclear as to what happened. You hired a lawyer for a personal injury case and then had no contact with him for three years? Did you call? Did you write or email the lawyer? Why didn't you fire the lawyer after there was no contact for one year? It is within your power to walk away and find another lawyer.
I don't know the fee structure in PA, but in New York the max contingency fee is 33 1/3%. Medical malpractice fees are less; they are on a sliding scale downward starting at 30%. It the award was $5000 and no disbursements were deducted from that total, $1500 represents a fee of 30%, which is quite reasonable as far as contingency fees are concerned.
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The lawyers' legal fee must be set in writing. If you have an questions about his legal fee, ask to see the retainer statement. The retainer statement is the contract between the client and the attorney.
As for settling your case, a lawyer cannot settle your case without your approval.
See my answer and comments to the other posting of this question. As I said there, a solution to this situation is not going to come from this written Q & A on a public website. You need to talk privately with one or more qualified civil attorneys about this is your concerns are not met satisfactorily by current counsel.
The sad thing is that most personal injury lawyers in Philadelphia deduct a 40-45% contingency fee. My top-rated firm finds this reprehensible, which is why we deduct 29% with no costs. My firm feels that a clients shouldn't be hurt twice, once in the accident, and the second time by the astronomical fee. Imagine if your real estate agent deducted a 40-45% fee with costs.
40% is not unheard of as a legal fee, though in Mississippi if a case is settled the standard rate is 33.3%, and if it is tried then it is 40% of the total settlement. Regardless of where the percentages fall for the legal fees, your attorney does not have the right to settle your case without your consent. If you have not signed a Release Agreement, my advice to you is to seek legal advice from a different attorney and wait to sign any agreements until you know all of the facts of your case, including the attorney's legal fees.
Some of your question is unclear to me, that is the portion about your company. Lets see if I can figure out some of the facts. Your were hurt while in the course of your employment by someone else though perhaps your employer was somehow negligent in causing your injury. Your employer through its workers compensation carrier paid some of your bills. You hired an attorney to recover for your injury and damages.
First, in Pennsylvania you cannot sue your employer for an injury even if the employer was negligent. You are limited--again, against your employer to make a workers compensation claim--which essentially gets you two thirds of your wage and your medical expense. If you also sue someone else for the injury, the workers compensation carrier is entitled to be paid back--by state law--for a good portion of what was paid to you.
Now with regard to your lawyer, 40% is a very common fee. When I got out of lawsuit in 1985, 40% was a standard fee. The amount of the fee does not surprise me. What does surprise me is that the fee is a surprise to you. Any fee must be in writing and you must sign the fee agreement. The attorney after the fact can't just tell you the fee is 40%. If you did not sign a fee agreement then the fee is not 40% and you can challenge the fee and I feel you will be successful and the amount you pay in a fee will be much less. Demand to see the fee agreement you signed. If your attorney cannot produce it he has a big problem. Also he cannot just call you and say the case settled for whatever. You must agree to the settlement amount. Again, if he does not have your permission to settle, he has a big problem.
Also, in a personal injury case, you will have to sign a release usually prepared by the other side that basically says you agree to end the case and you agree to accept the settlement amount. If you did not agree to the settlement you can refuse to sign the release. If you do not sign the release the other side will file a motion with the court to enforce the settlement. Your lawyer will have tell the court why you are not signing. A hearing may be necessary where you will testify that you gave no permission to settle the case and you can add that you had no agreement to pay your lawyer 40%.
Let me add more--typically the lawyer pursuant to the agreement can deduct expenses from your share--for example, the court filing fees, expenses for getting your medical records and reports, the costs of depositions, etc. Also, he is required by law to deduct any liens such as worker compensation benefits you received.
One more thought, as opposed to what another contributor told you I do not find 40% to be excessive. It is a significant sum but the lawyer in a contingent fee case bears a lot of risk. If the case is not successful, he/she gets nothing and is out all of the expenses paid to prepare the case. These cases are always difficult. Insurance companies do not as a rule do what is right and pay what is owed. They sometimes fight even the clearest cases, with bogus defenses. My standard fee is 40% but if there is a quick recovery or one that did not take a lot of work, I cut my fee without the client even asking.
Not sure I understand your question, but in California many attorney charge 40% at some stage of litigation, depending on the retainer agreement.
This is not intended to be legal advise or as legal representation. I am a California personal injury attorney . Be aware that every state has its own statute of limitations; and statutes & case laws that govern the handling of these matters.
40% is not uncommon as a fee in a personal injury case. I have seen some lawyers charge as high as 50%. However, an experienced lawyer who is fair minded will evaluate the level of difficulty and costs necessary to handle whatever kind of case they are presented with. No matter what the fee, it must be in writing and the attorney should make sure that the client understands what it is. If you are not even sure if this person is a lawyer, contact the bar and find out. The other portion of your post seems to imply that you were injured in the course and scope of your employment and if that is the case, typically, you cannot sue your employer. In addition, lawyers fees in workers compensation cases are much less than 40%. Last, it is particularly upsetting to hear that a lawyer took a fee which was thousands more than what the client ended up with. Only in the most extreme cases does that happen. Normally, the money is simply split.