These days finding the right lawyer is becoming increasingly difficult. For instance hip implant lawyers in Miami are all over the place, with nonstop adverting on billboards, bus benches and television stations. The advertisements are easy to ignore until the time comes when you need help and have to hire the right lawyer.
We often receive calls from clients who have hired some Florida law firm that handles accidents but are now unhappy with the representation. Many simply want to know if and how to change attorneys in the middle of a case. Just like doctors who have poor “bedside manner”–there are lawyers who simply do not know how to meet their client’s expectations. In these situations, changing lawyers is quite common.
From the very beginning of the relationship, we work hard to communicate how the claims process works, the amount of time a typical case will take and when we could expect the case to resolve. It is important to establish the expectations and then manage them throughout the litigation. Occasionally when we are unable to meet our client’s expectations for whatever reason, we urge them to seek the opinion of another lawyer. We believe that no matter what, the client must feel as though they are in the hands of a lawyer they can trust and who believes in their case.
In Florida, virtually every personal injury lawyer works on what is called a contingency basis. In other words, they get paid if and only if a case concludes. There are some very specific guidelines mandated by the Florida Bar governing how a Florida personal injury lawyer works on a contingency. The most important factor is to understand the difference between a contingency fee (work done by the lawyer) and the case costs (filing fees, depositions, experts and exhibits).
In a Florida medical malpractice case, lawyers who represent the injured patient and their family are limited by Article 1, Section 26 of the Florida Constitution in the amount of their contingency fee. The Amendment was designed to discourage many of Florida’s best medical malpractice lawyers from suing doctors and hospitals. In fact, Florida’s Constitution mandates that the patient’s lawyer cannot charge more than 30% of the first $250,000 and 90% of all damages over $250,000 excluding costs.
Many malpractice lawyers in Florida cannot afford to take complex medical malpractice cases against hospitals and doctors based on the Constitutional limitation. Interestingly, there is no limit on the amount that a defendant doctor, hospital or urgent care center can pay their lawyers to defend them.
To get around this unfair attempt to prevent injured patients from getting the best representation, many medical malpractice law firms in Florida advise their clients of their right to waive the fee limit. Clients have the right to discuss the waiver with another lawyer or even ask a Judge to explain it. Waivers must contain the following information:
- You understand that signing the waiver releases an important constitutional right.
- You were advised that you could speak to a separate and independent attorney before you signed.
- You may ask to have a hearing before a judge to explain the waiver.
- You have selected the lawyer.
- You would not be able to hire the attorney unless you waived your constitutional right.
Two of the other more common types of legal fees permitted in Florida are fixed fees and hourly fees. Fixed fees are usually done in situations where the legal work required is not very complicated – such as drafting a will, setting up an Estate or in a typical real estate transaction. For example, my office commonly works with outside law firms on a fixed fee basis when we have to create an Estate for a wrongful death case or a Guardianship for the settlement of a child’s injury case.
An hourly charge is where a lawyer or law firm bills a client for the amount of time spent handling a particular matter. These lawyers sometimes will bill down to the minute for any work, including literally thinking about the client’s case. Most of the doctors, hospitals and insurance company’s we sue are represented by lawyers who charge an hourly rate.
I often believe there is an inherent conflict of interest when, for example, we have sued an uninsured plastic surgeon who is represented by a lawyer charging by the hour. The doctor may want to resolve the claim, but the lawyer wants the case to continue. It is often a cruel irony for many surgeons who only get paid by the patients they cut, rather than the ones they refuse to operate on.
In conclusion, the single most important recommendation in hiring a lawyer is to find one that authentically and passionately represents your best interest.