Is the fee my attorney charging fair?

It’s amazing how often some asks us, is the fee my lawyer charging me fair? Obviously, each story is a little different. Because this web site is dedicated to Utah Personal Injuries, we’ll hit a few issues that come up frequently.

  1. The standard fee in a Utah Personal Injury case is 33.33%. Obviously, that’s not always the case. A few years ago, a guy tried to break into the market by running a yellow page ad advertising 25%. He’s no longer n business. Some attorneys charge higher, maybe 40%, 45% or even 50%. The higher fees usually come into play when the lawyer must do extra work, such as going to trial, appealing a case or hiring an out of State law firm for help (usually in product liability cases). Medical malpractice cases are capped by statute at 33.33%.
  2. Attorneys should not take a percentage of PIP benefits except in rare cases. The reason for this is that the attorney doesn’t really need to do much work to get PIP benefits for the client. Several years ago, the Utah Bar published an ethics decision saying it is almost always unethical when a lawyer charges a percentage of PIP benefits. This is because the fee is excessive. The only time it is allowed is when the attorney is forced to do something extraordinary to get the PIP benefits.
  3. Attorneys should not double dip. It’s amazing to us that attorneys even try to do this. In our view it is dishonest and unethical. What the attorney does is charge once for the recovery and a second time for a reduction in a lien or payoff to a provider. That’s double dipping and wrong. Here’s an example. A lawyer gets a $100,000 settlement for a client. The client owes a subrogation lien of $20,000. The attorney gets the subroation lien reduced to $14,000. The attorney charges $33,000 as 1/3 of the $100,000 plus an extra $2,000 for reducing the subroation lien by $2,000. This raises the fee to $35,000 or 35% of the total recovery. This is wrong. The total fee should not exceed $33,000.