Legal Fees In Wrongful Death

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Legal Fees In Wrongful Death

About 7 years ago, my niece died from a blood clot. She had a disabled daughter who is 16 years old today. When the child was only a few years old, the father was incarcerated and is still in jail today. So the child has multiple disabilities and is without biological parents. She currently lives with my sister who is her greataunt. A couple of years ago, a lawyer started pursuing a wrongful death claim. I’m not sure how he was contacted or selected but it appears there is a settlement. I had an opportunity to review the settlement. The total is $500,000 and the lawyer is receiving about %150,000. His itemized bill shows only about 40 hours of work but the bulk of the fee is a standard 1/3 roughly. It appears the judge has assigned a law guardian for the child. Can the law guardian request a different fee for the lawyer? The sum of $150,000 for 40 hours of work seems excessive. I’m not saying not to pay the lawyer a fair rate but the child is disabled.

Asked on September 28, 2016 under Malpractice Law, New York

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

It is unlikely that the fee can be renegotiated because it was agreed to in a retainer agreement with the attorney.
In these types of cases, the attorney charges a contingency fee (percentage of recovery) instead of an hourly rate.  If nothing had been recovered, the attorney would not have received any compensation.  That is the risk with contingency fees.
The guardian ad litem, appointed by the judge, will represent the child's interests in the case because she is a minor.


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