Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Nov 13, 2014

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Having qualified representation in any claim can put your mind at ease, but especially in Veterans’ Administration (VA) medical malpractice claims where following procedures and overcoming government bureaucracy can often make or break a claim.

Finding a Qualified Attorney

While an injured veteran can certainly hire any lawyer to represent him in a VA medical malpractice case, the truth is that this area of the law is highly specialized. In a recent interview, Joe Callahan, a Virginia attorney and retired naval officer who represents injured veterans and military dependants in medical malpractice claims against the Veterans’ Administration, explained why someone is better off to hire an attorney with experience in VA claims as opposed to a general practice attorney:

Practice under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) can be a procedural nightmare for attorneys who don’t regularly work in the area. Attorneys representing veterans injured by medical negligence need to understand medicine and surgery, the law applicable to medical malpractice, the policies of the VA’s and Justice Department’s claims processing systems, and the procedures of federal courts. They must also understand the issues involved in even getting a potentially successful FTCA claim off the ground. Few attorneys or law firms in the United States can claim expertise in all of these areas. Our firm can.

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How Are Attorneys Compensated in VA Claims?

Attorneys representing injured veterans generally work on a contingency fee basis. Their fees, which are generally less than those in the private sector, are based on the requirements of the FTCA. Callahan explained:

In our firm, our fees in all cases against the VA and military clinics are contingent. That means that the veteran pays no fee up front, and only pays a fee if we make a recovery on their behalf. Our contingency fees in cases against the federal government are in line with the requirements of the FTCA. The Act allows for attorney fees in the amount of 20% of the veteran’s total recovery if the claim is settled during an administrative phase. If the claim has to go into litigation, then our fee is 25% of the total recovery.

Regardless of who a veteran hires to bring a claim under the FTCA, they should make sure that the attorney going forward on their behalf understands and acknowledges up-front the limits on attorney fees set by the FTCA. These fees are markedly less than most attorneys normally expect to collect in a medical malpractice case. Frankly, there are few qualified law firms in the United States willing to extend their services to veterans knowing that they are limited by law to charging those kinds of fees.