Fee Agreements In CT Personal Injury Cases

There are two types of fee agreements in CT personal injury cases. The first is a statutory agreement. The other is a statutory waiver. This post explains the difference between the two types of agreements.

When someone gets injured their world gets turned upside down. Suddenly the hospital is asking you to sign papers. Lots of papers. Financial responsibility papers. And that’s just the hospital.

There are calls from insurance companies. And people you have never heard of threatening that if you don’t pay they’ll send you to collections.

You didn’t sign up for any of this. Your life turned on a dime when someone decided looking at their phone was more important than keeping their eyes on the road.

The good news is that many CT injury firms like ours – operate on contingency fee agreements. Meaning there’s no money up front. We only get paid when we recover money for you. This keeps the doors of the courthouse open to the injured.

You think about getting a lawyer. But where to turn? The internet is spammed with people wanting to help you. And how do you pay for a lawyer? What are fee agreements in CT personal injury cases?

Here is what you need to know:

Fee Agreements In CT Personal Injury Cases Must Be In Writing And Signed

A lawyer in CT cannot receive a fee in a personal injury case if the agreement is not in writing and signed by the client. You should never feel pressured to sign a fee agreement with an attorney. You have the right to read it over and asked questions.

The Statutory Fee Agreement

The language below is taken right out of our firm’s standard statutory fee agreement (though we call them client agreements).  This agreement is set by Connecticut General Statute 52-251c.

Agreement . This is an agreement between the attorney and the client. The client hires the attorney to represent the client with respect to (a)_______  that occurred on _______________.

Expenses . The client will pay for all expenses. The client will reimburse the attorney for all expenses advanced by the attorney. “Expenses” include court fees, investigation expenses, expert fees and all other necessary costs. The expenses are in addition to the legal fees.

Legal Fees  The “gross recovery” includes all money that is collected (recovered) from others arising from the matter(s) described in Section III. The legal fees shall be based upon the gross recovery of any award, verdict or settlement arising from the matter(s) as follows:

Thirty Three (33%) percent of the gross recovery. It is also understood that the following fees are in effect for all sums recovered, by settlement or verdict, in excess of $300,000.00:

Twenty five (25%) percent of any award or settlement in excess of Three Hundred Thousand ($300,000.00) up to Six Hundred Thousand ($600,000.00) Dollars;

Twenty (20%) percent of the next Three Hundred Thousand ($300,000.00) Dollars;

Fifteen (15%) percent of the next Three Hundred Thousand ($300,000.00) dollars; and

Ten (10%) percent of any amount which exceeds One Million Two Hundred Thousand ($1,200,000.00) Dollars.

The Statutory Waiver Agreement

In complicated cases, an attorney may ask for a “Statutory Waiver Agreement”. The statutory waiver agreement waives the limitations set forth by the statutory agreement and will entitle the attorney or law firm up the a fee of 33% of gross amount recovered.

When Does A Statutory Waiver Agreement Apply?

The statute makes it clear that it should only apply to complex claims:

Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (b) of this section, a claimant may waive the percentage limitations of said subsection if the claim or civil action is so substantially complex, unique or different from other wrongful death, personal injury or property damage claims or civil actions as to warrant a deviation from such percentage limitations. Factors that may indicate that a claim or civil action is substantially complex, unique or different from other wrongful death, personal injury or property damage claims or civil actions include, but are not limited to, if the claim or civil action (1) involves complex factual medical or legal issues, (2) involves serious permanent personal injury or death, (3) is likely to require extensive investigation and discovery proceedings, including multiple depositions, or (4) requires independent expert witness testimony. For the purposes of this subsection, “independent expert witness testimony” means testimony, whether at trial or in a deposition, from an expert who has not participated in the care of the claimant and has not participated in any official investigation of the incident involved.

What Are The Requirements For A Statutory Waiver Agreement?

There are very specific steps that an attorney must do to obtain a statutory waiver agreement from a client. The are spelled out by statute:

(d) Prior to a claimant entering into a contingency fee agreement that provides for a fee that exceeds the percentage limitations of subsection (b) of this section, the attorney shall (1) explain the percentage limitations of subsection (b) of this section to the claimant and the reasons the attorney is unable to abide by those limitations; (2) advise the claimant of the claimant’s right to seek representation by another attorney willing to abide by the percentage limitations of subsection (b) of this section; and (3) allow the claimant a sufficient period of time to review the proposed contingency fee agreement and, if the claimant wishes, seek representation by another attorney prior to entering into such agreement.

(e) No waiver of the percentage limitations of subsection (b) of this section shall be valid unless the contingency fee agreement (1) is in writing, (2) sets forth in full the fee schedule of subsection (b) of this section, (3) contains a conspicuous statement, printed in boldface type at least twelve points in size, in substantially the following form: “I UNDERSTAND THAT THE FEE SCHEDULE SET FORTH IN SECTION 52-251c OF THE CONNECTICUT GENERAL STATUTES LIMITS THE AMOUNT OF ATTORNEY’S FEES PAYABLE BY A CLAIMANT AND THAT THE STATUTE WAS INTENDED TO INCREASE THE PORTION OF THE JUDGMENT OR SETTLEMENT THAT WAS ACTUALLY RECEIVED BY A CLAIMANT. NOTWITHSTANDING THAT THE LEGISLATIVE INTENT IN ENACTING THAT FEE SCHEDULE WAS TO CONFER A BENEFIT ON A CLAIMANT LIKE MYSELF, I KNOWINGLY AND VOLUNTARILY WAIVE THAT FEE SCHEDULE IN THIS CLAIM OR CIVIL ACTION.”, and (4) is signed and acknowledged by the claimant before a notary public or other person authorized to take acknowledgments.

What Are The Differences?

Basically in a big case a statutory waiver agreement will result in a larger fee to the lawyer or law firm. This may be necessary for a firm to economically justify the expense and risk of the litigation.

For the client, an attorney cannot seek costs if no recovery is made in a statutory waiver case. The attorney is responsible in the event of no recovery not the client. Without the statutory waiver it is the client who is responsible for costs in the event of no recovery. Here are common costs in CT personal injury cases. 

Different firms have different policies on this. It is our belief that the language is required to seek costs from the client, however it is our decision whether or not to pursue a client. We don’t pursue our clients for costs in the event of no recovery.

If you have any questions please call  us (860) 471-8333.

Ryan McKeen is a trial attorney at Connecticut Trial Firm, LLC in Glastonbury, Connecticut. In 2016, he was honored by the CT Personal Injury Hall of Fame for securing one of the highest settlements in the state. He is a New Leader in the Law. ABA 100. Avvo 10. 40 under 40 for Hartford Business Journal. He has been quoted in Time Magazine, the New York Times, Hartford Courant, Wall Street Journal Law Blog and the Hartford Business Journal. He focuses his practice on Connecticut Personal Injury law. He loves what he does. Contact him ryan@cttrialfirm.com or 860 471 8333