{ "media_type": "text", "post_content": "My significant other was injured and we retained a PI attorney. The retainer agreement says his rate is 33.33% but if a complaint is filed, the rate goes up to 40%. We settled before a complaint was filed. We received the draft settlement agreement and it’s one page 😳 and it only stated the total settlement, it didn’t specify the division of money between counsel and “plaintiff” (in quotes because no complaint, just a letter). We asked our attorney to make some changes, including specifying …", "post_id": "6101a8a9dd671e0028c1cc7e", "reply_count": 19, "vote_count": 1, "bowl_id": "552d1d24dc1c586b09d2d052", "bowl_name": "Law" }

My significant other was injured and we retained a PI attorney. The retainer agreement says his rate is 33.33% but if a complaint is filed, the rate goes up to 40%. We settled before a complaint was filed. We received the draft settlement agreement and it’s one page 😳 and it only stated the total settlement, it didn’t specify the division of money between counsel and “plaintiff” (in quotes because no complaint, just a letter). We asked our attorney to make some changes, including specifying …

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I did insurance defense in CA for many years and it is common for the release to be signed by the claimant only. I’ve also never seen a release detailing the claimant attorney’s fee structure. The bait-and-switch on the percentage is certainly uncalled for, but that is a separate issue between you and your attorney which the insurance company is not privy to.

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Continued - specifying the split of costs. Now the attorney is saying that his rate is 40% not 33%. We sent him a copy of the retainer agreement highlighting the language that clearly says his rate is 33.33%. Not only is this a major pain in the ass because I have my own billables to worry about but now I’m arguing with the person we retained to help us. Pending his response, is this an issue for the disciplinary board? Thanks.

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Currently handling an appeal dealing with this exact issue and yes it went to a disciplinary board. Feel free to PM me if you have specific questions.

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I do insurance defense. When closing out a claim, at least in KY, there are usually 3 main documents: A release, Agreed Order Dismissing (if it is in litigation) , and a settlement statement. The release usually between the insurance company on behalf of their insured and claimant releasing the insured of any claims arising from the incident for all eternity. AOD is signed by plaintiffs and defense counsel and entered by the court after the judge signs. The settlement statement is an agreement between the plaintiffs lawyer and the client that lays out clients portion, lien holders portion, and attorneys fees and costs. This should provide a breakdown that you are likely looking for. If the plaintiffs lawyer is changing his share then get it in writing like the other post said. Worst comes to worst file a bar complaint. They usually mediate these thing.

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I don’t have a comment on the potential ethics issue, but was the settlement with an insurance company? I settled a PI case (handled myself) and the settlement agreement was a standard one from the insurance company that was only one page. I was shocked at how basic it was - it didn’t even include confidentiality language.

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I have never seen a contingency fee referenced in a settlement agreement between litigants /potential litigants. If the attorney pays himself the contested portion of the fee he or she risks serious disciplinary fall out.

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We’ve drafted settlements with the allotment between claimant and attorney before but it was just a flat number. In those instances, we paid the attorney directly and the claimant directly rather than paying attorney then attorney paying claimant remainder. Sorry you’re dealing with this!!

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The disciplinary authority in my jurisdiction is quick to dismiss a complaint as a “fee dispute.” For example, if the client fires the lawyer, and there’s a disagreement as to how much of a flat fee was earned before the representation ended, that’ll likely be dismissed. But if the fee agreement says the contingency fee is X% before a complaint is filed, and the attorney is now trying to impose a higher rate when it’s clear nothing was ever filed… I suspect that’d be enough to trigger an investigation.

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That’s correct - Thank you!

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Thanks for the insight!! We are located in PA. No complaint was filed so there’s no judge involved yet. Since I do defense work I’m not involved with contingency fees, and in our settlement agreements we specify the total amount of settlement, and then a breakdown of what is sent to plaintiffs counsel and what is sent to Plaintiff. Definitely not going to engage in phone calls. Thanks again!

The settlement statement should also address any expenses. Look at your representation agreement regarding that as well. Some settlement agreements include language and the breakdown regarding payment to attorney and client so there are separate checks. Also, make sure the agreement shows the payment is for personal injury so the agreement shows the settlement is not taxable as income to you. Deal with lawyer in writing.

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