Plaintiffs’ attorneys who represent minors and disabled clients on a contingency fee basis allege that judges often undermine their fee agreements, retroactively reducing contingencies and possibly discouraging attorneys from taking on cases involving children or the disabled. In the article “Plaintiffs’ Attorneys Complain of Slashed Fees,” Daily Journal turned to Partner Bruce Brusavich to weigh in on this issue.
Courts are required to approve attorney fees in cases involving minors or disabled clients, as they can be more vulnerable to exploitation than other groups. However, Brusavich believes that reducing the contingency fees that attorneys and clients agree upon can make attorneys reluctant to represent minors and disabled victims at all.
“These cases are typically challenging, as there is often no baseline education or work history to easily project future loss of earning capacity,” Brusavich said. “Defense lawyers do not work at discounted rates, and insurance companies don’t rush to pay or settle these types of cases. Courts have unfortunately been impeding the ability of these personal injury victims to obtain quality legal representation.”
Brusavich was a member of the working group that drafted the 2010 revision which altered formerly restrictive contingency fee rules; the new rules state that judges must apply reasonable fee standards, rather than enforcing locally-mandated maximums. However, many judges still refuse to approve contingency fees that exceed the outdated local maximums.