Kansas Car Crash Attorney Explains Recent Supreme Court Ruling Regarding Contingency Fees

You may have heard or seen the advertisements: “Legal representation with no upfront cost!  We don’t get paid unless you get paid!” These lawyer and law firm advertisements attempt to attract potential clients by promising to work under what is known as a contingency-fee agreement. In a contingency-fee agreement, the lawyer agrees to defer assessment of any attorneys’ fees he or she might otherwise be entitled to receive unless and until the lawyer is successful in obtaining a monetary judgment in favor of the client. In addition to this, such contingency-fee agreements usually calculate the attorneys’ fees not as an hourly rate but as a percentage of the recovery obtained by the attorney. So, for example, if a client recovers $100,000 and the contingency fee agreement he or she has with his or her attorney specifies that the attorney receives 30 percent, the attorney would receive $30,000 in attorneys’ fees.

When a Contingency-Fee Agreement Does Not Cover All Contingencies

What happens when a lawyer signs a contingency-fee agreement with a personal injury attorney and performs work for the client but then is fired by the client before he or she recovers any compensation? One might be tempted to think that, because the fired attorney did not recover any compensation for the client, the attorney is then not entitled to any fees at all. The Kansas Supreme Court disagrees, however, and expressed its view in Consolver v. Hotez et al., a decision released earlier this month.

In Consolver, the injury plaintiff and appellant Consolver signed a contingency-fee agreement with a law firm. The agreement did not specify whether the attorney working on her case would receive any fees at all in the event the attorney was fired before a resolution of the case. Consolver eventually fired her attorney and retained new counsel who settled her personal injury case for $360,000. The trial court believed Consolver’s initial counsel was entitled to nearly $100,000 in fees and expenses, but the Court of Appeals disagreed with this conclusion.

Quantum Merit and Your Personal Injury Lawsuit

The Kansas Supreme Court overturned the Court of Appeals, holding that principles of quantum merit require that the initial attorney be compensated a reasonable amount for services he rendered to Consolver. (Quantum merit is a legal principle that essentially holds that in certain circumstances a person ought to be reasonably compensated for the value of his or her services.) Because the initial lawyer had performed services that were ultimately of value to Consolver, the attorney ought to be fairly compensated.

What This Means for Your Car Crash Lawsuit

Individuals who are injured in a car crash (or other accident) in Kansas should be cautious when entering into a contingency-fee arrangement with an attorney. Specifically, the decision in Consolver should cause clients to review their contingency-fee agreements carefully before signing. If the agreement does not address certain circumstances (such as you firing your attorney for cause or the attorney withdrawing from your case without a valid and substantial reason for so doing), you may find that your recovery will be substantially reduced due to paying for at least two attorneys’ reasonable fees.

Michael R. Lawless, Kansas Car Crash Attorney, is committed to working diligently on behalf of clients and keeping his or her clients engaged in the recovery process so as to minimize dissatisfaction and confusion over the status of your case. Michael R. Lawless is a proactive and dedicated advocate, representing your legal interests in court and out of course with professionalism and vigor. Contact Michael R. Lawless to discuss your Kansas injury case today by calling (800) 734-3771.

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