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Contingency Fee Arrangements in Personal Injury Cases


Contingency fees in personal injury cases in New York are strictly regulated by law, and by the courts. Except in very small cases, the maximum contingency fee that can be charged in a personal injury case of any kind is one-third of the net recovery. “Net recovery” means the recovery after disbursements are deducted and repaid.  Disbursements are costs of litigation paid to others, and may include court filing fees, court reporters’ charges, costs of obtaining records, and fees of experts. Disbursements are generally advanced by the attorney. Here is an example of a contingent fee calculation: Recovery is $100,000; attorney advanced disbursements of $10,000; net recovery is $90,000; attorney’s fee is 1/3 or $30,000. Advanced disbursements are repaid to attorney. The result: client receives $60,000.

Attorney Disbursements & Liens

In most cases McCarthy Fingar does not seek repayment of disbursements that we advance unless the case results in a recovery. If the case results in a recovery, the client will be charged interest on the amount advanced for disbursements. In certain cases, clients may be asked to bear some or all of the disbursements. In many cases, the client is legally responsible to repay certain medical expenses. These claims are called liens, and must be paid by the client. The most common liens are for expenses paid by Social Security and Workers Compensation. Liens do not affect the legal fee.

Medical Malpractice Cases & Representing Minors & Estates

The contingent fee may be lower than one-third in certain cases. In medical malpractice cases, the fee is based on a sliding scale and can be considerably less than one-third. In medical malpractice cases, a fee up to one-third can only be charged with court approval, which is rarely sought and not always granted. Contingent fees and disbursements in cases brought on behalf of minors and decedents’ estates are subject to review and approval of the court.

Additional Fees

The contingent fee generally only applies to legal services rendered up to the point that a case is settled or judgment is entered after trial. In well over 90% of all cases we have handled, there are no additional fees. However, fees for appeals are separate and apart from the contingent fee and require a new retainer agreement. Fees for appeals are not contingent on the outcome of the matter. Such fees may be based on a flat fee or hourly charges. The attorney may agree to defer payment of fees for appeals to the end of the case, or even absorb the cost of the appeal if the case is unsuccessful. In some cases, some of the costs of the appeal will be payable in advance. In rare cases, there is no insurance company to pay a judgment. In such cases, further legal action may be needed to collect the judgment from a defendant’s personal assets, and a separate fee is charged for such collection efforts.


The above is general information concerning financial arrangements between McCarthy Fingar and its clients and does not create an attorney-client relationship. Specific fee arrangements may vary from case to case, and are always based upon written agreements between McCarthy Fingar and the client. McCarthy Fingar reserves the right to decline any potential legal matter.

Contact Us

Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. If you think you may require the assistance of McCarthy Fingar's Medical Malpractice & Personal Injury group, contact Joseph J. Brophy by email (jbrophy@mccarthyfingar.com) or by phone (914-385-1021) with any question you may have.