FAQ

What sort of fees do you charge? (4)

What sort of fee arrangement does MWL use for insurance defense/coverage matters?

Matthiesen, Wickert & Lehrer, S.C. (MWL) believes it is important to offer a fee structure that makes sense given the size of the file, nature of the lien, and complexity of the case. We continue to offer hourly rates for insurance defense matters far below the industry average. This is just another way in which MWL strives to set itself apart from other insurance litigation firms and provide top-notch representation at a fair and reasonable price.

You are not charged for the traditional “overhead-type expenses” such as long distance telephone calls, facsimile charges, routine duplicating costs, and routine postage expenses, which are ordinarily necessary in the handling and development of any litigation matter, which many other firms do charge.

What fee arrangement does MWL use for subrogation?

Our National Subrogation Recovery Program allows us to keep costs down for the client. We evaluate each file for recovery potential and then recommend to the client which method of compensation would be most cost-effective to maximize recovery for the client. The recommended fee arrangement is discussed with and approved prior to our handling the file. The most commonly used fee arrangements are contingency and hourly, but there are times, although rare, we may suggest a blended fee, if appropriate. These fees are defined below:

  • Contingency Fee – Typically, this is 25% of the recovery if no suit has been filed or 33 1/3% of the recovery if suit has already been filed. Many of our files are handled on a contingency fee basis.
  • Hourly Fee – An hourly fee arrangement may be recommended if we know that it will take little effort on MWL’s part to bring a reasonable settlement. For example, it wouldn’t be in your best interest to have a $100,000 file handled on a contingency fee when a few phone calls or letters by an MWL attorney will bring about a settlement. Uninsured losses are normally handled hourly. For these types of files, MWL will most often offer to obtain a judgment against the adverse party on your behalf on a time and expense basis, which usually results in fees around $1,750 to $2,500, depending on the venue and cost to obtain, abstract, record, and file a judgment against the adverse party.
  • Blended Fee – This fee is at times suggested if significant investigation needs to be conducted to determine if there is third-party liability or if there are potential problems identified in the file’s initial evaluation, such as spoliation, etc. In these instances, MWL may suggest that the file be handled on a hourly fee to begin with, and, once MWL has the file in order and determines that the file has subrogation potential and should be pursued, the fee arrangement can be switched to a contingency fee, at the above contingency fee rates, with a credit for all hourly fees paid up to the date the fee arrangement is switched to a contingency fee arrangement.

It is MWL’s goal to match the right fee arrangement to each file in order to bring about the best recovery possible for our client. We do this because an insurance company cannot spend itself into a successful subrogation recovery program. Each result must be cost-effective to be successful.

When the client prefers handling of subrogation matters on a contingency fee basis, you receive the same aggressive and quality representation as you would if we were on a time and expense basis, but our fees are calculated on a percentage of the subrogation recovery you receive, plus reasonable expenses.

MWL does enter into exclusive subrogation arrangements with certain clients that allow us to offer lower contingency rates and/or sliding scales. These lower rates are offset by referral of a higher number of cases from a particular client.

Does MWL offer blended/flat or hybrid fee arrangements?

Blended and/or Flat Fees: As part of our continuing effort to hold down fees and facilitate the referral and handling of litigation matters, we recognize that all matters referred to us are not the same and we welcome the opportunity of discussing blended and/or flat fees for particular matters entrusted to us on a case-by-case basis. We will also entertain fee cap agreements, whereby we strive not to exceed a predetermined fee level unless and until you have given us permission to do so. We believe that many fee agreements should be determined on a case-by-case basis based on the facts and circumstances of each matter entrusted to us.

 File Investigation Hybrid Fees:  Many of our clients utilize our firm to conduct investigation of large losses, including fires, catastrophic injuries, and the like. Proper investigation of such losses takes a great deal of time and requires a lot of subrogation experience. The right experts must be engaged and prepared, investigations must be coordinated and scheduled, investigative and attorney/client privileges must be protected, evidence must be identified and preserved so as to avoid the harsh effects of spoliation, and an evaluation of recovery potential must be made and reported to the client. Such complex investigations do not always result in recognition of third-party liability or a subrogation lawsuit being filed. MWL cannot conduct all of such investigations on a contingency fee basis, so we offer a hybrid fee which we feel is fair for both us and our clients. We handle the investigation on our usual low hourly basis. Once we have identified third-party liability or subrogation and file suit, we convert the file to our normal contingency fee, giving our client full credit for all hourly attorneys’ fees incurred to date. In an age when the quality of immediate action and investigation on claims often literally determines the third-party recovery potential, this has become a very popular program with our clients.

Will I be billed for the work of two lawyers when local counsel is utilized?

It depends. If the file is handled hourly, you still receive only one invoice from MWL. That invoice covers the work done by everybody on the file and carefully sets forth all of the work done within the file. All of our local counsel are required by contract to comply with any Litigation Billing Guidelines our clients set forth. Within our National Subrogation Recovery Program, MWL and local counsel do not duplicate any work done on the file. In fact, the work local counsel performs on a particular file is held in check by the oversight, instructions, and involvement of MWL. Because we understand subrogation in the particular state involved – often better than local counsel does – we make sure that the handling of your subrogation files is efficient and cost-effective.

If a file is handled on a contingent fee basis, you pay only one contingent fee. That contingency fee is shared between MWL and local counsel. Contingency fees are  based on established percentages discussed with and approved by the client when the file is originally referred to MWL for handling.

Does MWL's National Subrogation Recovery Program handle matters throughout North America? (2)

How can MWL physically handle files in so many places throughout North America?

MWL is able to effectively handle your matters in all 50 states, Mexico, and Canada through a National Subrogation Recovery Program it has built over the last three decades. This program represents more than 250 insurance carriers, third-party administrators (TPAs), and self-insured entities throughout the country on all lines of subrogation, including personal lines insurance, workers’ comp, fire, group health, casualty, fidelity and surety bonds, auto, inland and ocean marine, ERISA, longshore and harbor workers’ comp, transportation and cargo, aviation, hospital liens, group health and disability, conversion claims, Med Pay, mistaken payment of benefits, and recovery of premiums.

We are often asked if we know of “good subrogation counsel” in various locations throughout North America. The answer is almost always the same: “No.” There are precious few lawyers who thoroughly understand subrogation who can put their knowledge to work for you where you need it. So, rather than settling for a lawyer in a particular location, we bring “good subrogation counsel” to the location you need them by combining our subrogation expertise and the convenience of local counsel. Our contracted local counsel do what we tell them to do and, more importantly, don’t do what we tell them not to do.

MWL is like no national subrogation law firm you’ve worked with before. With a local counsel network of contracted law firms strategically located throughout all 50 states, Mexico, and Canada, we are prepared to tackle your subrogation needs regardless of size, line of insurance, or venue. We are not your typical “file forwarding” firm which, in our opinion, does subrogation an injustice. Rather, we apply our subrogation knowledge, expertise, and experience as the industry leaders in subrogation and our local counsel serve as “boots on the ground” getting pleadings filed and attending routine hearings, etc.

Unlike file forwarding TPA’s, vendors, or law firms, MWL stays heavily involved with each file, from the initial investigation to settlement or verdict. Each of our local counsel have entered into a lengthy contract with MWL which specifies the detail of our relationship, in order to ensure that you receive the same subrogation representation whether your file is being handled in Hungry Horse, Montana, Horsehead, New York, or Deadhorse, Alaska.

What are the benefits of using MWL’s National Subrogation Recovery Program?

There are many benefits of using MWL to handle your subrogation files anywhere in North America. Here are just a few:

  • Free Subrogation Opinions – MWL will review your file and make an assessment based on the liability of the third-party tortfeasor, lien amount, reserve amount, and facts involved, and provide you with a written opinion regarding whether based on all of the subrogation technicalities involved, the matter can be pursued cost-effectively.
  • Subrogation Investigation – MWL plays a key role in conducting subrogation investigations whenever there is a serious injury or a catastrophic loss, by coordinating experts, interviewing witnesses and preserving evidence that is crucial to the success of your subrogation file. Our extensive database numbering more than 25,000 experts, covering all disciplines and price ranges, has been meticulously gathered and archived over the past 35 years, allowing us to recommend to you the best expert at the best price.
  • One-Stop Shop – This means experienced trial lawyers on the phone at a moment’s notice to discuss and advise you on a new file or status of a file, and one point of contact calling for authorization on settlement agreements. It means one law firm handling the day-to-day details of managing hundreds of qualified subrogation counsel across the country for you.
  • Instant Access To Subrogation Resources – MWL has an extensive subrogation research bank consisting of every subrogation case and issue we have ever countered. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel – we have answers to your complicated subrogation questions at our fingertips.
  • No Charge For Routine Overhead Costs – We believe that incidental costs and expenses such as long distance telephone calls, facsimile charges, routine duplicating costs, and routine postage expenses, which are ordinarily necessary in the handling and development of any litigation matter should be considered overhead and these costs are not passed onto our clients.
  • Experience and Results – MWL does not only work for you, we work with you, every step of the way and you will learn something new about subrogation with each file we handle for you. Our goal is to assist you in improving and maximizing your subrogation recoveries in the most aggressive, cost-efficient manner and to make sure you are equipped to deal with the defenses and roadblocks which will ultimately be thrown in your path.

Remember, you cannot spend yourself into a successful subrogation program; the only successful subrogation recovery result is one which is obtained cost-effectively.

How do I refer a file? (6)

How do I refer a file online through the MWL website?

REFERRING A FILE TO MWL HAS NEVER BEEN EASIER. You can access our online file referral feature by clicking on the “Refer A File” button on our homepage. From there, you will be able to  refer a file to MWL in two easy steps directly through our website.

Step One: In this step, you provide your contact information as we will need this information to contact you once your file has been evaluated. You will also select a file “type” (e.g., Workers’ Comp Subrogation, Property Subrogation, Health Insurance Subrogation, etc.) from the drop down menu. The type of file you select determines the File Information requested in Step 2.

Step Two: Here is where you answer a few questions about the file you are referring. This step is more than merely “convenient”. It asks the relevant questions and allows us to hit the ground running once we receive your file. The last part of this step allows you to attach your file, no matter the size, and submit it to MWL for evaluation. Just click the Browse button to select the documents from your system that you want to submit. Submitting documents in this step is optional. If you prefer, you can submit the File Referral Form and then send the file under separate cover in whatever manner you choose. Rest assured that MWL has taken all precautions to ensure that all data and file contents transferred to MWL through this feature is secure and encrypted so that it cannot be read or seen by anyone else.

Once you submit your file using this feature, you will receive an e-mail confirmation that will contain the information you entered into the File Referral Form and a list of the attachments, which can be saved to your computer to be memorialized in your activity log as part of your claim file.

Please Note: Sending a file through our website’s online feature, e-mail, fax, regular mail, or by other means, doesn’t guarantee our retention, as that determination will be made after MWL’s evaluation of the file. Following said evaluation, clients will receive written notification or a phone call from a MWL attorney regarding whether or not MWL will be handling your file. Referral of a file and/or your receipt of our initial receipt acknowledgement e-mail does not, in and of itself, mean that MWL can or will accept the file for handling or that an attorney/client relationship has been established. There may be conflicts which prevent us from accepting a matter or impending deadlines which make it impractical to take legal action in the time remaining. If there are any statutes of limitations, statutes of repose, notice deadlines, filing timelines, etc., which may be applicable to the matter you are referring which are less than thirty (30) days, you must separately bring those to our attention and we must agree to accept the matter notwithstanding such impending filing or notice deadlines, before we can be responsible for protecting your rights. If it is determined by both us, as your attorney, and you, as our client, that this file can and should be pursued, and that a particular fee agreement will be employed, the attorney will confirm and you must acknowledge MWL’s retention and the fee arrangement in writing so there is no confusion as to MWL’s retention or handling of a particular legal matter. Until that takes place, MWL has not entered into an attorney/client relationship with regard to the legal matter sent to us for review and MWL cannot be responsible for any deadlines or the expiration of any critical timelines. 

How long will it take for MWL to acknowledge receipt of my file?

If your file is referred to MWL via our website’s “Refer A File” feature, immediately after you submit the file, you will receive an e-mail confirming that we have received your file and it is in the process of being evaluated for possible handling by MWL.

Upon MWL’s receipt of a new file via regular mail or any other manner, not including our website’s file referral feature, clients are promptly contacted by MWL via e-mail to confirm the file has been received and that it is in the process of being evaluated for possible handling by MWL. This usually occurs within 24 hours of our receipt of the file.

If you refer a file and don’t hear from us within an appropriate amount of time, please contact MWL to ensure we have received your file.

Please Note: Sending a file through our website’s online feature, e-mail, fax, regular mail, or by other means, doesn’t guarantee our retention, as that determination will be made after MWL’s evaluation of the file. Following said evaluation, clients will receive written notification or a phone call from a MWL attorney regarding whether or not MWL will be handling your file. Referral of a file and/or your receipt of our initial receipt acknowledgement e-mail does not, in and of itself, mean that MWL can or will accept the file for handling or that an attorney/client relationship has been established. There may be conflicts which prevent us from accepting a matter or impending deadlines which make it impractical to take legal action in the time remaining. If there are any statutes of limitations, statutes of repose, notice deadlines, filing timelines, etc., which may be applicable to the matter you are referring which are less than thirty (30) days, you must separately bring those to our attention and we must agree to accept the matter notwithstanding such impending filing or notice deadlines, before we can be responsible for protecting your rights. If it is determined by both us, as your attorney, and you, as our client, that this file can and should be pursued, and that a particular fee agreement will be employed, the attorney will confirm and you must acknowledge MWL’s retention and the fee arrangement in writing so there is no confusion as to MWL’s retention or handling of a particular legal matter. Until that takes place, MWL has not entered into an attorney/client relationship with regard to the legal matter sent to us for review and MWL cannot be responsible for any deadlines or the expiration of any critical timelines. 

How do I forward a file to MWL for handling?

MWL recommends that you electronically submit your file via our file referral feature on our website, but files can be forwarded to us in whatever manner you choose. Regular mail is fine, unless there is a statute of limitations issue, in which case we prefer that you electronically submit or overnight it, along with contacting us to inform us that you are sending a file with a statute issue. You can also send files electronically as attachments to e-mails, although you should always follow up with us to be certain we received your e-mail, especially those with large attachments as there is always a chance it can end up in a spam folder. If referring or sending files via e-mail, if you aren’t attaching the file to the e-mail, we ask that you forward the complete file at your earliest convenience. Files can be sent to MWL on CD’s as well, along with a MWL file referral form or cover letter (one file per CD please). MWL promptly acknowledges all files received, to let you know the file was received and it is in the process of being evaluated for possible handling. If you don’t hear from MWL within an appropriate amount of time, please contact MWL to verify that we have received your file.

What file materials should I submit with the file?

The short answer is, no more than you need to and no less than is necessary. MWL will need enough of the file to evaluate the various issues which may be involved. At a minimum, MWL like to see the following:

  1. MWL File Referral Form (preferred, but not necessary) or cover letter;
  2. All investigation (accident reports, statements, photographs);
  3. Correspondence and communication with the third-party carrier, plaintiff’s attorney (workers’ compensation), or our insured, regarding the loss;
  4. Lien printout (for workers’ compensation – provide total lien amount and a breakdown of medical and indemnity), loss estimates (property and auto), and/or documentation of amounts paid out in connection with the claim; and
  5. Notice letters sent to third parties, third-party carriers, insured, injured worker, and/or plaintiff’s attorney (workers’ compensation or Med Pay).

Caution: A complete and thorough investigation is critical to a successful recovery. The most common mistake we see, by far, in files referred to us, is incomplete investigation or no investigation at all. The moment a First Report of Injury or a notice of claim or accident is received by the carrier, some effort should be taken to take photographs, preserve evidence, take statements, and even preserve the scene in larger files. Slip and fall cases are one of the most difficult types of losses to subrogate, and they become impossible to recover on if we have nothing other than the injured party’s word as to the condition of the premises where the fall took place.

Will MWL decline in handling subrogation files that are small in size or have tenuous liability?

No file is too small or too challenging for MWL. The nice thing about utilizing MWL’s National Subrogation Program is that we not only handle all types of subrogation files in all locations, but we also provide our clients with an evaluation of and recommendations for the handling of every file entrusted to us. We have handled files ranging in size from $200 to $50 million. What is important is whether a file can be handled cost-effectively. You cannot spend yourself into a successful subrogation program.

The nature of subrogation is that it is only as effective as it is cost-effective. Spending $1,500 in hourly fees to recover a $1,500 subrogation claim won’t get you anywhere. Likewise, if that same file is handled on a contingency but there are $1,500 in experts’ fees, service of process costs, etc. incurred, the file is not a success. MWL is very experienced at evaluating files with this in mind. A good product liability or medical malpractice subrogation case involving less money than it would cost to litigate is no longer a “good” subrogation case. We evaluate every case based on how cost-effective the file will be, and report to you our recommendations for the handling of each file entrusted to us.

MWL loves a challenge, and tough liability files are especially rewarding when we succeed. Still, there are some cases in which we are legally estopped from proceeding or in which the liability of the third party is so tenuous that it would not be considered a good investment for either the client or MWL. Every file is different and every file is assessed and reported on based on its own particular facts and merits. A bad file with good investigation is often more valuable than a good file with very little investigation. MWL will advise you if we think a file should not be litigated or if only a nuclear demand letter with a draft complaint attached is recommended. We will always be candid. That is why you hire us.

Do I need to send the medical records when I initially send the file ?

Usually, it is not necessary to send all of the medical records in a file for its initial evaluation, unless it is a file involving medical malpractice or an issue involving whether the injuries are related to the accident which is the subject of the claim. Medical records, complete workers’ compensation claim file, and the claim handler’s activity log can be reproduced and forwarded after a file has been reviewed and accepted. For the sake of simplicity, you can forward the complete file to us initially and we will cull from it what is necessary for the file review. No two files are alike so always err on the side of caution, and include in the file materials anything that you feel is necessary for us to properly evaluate the matter.

What do I need to know about MWL Webinars? (6)

Who do I contact with questions about MWL’s webinars?

For more information or questions regarding our seminars/webinars or for scheduling a seminar/webinar, please contact Jamie Breen at jbreen@mwl-law.com or (800) 637-9176.

Do you provide CE or CLE credits for your webinars?

We are Texas Approved CE Providers so our webinars are Texas CE-accredited. We do not provide CE for the other states that require it nor do we provide CLE credits for any state.

Why don’t you provide CE or CLE for every state that requires it?

We are an approved Texas CE provider, but we have not gone through the approval process in any of the other states that require CE. With our providing our webinars at no cost to the attendees, it isn’t economically feasible for us to incur the cost and spend the time going through the process to be approved CE providers in all the states that require it. Originally, we began doing our webinars to provide extra training for our clients and we didn’t want to mess with the CE. But, after numerous requests for CE, we decided to get CE approved in one state. We picked Texas because at the time Texas was considered the “mother state” in our industry and it was our hope that with reciprocity agreements between most states, that if one state (Texas) approved it, the others would follow suit. However, we have found that not all states will do this. Each state has it own rules in this regard. We do not provide CLE credits at all.

How do I get CE or CLE credits in states other than Texas?

For those attendees who need CE credits in states other than Texas, upon request, MWL will provide you materials that will assist you in applying for approval of CE credit with your respective state insurance agency, including course outlines, syllabuses, and handouts. With reciprocity agreements between most states, it was our hope that if we got the course approved in Texas that the other states that require CE would approve the course as well, but with states getting more strict with rules regarding CE, we have found that states rarely comply with reciprocity. For those interested in CLE, we can provide you with the same materials that you can submit to your appropriate State Bar, but we have been told by others that have attempted to do this that it is most often not approved. Following a webinar, you can request a copy of the course materials for purposes of submitting the course for CE or CLE approval by contacting Jamie Breen at jbreen@mwl-law.com.

Does MWL provide CE credits for recorded webinars on the MWL website?

No, MWL does not provide CE credits for our recorded webinars found on our website. The Texas Department of Insurance will not allow or approve MWL to provide CE credits for the recorded webinars on our website. They will only allow or approve CE for MWL’s live webinars, which are presented about every other month. Keep an eye on our website for information on our upcoming live webinars. Registration links for our upcoming live webinars can be found on our homepage and our Blog page under upcoming events.

How do I schedule a webinar or seminar with MWL when I’m not a client?

MWL has been providing seminars to clients for decades and remains one of the leaders in continuing subrogation education for the insurance industry. While there is cost in both time and travel associated with presenting seminars and classes, we do offer these programs free-of-charge to clients for whom we handle a volume of work. The cost and timing of seminars for newer and potential clients and friends of our firm must be discussed on a case-by-case basis as there may be travel and/or presentation costs involved. We will be happy to provide you with a cost estimate for presenting a seminar or webinar to your company. Please coordinate the scheduling of any such seminars or courses with Jamie Breen at jbreen@mwl-law.com or (800) 637-9176.

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