What sort of fees do you charge?

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.

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