The real question is, "How much will I have to pay for my case?" The short answer is: Nothing. You are not responsible for paying our attorney's fees and costs. It does not come out of any compensation you may receive for your injury, either. If you are awarded compensation - you keep 100% of that compensation.
You may have paid a lawyer a flat fee to prepare your will, or perhaps you paid a lawyer a contingency fee (where the lawyer takes a percentage of your award) in a personal injury case. In the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP), attorney's fees are paid differently. Under the federal statute that established the NVICP, the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, lawyers representing vaccine injured people in the Vaccine Court submit their fees to the Court at the conclusion of the case and they are paid out of the same Vaccine Injury Fund that pays the compensation for your injury. In fact, lawyers are prohibited by the statute to charge attorney's fees to their vaccine injured clients in the NVICP. [However, lawyers are allowed to ask clients to pay some litigation expenses such as the filing fee, an expert retainer or medical records copying charges. Law firms vary as to whether they ask clients to pay expenses.]
Lawyers must submit final hourly billing (attorney's fees) and litigation expenses (such as expert fees) to the Court at the conclusion of the case. Due to ongoing delays at the Court, lawyers may submit requests for interim attorney's fees and costs during the pendency of the case if they meet certain criteria. When an attorney submits their application for attorney's fees and costs the lawyer would also submit any litigation expenses that YOU have incurred as noted above. The statute states that you are entitled to be reimbursed for those expenses regardless of whether you win or lose your case, so long as your case was filed in good faith and had a reasonable basis. [What reasonable basis means is determined by the Vaccine Court and can vary by special master. But it is not automatically given.] Attorney's fees are also awarded on this basis. The reason for this is because Congress wanted to ensure vaccine injured children and adults had an experienced and effective Bar to represent them in these complex and challenging cases. Thanks to this provision and the ongoing efforts of The Vaccine Injured Petitioners Bar Association (VIP Bar), vaccine injured petitioners have experienced specialized lawyers available to them without the burden of attorney's fees.
So, the short answer is, you are not responsible for attorney's fees in a vaccine injury case in the NVICP. Further, our legal services contract states that explicitly.
For more information contact The Law Office of Renée J. Gentry, Esq.