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Waiting for the Big One: The Economics of Plaintiff-Side Personal Injury Litigation

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Abstract:

We obtained data on payouts, fees, and expenses for all cases settled over an extended period by two plaintiff-side personal injury firms, one in Texas, one in Illinois. We use this dataset (totaling roughly 3,700 cases) to study the economics of plaintiff-side personal injury litigation, and to estimate the effects of state fee caps.
Fees vary substantially, but the modal fee is one-third of the recovery. In prior work, we found that defense-side fees and expenses increased over time. Although plaintiff-side expenses increased over time, fees decreased at both firms as a percentage of recoveries.
Our data does not support claims of tacit collusion among plaintiffs' counsel on a standard 1/3 contingency fee, although a bare majority of cases are resolved with a fee at that level. A 1/3 fee is not uniformly collected ex post, even when the fee agreement calls for a 1/3 fee.
At the two firms, most of their income comes from a very small number of cases. Smaller cases may help to keep the lights on, but the big cases are what keep plaintiffs’ counsel in this line of work.
State statutory restrictions on attorneys’ fees vary in severity, but several may significantly change the economics of plaintiff-side representation. Holding case mix constant, we estimate that existing fee caps reduce aggregate fees by as little as 0% (Tennessee and Utah), and as much as 25% (California).
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Name: The Law and Society Association
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http://www.lawandsociety.org


Citation:
URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p305103_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Hyman, David., Black, Bernard. and Silver, Charles. "Waiting for the Big One: The Economics of Plaintiff-Side Personal Injury Litigation" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the The Law and Society Association, Grand Hyatt, Denver, Colorado, May 25, 2009 <Not Available>. 2014-11-29 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p305103_index.html>

APA Citation:

Hyman, D. , Black, B. and Silver, C. , 2009-05-25 "Waiting for the Big One: The Economics of Plaintiff-Side Personal Injury Litigation" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the The Law and Society Association, Grand Hyatt, Denver, Colorado <Not Available>. 2014-11-29 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p305103_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: We obtained data on payouts, fees, and expenses for all cases settled over an extended period by two plaintiff-side personal injury firms, one in Texas, one in Illinois. We use this dataset (totaling roughly 3,700 cases) to study the economics of plaintiff-side personal injury litigation, and to estimate the effects of state fee caps.
Fees vary substantially, but the modal fee is one-third of the recovery. In prior work, we found that defense-side fees and expenses increased over time. Although plaintiff-side expenses increased over time, fees decreased at both firms as a percentage of recoveries.
Our data does not support claims of tacit collusion among plaintiffs' counsel on a standard 1/3 contingency fee, although a bare majority of cases are resolved with a fee at that level. A 1/3 fee is not uniformly collected ex post, even when the fee agreement calls for a 1/3 fee.
At the two firms, most of their income comes from a very small number of cases. Smaller cases may help to keep the lights on, but the big cases are what keep plaintiffs’ counsel in this line of work.
State statutory restrictions on attorneys’ fees vary in severity, but several may significantly change the economics of plaintiff-side representation. Holding case mix constant, we estimate that existing fee caps reduce aggregate fees by as little as 0% (Tennessee and Utah), and as much as 25% (California).


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Personal Responsibility v. Corporate Liability: How Personal Injury Lawyers Screen Cases In an Era of Tort Reform


 
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