What Are Contingency Fees?

by Gary Gwilliam on October 21, 2014

contingency feesNot all legal fees are created equal. Many people have the misconception that securing competent, effective legal representation requires a huge financial commitment. Circumstances where lawyers and big law firms charge $500 per hour or more, require huge retainer fees to initiate representation, and bill you for ongoing expenses that could drain your life savings are not always the standard operating procedure. Law firms that work on a contingency fee basis provide an affordable path to representation.

What Are Contingency Fees?

If your case is accepted on a contingency fee basis, you do not pay legal fees unless you win your case or secure a settlement. Instead, when you win your case or secure a settlement, you pay a percentage of your settlement or judgment when the funds are collected. The law firm is reimbursed for any costs incurred during your trial.

What Are the Advantages of Contingency Fee Based Representation?

The following is a list of advantages for hiring a law firm that charges on a contingency fee basis:

  • Pay fees only if you win your trial or receive a negotiated settlement
  • Qualifying for affordable access to competent, effective legal representation
  • Removes the stress of paying thousands in legal fees
  • Eliminates the need for liquidating assets or securing personal loans in order to pay legal fees
  • Establishes a partnership between you and the law firm as the firm has a financial stake in winning your case

Understanding the Terms of Your Contingency Fee

It is important to understand what percentage of your verdict or settlement will be paid out to the law firm you hire. One way to understand the percentage is to know how the firm calculates the contingency fee. The components that figure into your contingency fee are often expenses that provide the leverage that secures a verdict or settlement in your favor. Your law firm, in most cases, pays for these out of pocket expenses up front and then is reimbursed upon recovery of a verdict or settlement in your favor. In many instances, your firm will hire legal witness-experts to strengthen your position. In addition some of the other costs associated with successfully winning a verdict or settlement could include depositions, exhibits, court filing fees, and legal processing.

Consequently, it is important to understand whether the law firm will collect a fee payable from the amount of the verdict or settlement based on the “net” or “gross” recovery of your winning verdict or settlement. The “gross” indicates the total amount of your verdict or settlement recovery before any deductions for expenses. The “net” means the amount remaining after deductions and expenses. Make sure to talk with your attorney about the terms of your contingency fee agreement and ensure you have these terms in writing.




3 Reasons Every Californian Should Vote Yes on Prop 46

by Gary Gwilliam on September 17, 2014

Prop 46This November Californians have the chance of a lifetime to evoke the biggest changes in consumer law in nearly 40 years by voting “Yes” on Proposition 46 also known as the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act. Prop. 46 delivers three greatly needed must have changes that correct the injustices of the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act of 1975(MICRA) that have been allowed to continue for nearly 40 years. The following three changes provide the type of impact and oversight desperately needed in California. Combining these three points could bring a positive sea change to the quality of care for patients and eventually provide patient safety measures that could greatly decrease the number of patient injuries and death, due to hospital and doctor errors,  in California each year:

  1. Adjustment, for nearly 40 years of inflation, of the MICRA cap on noneconomic damages
  2. Mandatory random drug and alcohol testing for doctors
  3. Mandating use of the CURES prescription drug database

The insurance industry, their lobby, and allies continue to ignore the facts by attacking attorneys and creating a misconception that this fight for reform is all attorney fees and bottom line revenue.

The fact of the matter is Proposition 46 the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act is about patients, people like you and me and our families, receiving safe and competent treatment while in the care of doctors and hospitals. It is about accountability for doctors to perform their jobs clean and sober without interference from drugs or alcohol which have caused patient injury and death in record numbers. And Prop. 46 is about accountability of doctors who, with impunity, continually aid and abet patients by prescribing powerfully addictive painkillers which created a new wave of prescription drug addicts in California.

2 Patient’s Stories and 3 Reasons to Vote Yes on Proposition 46

Every day patients are being injured or even killed through the negligence and medical errors of doctors and hospitals under the current MICRA law. The following is an open letter describing two tragic stories and illustrating exactly why Proposition 46 is the answer to our decades long patient safety problems.

Open Letter Supporting Proposition 46

“It has happened to tens of thousands of Californians, and not a single one of them expected it. No one thinks they, or a loved one, will be killed, maimed or disfigured by medical negligence. Yet these things happen. Experts say up to 440,000 patients die each year of preventable medical errors, the nation’s third leading cause of death behind only cancer and heart disease.

But too little is being done to stem that silent death toll. Too many victims are kids. Too many are moms and grandparents. They’re people like you and me.

And babies like Mia Chavez. She was just six weeks old when she passed away because of whooping cough, a serious but treatable childhood illness. The problem was, Mia never got treatment. Her mom took her to Mia’s pediatrician, then to the emergency room, but again and again the doctors wrote it off as something else, even though Los Angeles County was in the midst of a serious whooping cough outbreak. With the right treatment, she never would have died. But her doctors were negligent.

Prop 46They’re women like Tina Minasian. She underwent abdominal surgery in 2002 and then suffered for months as an infection caused by the procedure festered painfully. Minasian was left mutilated at the surgery site. Imagine her shock upon later discovering her surgeon was an alcoholic participating in a medical board diversion program. The appointed “monitor” of the doctor’s sobriety was his office manager, who dutifully ignored the physician’s continued drinking. The doctor’s ongoing alcohol problem finally cost him his license in 2012, a decade after Minasian’s botched surgery.

That’s why I support Proposition 46 on the November ballot: To make all of us in California safer.

 3 Common-Sense Changes to Improve Patient Safety

Drug and alcohol testing of doctors: USA Todayran a recent story reporting on a federal study saying that more than 100,000 health care workers are currently battling drug problems. Add to it that another 400,000 are fighting alcoholism, and we have a very significant problem that endangers the lives of patients. In California, nearly 1 in 5 doctors will battle substance abuse in their lifetimes. Prop 46 addresses this serious patient safety problem by requiring random drug and alcohol testing of doctors. Airline pilots, truck drivers and many others in jobs that affect public safety are tested. Why not doctors, who hold our lives in their hands? Leading figures in the medical industry agree the time has come for doctors to be tested, including the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and patient safety experts at Johns Hopkins.

Stopping doctor-shopping addicts: The Centers for Disease Control has called prescription drug abuse the fastest growing drug epidemic in the nation. To help control abuse, California has developed a statewide Internet database so doctors can check to see if a patient is “doctor shopping” drug abuser. The problem is, fewer than 1 in 10 doctors in California bother to use the database. Prop 46 would require doctors to check that database before prescribing prescription drugs to a patient for the first time. Mandatory use of similar databases in other states has dramatically reduced the number of “doctor shoppers” there.

Accountability for medical harm: In 1975 California established a $250,000 cap on the amount of pain and suffering damages that can be awarded to those harmed by medical negligence. That amount has not been adjusted for inflation, despite the cost of everything else skyrocketing over the past four decades. Prop 46 would update the cap, restoring the same economic power it had in 1975. That would give you something closer to fair compensation if you were to be a victim of medical harm, and it would provide a greater financial deterrent to prevent harm in the first place.

Foes of Prop 46 are financed primarily by the malpractice insurance industry, which has poured in most of the money into the $60-million campaign against the initiative. They’ve launched a statewide ad blitz centered on distortions and fear tactics.

They claim updating the cap on malpractice compensation would lead to soaring medical malpractice premiums and cause doctors to quit or leave the state, reducing your access to health care. They won’t offer you any evidence, because there is none. And they won’t tell you that in states where similar caps have been not just adjusted but eliminated in recent years, malpractice premiums have not gone up and there are actually more doctors per capita since the caps were removed.

And doctors won’t tell you California’s non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office said there are “potentially significant state and local government savings” associated with the patient safety provisions of Prop 46 – through lower costs of public safety, social services and other health care related to prescription drug abuse, as well as preventing some medical errors by identifying substance-abusing doctors and providing financial incentive for better health care by updating the malpractice cap.

Foes also want you to think Prop 46 is all about making money for lawyers who represent those harmed by medical negligence. But they won’t tell you that compensation for those lawyers is capped by law, a cap that would not change under Prop 46, and the vast majority of damages awarded go to those who were harmed.

And they certainly won’t tell you that should medical malpractice strike, a good lawyer is your only chance for justice, fair compensation and accountability against the health care machine.

 I strongly support Proposition 46 for a safer California, and I hope you will join me in voting YES on Nov. 4.”








Sonoma County Government Whistleblower Files Wrongful Termination Suit

September 11, 2014

“It is outrageous that Sonoma County’s Human Services Department is discriminating against the very population they exist to serve and even more outrageous that they fired an employee who insisted that they treat those individuals fairly” – Gary Gwilliam attorney Gwilliam, Ivary, Chiosso, Cavalli, & Brewer Our firm, Gwilliam, Ivary, Chiosso, Cavalli, & Brewer, filed […]

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Gary Gwilliam Selected for 2015 Best Lawyers in America List

August 26, 2014

“. . .(Best Lawyers®) is the most respected referral list of attorneys in practice.”—Corporate Counsel Magazine I am honored and delighted to announce I have been chosen for the prestigious 2015 Best Lawyers in America© list for the field of “Personal Injury Litigation – Plaintiffs” in Oakland, California. Our firm is celebrating 36 years of […]

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Do I have a Viable Medical Malpractice Claim?

August 19, 2014

“Medical harm is a major cause of suffering, disability, and death – as well as a huge financial cost to our nation” – Sen. Bernie Sanders, (Independent) Vermont The state of healthcare in the United States, specifically patient care in hospitals, is at a crisis point. Preventable medical errors in hospitals are now the third […]

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How Do I Prove My Truck Accident Case?

July 31, 2014

In many instances, truck accidents are complex cases influenced by multiple factors. The most vital information to your case is being able to determine and prove the cause of the accident and who is ultimately at fault. Unless you are a trained professional investigator or legal expert, you may not be equipped to ensure that […]

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Robert Kochly Former Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Credibility Issues

July 11, 2014

“He (Robert Kochly former Contra Costa County District Attorney) should have ensured the safety of the employees in his office by treating this as an administrative issue and interviewed both Gressett and Harpham immediately”–Gary Gwilliam attorney for Michael Gressett Robert Kochly the now retired, former Contra Costa County District Attorney was recently named as one […]

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Truck Accident Victims and Regulations Defended by Federal Official

June 27, 2014

In response to a recent Congressional discussion about suspending newly passed trucking regulations from June 2013, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) official Anne Ferro wrote a compelling rebuttal blog article, “Congress Shouldn’t Roll Back Safety; the Steps We’ve Taken Keep Tired Truckers off the Road”, supporting the new regulations. The article published June 3, […]

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Michael Gressett Files Civil Lawsuit for Malicious Prosecution

June 13, 2014

“Michael Gressett is looking forward to finally having his day in court after seven years of having his name besmirched by the wrongful and malicious conduct of the Defendants in this case. We look forward to shining some light on the political corruption of the Defendants who, thankfully, are no longer in power in Contra […]

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Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act Fights Medical Malpractice

June 5, 2014

“No family should suffer because a doctor recklessly prescribes pills to an addict, is a substance abuser, or commits repeated acts of medical negligence” – Robert Pack, medical malpractice advocate In a vital step forward for patient safety in California, the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act (Pack Act) initiative qualified for California’s November […]

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