Fees for the Collection of "Med-Pay"
Opinion rules that a legal fee for the collection of "med-pay" which is based upon the amount collected is unreasonable.
Lawyer B charges $150.00 to collect up to $2000.00 due to a client under the medical payments provisions (or "med-pay" provisions) of the client's liability insurance policy. He charges $250.00 to collect a client's med-pay if the med-pay is $2000.00 or more. Is it ethical for Lawyer B to charge a sliding fee for the collection of med-pay?
No. RPC 35 ruled that a lawyer may not charge a contingent fee to collect med-pay because with most med-pay claims there is no risk that the insurance company will refuse payment and there is no dispute as to the amount due to the claimant. Therefore, such contingent fees are unreasonable, in violation of Rule 2.6(a), because "[t]he element of risk which is necessary to justify the typically elevated contingent fee is not present." Unless there exists a significant risk that a med-pay claim will not be paid, it is unreasonable for a lawyer to charge a fee for collecting med-pay which is not related to the cost to the lawyer of providing the service. A sliding fee for collecting med-pay claims is based upon the amount of the claim and not upon the cost to Lawyer B to provide the service. Such a fee structure is unreasonable in violation of Rule 2.6(a).
THE NORTH CAROLINA STATE BAR
217 E. Edenton Street • PO Box 25908 • Raleigh, NC 27611-5908 • 919.828.4620
Copyrightę North Carolina State Bar. All rights reserved.