The Federal Tort Claims Act: Attorney’s Fees And Costs

One of the realities of the Federal Tort Claims Act is that the fees for counsel are limited. If the case is settled pre-suit, the fees are limited to twenty percent (20%). If the case goes to trial before the District Court by way of a bench trial, the fees are increased to twenty-five percent (25%) of the award. As is true of most personal injury claims, attorney’s fees are payable from the amount of the recovery, not in addition to it. The United States is also liable for court costs just as a private party would be, however, attorney’s fees are not considered to be court costs.
As might be imagined, it is difficult to sue the United States in a complex medical malpractice case in a hypothetical claim involving the Veterans’ Administration because in such a case counsel will be limited to a recovery of twenty-five (25%) of attorney’s fees. This is the standard fee that attorneys receive in workers’ compensation cases and is not a significant inducement for counsel to take a complex medical malpractice case involving the government. Nonetheless, Congress has limited the attorney’s fees that one may obtain in these cases and thus the most that an attorney can recover is twenty percent (20%) if the case is settled pre-suit and twenty-five percent (25%) if presented to the District Court via a bench trial.

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