When you hire a Las Vegas Personal Injury Lawyer, your lawyer usually gets paid out of any settlement funds from your case. A recent case from the Nevada Supreme Court case came out with new guidelines for what your lawyer must do in certain cases to get paid. This happens when your medical bills are larger than your settlement amount and there is a dispute on how the settlement pie gets divided.
In the past, Las Vegas Personal Injury Lawyers used to get paid first, before any medical providers, who may have treated you with a lien. However, since the law is constantly changing, this is not always the case anymore. Now, the law says a lawyer has to serve a “Notice” of their lien on the at fault party and their lawyers. As a client, you will sign and personally receive a copy of your lawyer’s lien. Then your lawyer must provide a copy of the lien to the at fault party, their insurance company and their lawyer.
Some people may ask, if someone has a lawyer, why serve the fault party? Unfortunately, our high court has repeatedly said that you must serve both the at fault party and their lawyer. See Bingham & Snow Nevada PC v. Eighth Judicial Dist. Court, 2015 WL 4172342; See also Leventhal v. Black & LoBello, 129 Nev. Adv. Op. 50, 305 P.3d 907, 910-11 (2013). Failing to do this step means your lawyer may not get any of their fees.
To top it all off, this all has to be done before any settlement monies are received. If a Las Vegas Personal Injury Lawyer doesn’t follow the proper steps and they try to assert their lien after a settlement is reached and the money received, they are out of luck on getting paid in these types of cases. Id. If you are interested in the law, the statute talking about this is NRS 18.015(4) and the most recent case law handed down by the Nevada high court is Golightly & Vannah, PLLC v. TJ Allen, LLC. 132 Nev. Adv. Op. 41 (2016).
In Golightly & Vannah, the Nevada Supreme Court said:
“[T]he attorney must serve notice in writing, in person or by certified mail, return receipt requested, upon his or her client and, if applicable, upon the party against whom the client has a cause of action, claiming the lien and stating the amount of the lien … the lien must disclose an attorney’s agreed upon contingency percentage and claim court costs and out-of-pocket costs advanced by the attorney in an amount to be determined.”
So, what does this all mean in reality? When you hire a lawyer, they will have you sign a Notice of Lien when you sign their fee agreement. You will get a copy of the lien and the fee agreement. Your Las Vegas Personal Injury Lawyer will then send a copy of the lien to the person who caused your injury, their insurance company and their lawyer. To comply with the new rules, your lawyer will have to send it via certified mail, return receipt requested. Once your lawyer does this, the steps to assert their lien are complete.
Next time, we will talk about whether “physical” injury is needed to make a claim for personal injury in Las Vegas, Nevada.