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St. George Attorney: How will my lawyer be paid and what is a contingent fee agreement?

Question: How will my lawyer be paid and what is a contingent fee agreement?

St. George Attorney answer:

Your St. George attorney, as will most personal injury attorneys, will be paid with a percentage of the court award won in the final settlement on your injury case.  You will agree upon the percentage with your attorney using a contingent fee agreement. This document is a written contract, required by law, which protects you and your lawyer, specifying the fee your attorney will charge so that there is no misunderstanding about the cost of your case.  In most cases, the contingent fee agreement specifies that you will not have to pay your attorney for services unless your case is settled in your favor. Until the verdict occurs, you do not pay your attorney. The contingent fee agreement helps to ensure that your attorney will work hard for you and your case, in exchange for the portion agreed upon. However, you are responsible for out-of-pocket expenses and attorney’s costs in the event the case is not won or settled favorably. This is explained below.

What other costs will there be in addition to attorney’s fees?

The fee paid to your lawyer covers his or her time, effort, and expertise on your behalf. In addition, the fee covers some built-in costs such as secretarial hours, rent, supplies, and other overhead expenses.  Keep in mind that there will be some out-of-pocket costs besides your attorney’s fees that will be incurred along the way regarding your case. Here is some of what you can expect:

  • Charges for printing medical report documents from doctor’s offices and hospitals

Medical offices may charge a few dollars for copies, or even up to $100 or more for detailed reports that must be prepared with the expertise of your doctor or medical practitioner.

  • Costs for photocopies

Insurance companies require copies of all medical documents, police reports, witness statements, and lost wage information from your St. George law firm.  Your law firm pays for the copies, but will be charged a reasonable fee for each page.

  • Long distance phone calls

If your lawyer is charged for long distance telephone calls, you will reimburse the firm for these costs.

  • Costs of photos

Photos are very important as evidence in your personal injury case. You will be responsible for any cost for your attorney to copy or enlarge any photos.

  • Expert reports

If any reports are required from any experts other than physicians in your case, you will be responsible for the cost of these.

  • Costs of Litigation

In the event that your case escalates to suit or litigation, you will be responsible for the costs incurred for filing the lawsuit.

Are the attorneys’ disbursements and costs also contingent? Do they have to be paid up front?

The costs described above that are in addition and separate from your attorney’s fees are your responsibility throughout your case. These must be paid whether or not your case is settled in your favor. So, although your attorney’s fee is contingent on whether you win the case, the out-of-pocket costs as the case progresses are not contingent. They are your responsibility. Your attorney may require payment of these as they are incurred, or up front.  This is because it is not financially reasonable for your law firm to “finance” personal injury cases. The law requires that such expenses are to be paid by the client even if the case does not settle in a court award in their favor.