Finding an attorney, especially after you have recently been in an accident, can be stressful. Not only are you dealing with your injuries and disruption to your day-to-day life. But you also likely have a lot of questions about the legal process.
Whether you have worked with a lawyer in the past or not, you will have questions that need answering. This includes inquiries about their experience level, their success rate, and what working with them will mean for your case.
One of the first questions that most clients have for a personal injury attorney is what his or her fees are. This is also one of the most important. Even if you expect to receive a settlement, getting an attorney is still an investment.
In most cases, having to hire an attorney following an accident is an unexpected expense. Coupled with the cost of medical care, lost wages, dealing with any damages to your property, and other expenses like additional childcare or a rental car, the cost of legal representation can be overwhelming.
If you have found yourself in need of a personal injury attorney, keep reading as we break down what you need to know about the financial side of hiring legal help.
What Does it Cost to Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer?
Have you ever wondered what percentage do Personal Injury Attorneys get from a case? This is an important question when it comes to knowing what it costs to hire a personal injury lawyer. Unfortunately, hiring a lawyer does not come at a set price.
Every accident, every victim, and every case is unique. This is true even of those that seem very similar.
How Similar Cases Can Differ
Consider two accidents, each involving one car re-ending another at a red light. Despite their similar circumstances, the outcomes, and the ensuing legal battles, may look very different.
The size and type of vehicles involved can cause and sustain very different damage. A person’s physical well-being, where they are seated in the vehicle, and a variety of other factors can determine whether they are injured. It can also affect the extent of their injuries.
The differences continue after the dust following the accident has settled as well. One insurance company might payout for damages and medical expenses without question. Another might fight every bill and every penny, requiring a long, drawn-out legal battle in order to get compensation for medical bills and property damages.
Where you are located can also affect the cost of hiring an attorney to represent your case. And finally, each individual attorney and law firm has the freedom to set their own price. While they may use a certain system or baseline measurement to determine what to charge for each case, the specifics of each case will usually affect the final total.
All of these uncertainties make it very difficult to estimate what hiring an attorney will truly cost before you’ve spoken with a lawyer. However, educating yourself on how attorneys typically determine their costs will help you prepare. You should learn the percentages of a settlement they charge and common pricing practices like charging a contingency fee can help make finding the right attorney for your case a bit easier.
How do Personal Injury Lawyers Charge for Their Services?
When you first meet with a personal injury attorney about your case, you will likely ask a lot of questions. One is almost certain to be what they would charge to take on your case.
If you haven’t needed to work with a lawyer in the past, you might ask that question expecting their answer to be a whole dollar amount. Television shows and movies might have you believe that lawyers only work by the hour, charging extremely high fees for every second that they spend working on your case or even discussing your case with you.
This may be the case in some legal situations, or for some law firms. However, this usually isn’t the case for personal injury suits. Personal inquiry attorneys will usually charge a percentage of a final settlement, rather than a set fee or even an hourly rate. This is a percentage of the settlement that you receive if the case is decided in your favor in court, or if a settlement is reached out of court. If a settlement is not reached or a case is decided against the client’s favor, the attorney is not paid.
What is a Contingency Fee?
The idea of charging a percentage of a settlement if a case is decided in the client’s favor is called a contingency fee. This arrangement is beneficial both to the client and to the attorney.
For the client, there are a number of benefits:
- Fewer upfront fees than you are already faced with. You may miss work as a result of your injuries. Or need to pay for additional childcare and medical expenses. In addition to these out-of-pocket expenses, fewer legal fees upfront can be a huge weight off of your shoulders.
- If the case is not decided in your favor, you will not be left facing a massive legal bill.
- More than 60 percent of Americans have less than $1,000 in emergency funds set aside. This includes funds for a rainy day--or for a car accident or other personal injury case. For clients who do not have emergency funds to fall back on following an accident, or who are already dealing with financial stress as a result of their accident, a contingency fee is like a lifeline. This might be the only way that some clients could afford legal help. And this legal help can be essential in helping get the settlement and funds that they need and deserve.
- A contingency fee opens up the opportunity to hire an experienced, well-recommended attorney. This includes one that clients might not have otherwise been able to afford if they had to pay all fees upfront.
- This arrangement can help set your mind at ease when it comes to trusting your attorney. His or her payment depends on not just winning your case but getting a fair settlement. So you know that they will be doing everything they can to win your case. It also ensures that even busy attorneys will do everything that they can to get a case settled in a timely manner.
Benefits of a Contingency Fee for Personal Injury Lawyers
For an attorney, this arrangement rewards their hard work and dedication to their clients. While they are assuming all of the risk of each individual case, because even after investing their time and resources, they may not receive payment, they are also opening themselves up to a more sizable payout if they are able to secure a higher settlement for their client.
A contingent fee is included in a legal document that you and your attorney will sign. This document ensures that there is no misunderstanding about what the fee will be if the case is decided in your favor. This document will also outline any additional costs outside of the contingency fee that a client may be responsible for.
Does a Contingency Fee Mean That You Pay Nothing Upfront for Legal Services?
A contingency fee allows the victim of a personal injury case to afford experienced legal help. They can do this without paying high fees or hourly costs upfront. However, while this fee agreement ensures that clients will only have to pay a large sum to their attorney if their case is decided in their favor, it does not mean that clients will not have to pay any other costs for legal help.
Instead, there are a number of smaller fees that are the responsibility of the client.
Additional fees that clients will need to pay:
- Any expert reports that you and your attorney choose to pursue. This might include reports from medical professionals other than the client’s own personal physician. Professional and expert reports can be an important tool in proving your case in court, but they are also one that the client will be responsible for paying for.
- All printed and enlarged photos used for your case. Lawyers often use photos in court to show evidence or explain to a judge and/or jury what they are trying to describe. The client is responsible for any costs associated with enlarging and printing these images ahead of your court date.
- Clients are responsible for paying for any photocopies or printed copies of police reports, medical reports, and similar materials required by their attorney. In most cases, the law firm will pay for these copies as needed. Then, the client pays a set fee per page that is photocopied.
- If a lawyer needs to make any long-distance phone calls for the purpose of the case, the client will need to pay the law firm for any costs that occur as a result.
- Cases that go to litigation or are filed as lawsuits will come with filing fees. Clients are responsible for repaying these fees to their attorney or law firm.
When are These Additional Fees Due?
In some cases, these fees and costs will be due as they arise during a case. Other attorneys may allow clients to pay these costs and fees after their case is settled. When you are choosing an attorney to take on your case, ask about these fees and when you will be expected to pay them. This will help you better prepare for these costs and avoid any surprises during your case.
What percentage do Personal Injury Attorneys get?
While a contingency fee does help to alleviate a financial burden on suffering clients, it also means giving up a portion of a legal settlement. However, the cost of your legal representation is factored into the settlement that your attorney is helping you to pursue.
So what percentage of a settlement do attorneys get? This answer also varies. Attorneys are free to set their own percentage. They may base their decision on each individual case and its circumstances or may use a standard percentage.
A common rule of thumb is one-third of a settlement or 33 ⅓ percent. Again, while this is a common standard contingency fee, it is not a guarantee.
What Does a Lawyer's Fees Really Cover?
Serious accidents can come with an overwhelming number of expenses. You may require hospitalization or multiple surgeries. Even after you leave the hospital, you may require expensive outpatient care, rehabilitation or therapy, or expensive medications. If you missed work or even had to quit your job, you have lost the income you were depending on. You might also be faced with the cost of replacing or repairing a vehicle or fixing other property damage.
And, of course, you will need to pay an attorney for his or her professional help. None of these costs account for the emotional and physical costs you have suffered.
Regardless of your personal circumstances, these costs usually represent a huge financial setback, all because of someone else’s actions or negligence. The idea of giving up any of the settlement that you are awarded might be the last thing you want to think about.
Can You Negotiate an Attorney’s Fee?
If your attorney asks for 33 percent of your settlement, or even higher, you might wonder whether or not you can negotiate that fee.
But while you can negotiate, your attorney is likely to refuse. Keep in mind that the contingency fee being charged is not a prize or bonus for your lawyer. Instead, this is their payment for their hard work in winning your case. Not only do they need to pay themselves, but they may also be paying other employees of the law firm who aided in your case, like a secretary or clerks.
Personal injury attorneys, like all professionals, have a variety of costs of doing business. This includes their equipment and technology, rent, licensing, and more. Without these resources, they would be unable to do their jobs.
Representing Your Case Without an Attorney in Court
Negotiating a contingency fee to lower the cost you pay to an attorney is not the only cost savings option you might consider. Another is to represent yourself in court. This would allow you to keep more of your settlement for yourself. But it could also prove detrimental to your case.
Unless you have legal experience, this is not something you should consider. Even some limited legal experience is not enough. Personal injury attorneys study the ins and outs of any laws related to car accidents, home invasions, and other types of cases. They know how to navigate the courtroom, and how to properly prepare a case to go to trial. A good attorney will increase your case’s chance at success by bolstering it with witness accounts and professional testimonies.
The idea of giving up a portion of your settlement can be difficult. But representing yourself in court could mean losing out on any settlement at all, leaving you to pay your own medical bills and other fees associated with your accident, even if you were not to blame.