Typically, personal injury lawyers work on a contingency-fee basis. With that payment arrangement, the lawyer is paid an agreed upon percentage of the money you receive in judgement or settlement. You don’t owe anything until the case is resolved, and if the lawyer doesn’t win a settlement, you pay nothing. Here’s a closer examination of how that works, as well as a brief look at alternative payment setups.
In most cases, contingency fees are a percentage of your award. This percentage may vary depending on the type of case and where you live. Generally, you should expect to pay about 33% of your recovery if your case settles before trial. If it goes to trial, the fee tends to be closer to 40%.
At first glance, the contingency fee may appear high. However, the lawyer is actually taking a gamble on the case. Whether the case settles, goes to trial, or gets appealed multiple times, the lawyer makes nothing for their time unless you win. Although experienced personal injury attorneys can make an educated guess about how cases will go or what settlement you are likely to win, there is no guarantee, and the lawyer doesn’t ever really know what’s going to happen until the case is over.
To ensure you’re getting the best deal possible, always discuss the fee arrangement at the start of the case and get the final agreement in writing. Note that some lawyers use a tiered contingency fee that depends on how far a case gets. If the case is settled out of court, the lawyer uses a lower percentage for their contingency fee, but if it goes to court, the percentage is higher.
Free Case Evaluations
Lawyers who work on a contingency basis usually offer free case evaluations. Because you aren’t charged for the initial consultation, you can afford to interview several personal injury lawyers. In fact, you may want to get several opinions about your case and talk to multiple lawyers until you find the right fit.
Of course, the consultation is a two-way street. The lawyer is also deciding whether the case, and you, are right for their practice. Because the lawyer won’t be paid unless you receive a favorable judgement or settlement, they may decline to take your case if you’re unlikely to win or if the settlement would be too small to compensate both of you.
When you work with a personal injury attorney on a contingency basis, the initial consultation is just the first free meeting. Throughout the case as you meet with the lawyer to discuss your injury, medical treatment, and your recovery, you don’t pay anything for those meetings either.
While most personal injury lawyers don’t charge by the hour for their time, some will agree to do so if the client requests to pay hourly. Hourly fees can range from $125 to $500 per hour or more, so you can see why contingency fee arrangements are so attractive.
Beyond that, you may not want to consider a lawyer who won’t take your case on a contingency basis. When a personal injury lawyer doesn’t work on a contingency basis, that indicates that any potential settlement associated with your case is not likely worth the time and resources needed to fight that case. In other words, you could be throwing good money at a bad case.
Your lawyer may also charge for expenses on top of the contingency fee. Again, you don’t pay these amounts unless you win the case, but if you win a settlement, certain expenses may be added to your total. These costs may include the following:
- Ordering copies of reports and records, such as medical and police reports
- Expenses for copying, faxing, etc.
- Legal research
- Court costs, such as filing and deposition fees
- Fees for expert witnesses and investigators
- Travel costs
Before agreeing to work with a lawyer, you may want to ask if the expenses are extra or included with the contingency fee.
The Settlement Check
In most cases, the settlement check is sent to the lawyer. This is to protect the lawyer who has worked on a contingency basis. Your lawyer will call you when the check arrives. Then, they should explain the amount you owe for fees and costs in detail and distribute the rest of the settlement to you.
If you have been injured due to medical malpractice or negligence, you need a quality personal injury attorney in your corner. At Mazow | McCullough, PC, we handle personal injury, medical malpractice, dog bites, and a variety of other cases. To set up a free case evaluation, contact us today.