How do lawyers charge clients in personal injury cases? Most lawyers in every state in the United States charge a contingency fee to handle car accidents and other types of personal injury cases. Some states will set a limit on the maximum amount that a lawyer can charge to handle a personal injury case. For example, it is normal and customary in most states to charge their clients a contingency fee of 1/3 of the total recovery if a case is settled before a lawsuit is filed. This can vary from state to state but most lawyers charge this amount, although some attempt to charge more than this. If your lawyer is charging you more than 1/3 of the total recovery as his or her fee, pre-lawsuit then I would recommend hiring another lawyer. Most experienced personal injury lawyers will not charge more than this pre-suit so if a lawyer is trying to charge more than this, then I would run out the door (as he is probably trying to charge extra to cover his personal expenses like TV advertising or other types of expensive marketing).
It is quite normal also to charge up to 40% if a case has to be filed at the courthouse. In other words, if a lawyer cannot settle your case, pre-suit because of the unwillingness of the insurance company to settle or be reasonable, then a lawsuit will have to be filed. Your lawyer should explain to you the risks of filing a lawsuit, such as increased court costs, expenses and the lengthy amount of time that litigation can last. Litigation can last 1-2 years and the risk of losing can sometimes overcome the benefit. Many courts will award costs and attorneys fees against the losing party. Therefore, if you go to court and lose, the insurance company can come after you for their attorneys fees and costs which can run into the thousands of dollars. So, please discuss very carefully the choice to litigate your case as many times it can be a throw of the dice and a jury verdict can be a gamble. You could try the same personal injury cases to 5 different juries and get 5 different results so where a case is filed and the type of people on the jury can greatly influence whether it is on your side or the side of the insurance company.
In conclusion, please have your lawyer explain his fees both for settling your case, pre-suit and for settling your case during a lawsuit or all the way up to a jury or bench trial. You should be made aware of any costs or expenses that could potentially be awarded against you as this is a factor in whether to go all the way to Trial. 99% of cases do settle before Trial so it is not an issue in the majority of cases. Most personal injury cases will settle at some point during litigation and most never go all the way to Trial as it is risky for both sides.