WHAT ARE PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER FEES?
Personal injury lawyer fees have been long established in our society. Some businesses charge a contingency fee for their services. But, in the legal business, personal injury lawyers have long been charging their clients a contingency fee. Personal injury lawyer fees have been established throughout the history of personal injury law as being contingent upon settling or recovering money in a particular personal injury case. In other fields of law like say family law, divorces, real estate, wills, etc., the lawyer will charge by the hour.
WHAT IS A “CONTINGENCY FEE”?
Everyone has seen the TV lawyers saying “if we do not recover money for you, then you owe us nothing. Here is a good definition of a contingency fee:
“A contingent fee (also known as contingency fee in the USA or conditional fee (in England and Wales) is any fee for services provided where the fee is payable only if there is a favorable result. Although such a fee may be used in many fields, it is particularly well associated with legal practice.
In the law, a contingent fee is defined as a fee charged for a lawyer’s services that is payable only if a lawsuit is successful or results in a favorable settlement, usually in the form of a percentage of the amount recovered on behalf of the client. Contingent fees may make it easier people of limited means to pursue their civil rights since otherwise, to sue someone for a tort one must first be wealthy enough to pursue such litigation in the first place. Due to the risk of loss, attorneys will take cases on a contingency basis unless they believe that the case has merit, although accepting cases on a contingency is not without risk.”
Basically, every case involving a personal injury is taken as follows: personal injury lawyer fees are based on a contingency. What is the contingency? The contingency in personal injury lawyer fees is recovering money damages in your personal injury case. If the personal injury lawyer does not meet that contingency, then the personal injury lawyer earns no money. So, no personal injury lawyer fees would be charged to the client. Some personal injury lawyers may charge you for “costs” if the are not able to be successful in your case. So, discuss this with your personal injury lawyer: Do you charge costs in your personal injury lawyer fees if you do not end up recovering money for me?
YOUR PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER HAS TO BELIEVE IN YOU AND YOUR CASE
As you can imagine, to earn a personal injury lawyer fees, your lawyer must believe in you and believe in your case. If the personal injury lawyer does not believe in you and your case, then he will probably not accept you as a client. Your personal injury lawyer must feel confident that he can recover personal injury lawyer fees by winning your case or settling your case with the at-fault driver’s insurance company (if you are involved in a car accident).
EXAMPLE OF GOOD CASE WITH HIGH PROBABILITY OF RECOVERY
You and your personal injury lawyer become a team when you sign his contingency fee agreement. It is your duty to help and cooperate with your personal injury lawyer so that he can recover the most money possible based upon the severity of your injuries. Let’s say you were injured in a car accident. You were struck from behind by a driver looking at his cellphone and texting. You were injured by the crash. In this case scenario, most personal injury lawyers would accept your case as there if a very high probability of recovering money for you and recovering personal injury lawyer fees.
EXAMPLE OF LOW PROPABILITY OF RECOVERY CASE
However, let’s say you slipped and fell in a grocery store. You were injured in your fall by straining muscles and ligaments in your back. You were not absolutely certain as to what caused your fall. You think there may have been water on the floor but cannot say for sure. In this particular factual situation, a personal injury lawyer may not be very confident in recovering money for you and recovering personal injury lawyer fees. It is historically very difficult to prove that a grocery store is at fault for your fall. Your personal injury lawyer must prove that the store was negligent and had “notice” of the condition that caused your fall, so again, your personal injury lawyer may not be confident of recovering personal injury lawyer fees.
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER
Have a very candid conversation when you first meet your personal injury lawyer. Do you feel like I have a good case? Do you feel that the other party was at fault? Do you feel that the other party was the proximate cause of my injuries? Do you feel that the extent of my injuries are severe enough to bring a successful case? Do you feel like you can settle my case without having to go to court or without having to file a lawsuit? How long have you been handling these types of personal injury cases? Will you file a lawsuit if that has to be done or will you refer my case out to a specialist in litigation? What percentage of your cases end up settling? What defenses could the at fault party raise? These are some good questions to ask a potential personal injury lawyer as the lawyer you choose wants to be successful and wants to recover money for you and personal injury lawyer fees for himself.
REASONS THAT PERSONAL INJURY LAWYERS FEES ARE CHARGED BASED ON A CONTINGENCY FEE
You might be asking why personal injury lawyers all charge a contingency fee and what that contingency fee will be.
Here are some of the reasons that personal injury lawyer fees are based on “contingency”:
- It provides you access to a personal injury lawyer if you otherwise could not afford to pay personal injury lawyer fees like by the hour. Most attorneys nowadays charge at least $200 per hour so for a person who cannot afford to pay a lawyer by the hour, personal injury lawyer fees on contingency are the only viable option.
- Your personal injury attorney is even more motivated to work hard and win your personal injury case. If he wins, then he can recover personal injury fees based on the contingency fee agreement. Thus, your lawyer is highly motivated to be successful in your case as if he is not, then he will not earn any personal injury lawyer fees.
- Since a personal injury lawyer is only going to take a winning case, we can assume that the personal injury case has merit and that the other party was at fault and did cause you personal injuries. So, this weeds out the cases that do not have merit and that would just clog the court systems. If the personal injury lawyer does not take your case, then there must be a very good reason and he will not recover personal injury lawyer fees.
- You do not have to pay your personal injury “up front” or give him a money retainer. Basically, you will not have to pay your personal injury lawyer any money at all, until the end of the case and until the contingency has been met and your lawyer earns his personal injury lawyer fees.
- In some instances, personal injury lawyers will reduce their contingency fee at the end of a case if he recovered less money than he expected.
- Make sure you totally understand what your personal injury lawyer is charging you when he wins or settles your case.
WHAT DO PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER FEES CHARGE ON CONTINGENCY FEE CONTRACTS
When you first meet with your personal injury lawyer, he or she will go over your case and at the very end of the interview, will explain his personal injury lawyer fees. Normally, personal injury lawyers charge what is normal in their particular state. Here are some examples of what personal injury lawyers will charge you:
- If your personal injury case is settled without the necessity of filing a lawsuit and going to court, then the normal contingency fee is 33.33 percent of the total recovery. Some lawyers do charge more than this, I do not. I have seen some personal injury lawyers charge anywhere from 36% all the way up to 50%. I recommend that you do not enter into a contingency fee contract where the personal injury lawyer fees are more than 33.33%. There is really no reason for a personal injury lawyer to charge you 50%, other than pure greed.
- If your personal injury case is not settled before your personal injury lawyer has to file a lawsuit, then the normal personal injury lawyer fees are 40%. The reason that the contingency fee always goes up when a personal injury lawyer has to litigate is because the lawyer has to spend much more time and resources when litigating a case. Again, some personal injury lawyers can charge 50% or more for litigation, so be careful.
- Always ask your personal injury lawyer with regard to personal injury lawyer fees, if he or she charges you separately for “costs” and what those “costs” are anticipated to be.
I personally charge a flat 33.33% which is on the very low end of what lawyers charge. I believe that lawyers and myself included should not charge more than that for personal injury lawyer fees. I like to see more money going into my clients’ pockets and I can partially accomplish this by charging lower personal injury lawyer fees.