In many types of cases, hiring an attorney can cost you a small fortune. Personal injury cases are much different, however, as it will rarely cost you any money out of pocket to secure the services of a qualified and experienced personal injury lawyer. This is not to say they do not get paid, because they do, only the money comes AFTER a settlement has been reached. These fees are referred to as “contingency fees,” and they will generally range between about 30 to 50 percent of the final settlement dependent upon the payment structure that has been agreed upon.
What Are Contingency Fees in Personal Injury Lawsuits?
A contingency fee is an agreed-upon percentage that the attorney will receive if he or she wins the case. If the case is lost, you owe them nothing. In most cases, this fee will be right about 33 percent. However, there will be more difficult and time-consuming cases where that figure can increase, but it is to see a contingency fee above 40 percent. This fee is the driving force to ensure the attorney gets you every penny you have coming to you when a settlement is reached. Overall fees, however, can get higher based upon how costs and expenses are paid from the case.
The ‘Sliding Scale’
Personal injury attorneys will either use a flat fee, meaning regardless of how long the case takes to come to a settlement, they are getting “X” percent of the case. Other attorneys will use a sliding case option to determine the final fee. This is something you want to make sure you fully understand and agree upon before hiring your attorney.
Sliding scales are more or less protection for the attorney to fully compensate themselves for the time invested in the case. The quicker the case settled, the lower the fee. The longer and more involved the case is, the higher the fee.
For instance, if the case settles after depositions and there is no need to go to trial, the attorney will probably have a fee in the 30-35 percent range. If the case progresses and goes to trial, you will more than likely be facing fees in the 40 percent range. This gives you something to consider if a settlement offer is on the table before a trial is scheduled. If the figure is close enough to your initial expectations, you will have strong reason to both consider and accept the offer rather than go to trial and lose roughly 10 percent more to the attorney.
How Does the Split Work?
This is where things can tricky. There are two ways the split can be figured out. Because the attorney will more than likely be covering all costs and expenses during the case, the fees must be recovered before you receive your settlement. This can be done either before or after the split, which can make a significant difference in how much you walk away with when you finally get your settlement. Ideally, all costs and expenses are deducted off the top of the settlement, then the remainder of the money is split based on the agreement. However, some attorneys will take the expenses and costs from your share of the settlement, then pay you the remaining number.
For argument’s sake, let’s say the case settled for $100,000 before trial, which the agreement calls for a 65/35 split. In this case, you have $20,000 in case-related costs. If the agreement calls for costs and expenses to be deducted before the split, you would receive $52.000 and your attorney would receive $28,000. If, however, the costs and expenses are taken from your full share, after paying the costs and expenses, you would receive $45,000 and your attorney would receive $35,000.
What Costs and Expenses Does Attorney Cover?
In personal injury cases, if insurance is not covering any medical-related costs, the attorney would more than likely work a deal with your providers to guarantee pay after a settlement has been made. Additionally, there could be costs associated with expert witness fees, filing fees, investigative fees, depositions, transcripts, exhibits, as well as obtaining police reports and medical records. These costs can add up quickly, which is why it is extremely important to understand the fee structure before agreeing to a specific split with your attorney.
Can I Represent Myself?
Of course, but that is often not a wise decision. Now, we know those percentages can seem high, but missing one small piece of evidence, especially in involved cases, can be a complete disaster. The worse your injury, the more likely you are to need an attorney.
We highly recommend that at the very least, you discuss your case with a personal injury attorney to discuss the best possible strategy for your case. Because the initial consultation is free of charge and you are under no obligation to use the legal services of the attorney for discussing the case, you have nothing to lose.
If you were recently injured and think you may need a personal injury lawyer, please give us a call at 855-633-0888 to discuss your case. Or, if you would like to learn more about our legal services before reaching out, please click here. Remember, there is no cost and no obligation for your consultation, so give us a call today!
Taryn J. White is a legal research specialist and Injury law news reporter. Her current accomplishments include helping those facing any injuries from vehicle accidents, workplace accidents, and medical malpractice.