If you’ve been injured by another person’s negligence, you may be eager to file a personal injury claim so you can work towards recovering the compensation that you deserve. But, at a time where your medical bills are piling up and you are unable to work because of your injuries, you may be hesitant to hire an attorney without knowing what it will cost you. How much do you have to spend on a personal injury lawyer? The short answer is it depends. It’s incredibly rare for a lawyer to charge a flat fee for their legal services, so the cost will vary greatly on a case-by-case basis. To get a better idea of how much you may have to pay your personal injury attorney, learn about the different ways they charge their clients for their services:
Contingency Fee Arrangements
The vast majority of personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis. This means they do not ask for any money from their clients upfront and instead take a percentage out of the settlement if one is awarded. How much will your attorneys take? The contingency fee usually falls between 25-40% of your settlement, with 33% being the standard fee. This means if you are awarded $100,000 in your personal injury case, your attorneys will receive $33,000 of this settlement, and you will receive $67,000.
You should keep in mind that contingency fees are always negotiable. If you do not agree with the percentage that your lawyer wants to take out of your settlement, feel free to ask whether he is willing to negotiate a lower percentage. Attorneys will be more willing to negotiate their fees with you if you have a strong case against the defendant and they don’t want to risk losing you as a client.
Although most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, there are a few that still ask to be paid an hourly fee instead. If you work with an attorney who charges by the hour, you will be billed for every hour that the attorney spends on your case. It doesn’t matter whether you win or lose the case in this arrangement—you will still responsible for paying the attorney.
Why don’t more personal injury attorneys charge by the hour? First, many attorneys think it is unfair to charge injury victims by the hour. Under this type of agreement, victims would have to fork over money to their attorneys at a time where they are recovering from their injuries and dealing with massive medical bills. Second, attorneys may make less charging by the hour than they would if they took a percentage of the settlement. If an attorney asks you to pay by the hour, this could indicate that he does not believe you have strong case that will result in a large settlement. It’s best to avoid working with personal injury attorneys who charge by the hour. It’s very risky to agree to pay an attorney even if you do not receive a settlement. This could leave you with large medical expenses, court fees, and attorney fees that you may be unable to pay.
Some attorneys will ask that you pay a small retainer fee at the beginning of your case, and also agree to a contingency fee arrangement. If you are awarded a settlement, the amount that you paid upfront should be subtracted from the amount your attorney is owed at the end of your case. For example, let’s say you are working with an attorney who requires a $1,000 retainer fee and 30% of your settlement. If you are awarded $100,000, the attorney would be entitled to $30,000 of that, which is 30% of the settlement. However, since you already paid him $1,000, he would only receive $29,000 from the settlement.
Besides paying for the attorney’s legal services, you also have to factor in the cost of court fees, hiring expert witnesses, and other expenses that may arise as the lawyer prepares your case. Some lawyers will ask you to cover these costs as they are incurred, which means you will be billed and expected to pay before you reach a settlement. But, many attorneys who are paid on a contingency fee basis will cover these expenses for you upfront and then reimburse themselves with the settlement money. For example, let’s say you are awarded $160,000 for your injuries, your attorney is taking 30% of your settlement, and your attorney also incurred $10,000 in expenses while preparing your case. In this scenario, $10,000 would be taken from the $160,000 settlement and paid to your attorney to reimburse him for his expenses. Then, the remaining sum of $150,000 would be split between the two of you, with $45,000 (30% of $150,000) going to the attorney, and $105,000 (70% of $150,000) going to you.
Before you begin working with an attorney, make sure you clearly understand how you will be charged for his services. Read all of the fine print in the contract before you sign so you don’t agree to something you are not comfortable with. Here are some questions you can ask to clarify the terms of payment with your attorney:
- Will I be required to pay anything if we don’t win a settlement?
- Will I be required to pay anything upfront?
- Who will cover the cost of expenses?
- What percentage will you take out of the settlement to cover your legal services?
- What percentage of the settlement will I receive?
If you are seeking legal representation from a personal injury attorney, contact Trial Lawyers for Justice today to schedule a consultation. During this initial consultation, you can learn more about your legal options and the cost of our services.