From medical malpractice or a bike accident to a slip and a fall, if you are thinking about filing a personal injury claim on behalf of yourself or your loved one, then you have already also started working on finding a personal injury lawyer to take up your case.
You are already tight on money, due to medical bills, and your inability to work, so the first question that would come to your mind is: how much would hiring the lawyer cost me?
You may have gone through, thousands of ads, brochures, browsed hundreds of law firms and may still be confused about one thing: what do personal injury lawyers charge?
For you convenience we have provided some general financial guidelines these personal injury lawyers work on:
Important Questions To Ask The Personal Injury Lawyer
The most important things that you should clear up with your potential attorney are:
- Does that lawyer work on a contingency fee basis or an hourly basis?
- Are there any upfront charges? (fee paid before service is provided)
- Any fee changes while going to trial or other conditions
- Any expenses that would be charged separately (hidden expenses)
Having the answers to these questions beforehand will save you from future unpleasant surprises.
Hourly Rate Charging
While the percentage of lawyers charge hourly rate is very low as compared to those working on a contingency fee basis, these lawyers still practice. Regardless of whether you win or lose, with an hourly billing rate, you would have to pay your attorney for every hour they work. Paying the lawyer in addition to covering medical and other expenses can be very difficult and you never know how much time your case would take to be resolved.
Hourly rate charging is less popular because if the case is won, they receive less money than the ones who work on a contingency fee basis. If a lawyer is giving their service on an hourly rate, then chances are that they might think that your claim is weak and would not result in a large settlement. Feel free to ask them why you are not being offered a contingency fee basis option. Avoid choosing an hourly rate attorney because firstly you have a lot of other options and secondly it’s unnecessary stress on your already tight budget.
Contingency Fee Basis
With a contingency fee basis, you only pay the lawyer when they are successful in negotiating a monetary settlement from the defendant or they win the court trial on your behalf. Most personal injury lawyers set this percentage between 33-40%, but you can always demand or negotiate an alternative agreement or reduced percentage. If the case is lost, or you receive no compensation, then you do not have to pay your attorney anything. And in the circumstance that you win, you would have to pay the percentage of contingency fee that was agreed upon beforehand and also any expenses the attorney incurred in dealing with your case.
Most attorneys, before starting on a case draw up an agreement in which the contingency fee percentage varies, depending on the stage at which the case is resolved (often referred to as the ‘sliding scale’). In instances of extreme negligence or irresponsibility, the defendant may immediately agree upon a settlement after a demand letter is sent by the plaintiff lawyer very early on in the case. If you have a good case, then in a few negotiations your case can be wound up and since it was resolved very quickly, the lawyer may receive a percentage even less than the standard 33%. But in cases where the claim proceeds to a lawsuit, then the percentage of the attorney’s fee goes up. And if this lawsuit continues to the trial stage, and as the case prolongs, the contingency fee keeps going up.
All in all, the final settlement you receive may be much less than you expected; especially after the deduction of contingency fee and the payment of expenses that incurred during the trial and were handled at that time by the lawyer.
So before agreeing upon anything, consider the fact that when and if your lawyer manages to get you the final settlement, the deductions may be much more than you are willing or were expecting to give up.
As these lawyers are at risk of not getting paid at all, they pick cases that they believe have a strong claim or can be presented in the court with a strong evidence base. So chances are that your case may be refused by the lawyers if they sense that it is not winnable or it is too weak.
Cost Vs. Fee
During your case, the personal injury lawyer may bear any cost that appears when dealing with different elements in building your case, and they deduct these expenses from your share of the settlement; for example:
- your medical reports,
- collecting evidence from the scene,
- running background checks on witnesses and experts,
- gathering visual evidence,
- procuring police reports
- transcripts & trial exhibits
- expert witness fee
- postage & filings fee
Understand the difference between cost and fee. The latter is the contingency amount that is agreed upon beforehand or the hourly rate that was decided, while the costs are the expenses that occurred while building the evidence base of your case.
In an hourly rate scenario, these expenses are bored by the client as they come up but in a contingency fee basis, these costs are deducted from the final settlement.
In case there is no verdict reward or compensation, then the client does not have to pay these costs. These terms should be cleared in the first meeting with your potential lawyer.
In Case You Fire You Lawyer Before The Case Is Over
In case you fire your attorney or switch lawyers before the case is over, your original lawyers have alien (legal claim) over the fee and cost incurred on the case before the switch.
The lawyer may also be able to sue you and the defendant for failing to protect the attorney’s lien.
You do not want a case upon case, so the best way to avoid this is to first choose a lawyer that is the best fit for you and secondly get them to agree in writing that they would not seek any interest on fee or expenses in the case, so should you find yourself in a situation where you have to fire them; you would at least be safe from a lawsuit.
Before hiring a personal injury lawyer, ask the attorney to walk you through the numbers. The lawyer is the one that receives your settlement check in order to deduct their due share, in the instance that you win your claim, so be sure that you are satisfied with the terms you have agreed upon with the lawyer who will handle your money.