You have suffered a personal injury because a third party was negligent, you want to hire an attorney to represent you but you are worried about personal injury attorney fees. You are not alone; many people fail to follow up on personal injury matters because they worry that they will not afford to pay their lawyers. The good news is that you don’t have to pay your attorney upfront. Personal injury lawyers are paid through what is called a contingency basis. Whether you were involved in a car wreck, had a slip and fall or suffered any other kind of personal injury you can get an attorney and you will not have to pay them until your case is won.
In most states the contingency fee is between 25% and 40% of the total settlement. If, for example, you get a settlement of $100,000 your attorney will take anything between $50,000 and $80,000. In some states the amount of contingency fees that a lawyer can charge a client is fixed by the court, so it is important to do some research and find out how much your lawyer will be keeping. In most states, however, personal injury attorneys charge 33% of the settlement value. There are some mitigating factors, however. If the settlement is done before a lawsuit is filed then they are likely to charge less. This is because they didn’t have to file all the paperwork that is involved in filing a lawsuit. If, however, the defendant feels that you don’t have a strong case against them they may wait and only capitulate after they see that they may lose in court. By this time your lawyer will have filed a lawsuit and they are likely to charge you more.
What are the costs?
There are costs that come with every personal injury matter. These include court filing fees, medical records, police reports, expert witness fees, postage, investigators, depositions and trial exhibits. You may be required to pay for these costs based on the personal injury lawyer that you use. Some firms require that their clients pay for these expenses as they arise, while there are others that are happy to pay on behalf of their clients and recover the money after settlement or after the court has awarded in your favor. Remember that these expenses are deducted separate from the contingency fees. If you don’t have money to spend on these kinds of expenses its best to find a law firm that can fit the bills on your behalf.
What happens after you win?
Once you have been awarded a settlement, or the court has ruled in your favor a check for the full amount will be delivered to your lawyer so that they can deduct their contingency fee as well as any expenses that they may have covered. They will get in touch with you so that you can discuss and agree on the numbers. If you feel that you are getting less than you should bring it up with your lawyer. The disputed amount will be placed in a trust as you sort the matter out while the lawyer writes you a check for the rest of the money. Make sure that you are working with an honest personal injury attorney – it is not unheard of for lawyers to abscond with their clients’ money. It is also very important that you get an agreement in writing about everything that the lawyer expects to get paid. Take the time to read and understand the agreement, and if you need a second opinion you should not hesitate to get it.
Are fees negotiable?
This is a common question – after all, 33% is quite a significant sum. It all depends. If you have a good case that stands the chance of a good reward then your lawyer will be more willing to take a smaller percentage. But if your case doesn’t stand the chance of a significant settlement then your lawyer might not be so willing to lower his percentage. That said, you should not be shy about asking your lawyer to reduce your fees. Remember, when they told you the percentage in the first place they expected you to negotiate.
Find the right Lawyer for you
The discussion about fees can be a telling one – it can show you how your lawyer will treat you during your dealings with him. If they are callous and unfeeling when you ask for a reduction it is quite likely that this is the same way they will treat you during your case. A good lawyer also does everything they can to get a settlement so that they can keep costs at a minimum. This is not to say that they bend over at the first offer that the defendant throws at them. Instead, they will build a case strong enough to scare the defendant into believing that a court outcome would be worse. They will also go for the largest settlement that they can get, so that their client can walk away with a bigger chunk. That said, your lawyer should not be afraid to go to court. Sometimes defendants will refuse to settle or fail to take the matter seriously, and any lawyer worth his salt will be ready to argue the matter before a jury. The great thing about jury verdicts is that they tend to award large amounts, but don’t forget that there is always a chance that you could lose.
The most important thing when it comes to personal injury attorney fees is to make sure that you are working with the right one. If you hire the right lawyer they will not overcharge you and they will do their best to keep the costs at a minimum. They will also do everything in their power to ensure that you get the best representation, be it during settlement or in court should you get there. It is worthwhile to take your time and find someone who is willing to fight for you, but keep in mind that there is a statute of limitations.