A personal injury case should not cost you anything. If you hire us, you pay nothing unless we win.  You pay us a percentage if you recover money through a settlement or verdict.  This arrangement is called a contingency fee agreement. Not all agreements are the same, however.

Contingency Fee Agreements: What to Know

Contingency fees often vary depending on which stage the case is in when it resolves.  A standard contingency fee is 33.33% of the recovery.  However, the attorney typically receives a higher percentage if the case goes to trial (such as 45%).  Attorneys may take a lower rate (like 30%) if they can settle the case quickly before they file a lawsuit and invest significant time and money. 

Beware of contingency fees that are much higher or lower than those above.  Attorneys who accept lower contingency fees may be doing subpar work, and attorneys taking higher contingency fees may be taking advantage of clients.

Some attorneys will not negotiate their contingency fee and have a set fee that they always keep the same.

Who pays the costs?

In a contingency fee agreement, the attorney typically pays the costs and expenses of the case and is reimbursed for them when the case resolves.  The client pays no money upfront.  If the attorney wins the case, the attorney collects the award money and deducts the expenses.  Be clear with your attorney about who will pay the case costs if you lose.  Depending on the terms of your client agreement, you may be responsible for some or all the case costs if you lose.  Litigation costs can be tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Check your client agreement before you sign it.

When are costs deducted?

Whether you reimburse the attorney for their costs before or after you deduct the contingency fee makes a difference in how much you receive.  You will receive more if you pay the expenses before the attorney takes the contingency fee.  You will receive less if you pay them after the attorney takes the contingency fee.  Make sure your client agreement is clear about whether you will pay the costs before or after deducting the contingency fee.

What will the costs be?

Preparing a case for trial often costs tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Typical litigation costs include:

Expert witness fees:  Each expert may charge several thousand dollars to review your case, prepare a report, and testify in a deposition and at trial.  Your case may require several expert witnesses, such as technical, economic, vocational, and medical experts.  Expert witness fees may be tens of thousands of dollars for complex cases or cases that require several experts.

Deposition costs:  Some lawsuits require many depositions.  Each one needs a court reporter and a transcript fee.  Also, travel may be required.  Furthermore, you may have to pay expert witnesses to prepare and testify.  Deposition costs can be enormous.

Process servers:  In every lawsuit, it is necessary to serve process to the defendant(s), witnesses, and other people related to the case.  If you file a lawsuit, you will have to hire a process server to serve the appropriate people, or your case will not be able to move forward.

Private Investigators: Hiring private investigators may be necessary, such as to locate missing defendants or witnesses for service of process.

Court filing fees:  Many court filings cost money.  For example, filing a complaint to initiate a lawsuit costs about $400.

Obtaining evidence:  There may be incidental fees for obtaining public documents, medical records, security footage, and other evidence. 

Photocopy and mail expenses:  Personal injury cases involve postage and copying that can quickly add up to a few hundred dollars or more.

Translators and interpreters:  You may have to hire a translator or sign language interpreter if you or someone involved in the case needs one to testify.

Other costs: Every case is different, and there is no definitive list of litigation costs.  Your case may incur charges not described here. 

Why Contingency Fees Are Good for Clients

Contingency fees align the client’s interests with the attorney’s: the attorney does not get paid unless the client wins, and the attorney makes more, the more they can recover for the client.

Furthermore, contingency fees make the legal system available to people who can’t afford an attorney or pay litigation costs out of pocket.  Personal injury cases can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees and litigation costs.  As such, only a few people could pursue such claims if they had to pay upfront. 

Contingency fees take the financial risk off the client and incentivize the attorney to do their very best work on the case. Good attorneys only take cases on a contingency fee if they think they can win. Contingency fees make top-quality lawyers available to people who otherwise couldn’t afford them.

What Will My Lawyer Do to Earn Their Fee?

The services that personal injury attorneys perform in exchange for their contingency fee include:

  • Determine all liable parties and their insurance policies.
  • Calculate damages and assign a value to your claim.
  • Conduct settlement negotiations and give you advice.
  • Communicate with the insurance company and defendants.
  • File a lawsuit in the proper court within the statute of limitations.
  • Appear at all pre-trial hearings and conferences.
  • Gather evidence and witness testimony.
  • Draft court filings, motions, and pleadings.
  • Draft discovery requests and responses.
  • Provide you with updates on the case.
  • Take and defend depositions.
  • Prepare witnesses to testify.
  • Hire experts and prepare them to testify.
  • Prepare trial exhibits.
  • Collect settlements or jury awards.

All these tasks require the care of a skilled lawyer.  Attempting to do them yourself is a recipe for disaster.  Insurance companies take advantage of people who have no lawyers or inexperienced lawyers. 

Insurance companies pay more to people whose lawyer has a proven history of winning personal injury trials.  Suppose you have an inexperienced lawyer or a lawyer who settles all their cases before trial.  In that case, the insurance company will pay you less.  From our experience, you will need an experienced trial lawyer to receive anything close to the total value of your claim.

Contact us today for a free consultation.  For more information on how to select a personal injury lawyer, click here.