What Is a Contingency Fee?
What Are Lawyer Fees?
Lawyers charge you for their services in three different ways. The most common way is hourly. Some charge a flat fee for certain types of cases. Most personal injury attorneys, however, charge a contingency fee, which is a percentage of the money you receive if you win or settle your case. If you don’t win or secure a settlement, you don’t pay the lawyer for his or her services. Contingency fees depend on the lawyer, the state in which you live, and the details of your case.
Contingency Fee Agreement
When an attorney takes your fee on a contingency basis, you must still sign an agreement. If the attorney expects you to cover certain expenses, he or she must list them in the retainer agreement. However, most attorneys cover expenses such as depositions, expert witnesses, and office expenses such as postage and copies. Additionally, at the end of your case, the lawyer must give you a written statement of all expenses along with the outcome of your case.
Why a Personal Injury Attorney Offers to Work on Contingency
Because quality representation is often expensive, personal injury attorneys offer to take cases on contingency. When a person is hurt, or you lost a loved one, you also typically lose income and/or suffer expenses. Someone trying to survive on one income often cannot pay a lawyer’s hourly rate upfront.
Contingency fees allow those who are struggling because of an accident to have the representation they deserve and not have to worry about attorneys’ fees and costs. They can instead use the money they do have coming in to pay the mortgage/rent, utilities, and put food on the table.
While you technically have to pay medical bills as you receive them, some medical institutions and professionals will allow you to defer them without penalty if you can show that you are working on a settlement or preparing for litigation.
When you sign a contingency fee agreement, your lawyer’s interests line up with yours. Contingency fee agreements give lawyers an incentive to do the best job possible for you.
Costs That Lawyers Can Include
A contingency fee agreement means that you pay your lawyer for his or her services only if you win. Personal injury lawyers often add other costs into the contingency fee agreement—which means that they cover certain expenses for you.
These expenses could include:
- Court fees, including the filing fee;
- Expert witnesses that testify on your behalf;
- Deposition expenses;
- Certified record costs; and
- Office costs, such as postage, copies, and other office costs.
Determining a Percentage of Your Award
Before you sign a contingency fee agreement, you might want to know how an attorney comes up with the percentage he or she is going to charge.
Several factors go into an attorney’s decision, typically the work a personal injury lawyer can offer to your case includes:
- The time he or she has to put into your case. Personal injury lawyers who have represented many people over the years have a pretty good idea of how difficult a case might be. The attorney also takes into consideration the hours that office support staff will put into your case, including aiding with discovery, phone calls, scheduling, and other prep work.
- The documents that support your claim. Some cases are well-documented with medical evidence, while others do not have much documentation. The amount of documentation may depend on the extent of your injuries and how much documentation medical institutions give you when you ask for your records.
- How much evidence the attorney will have to ask for during the discovery phase. Sometimes third parties do not promptly provide documentation to plaintiffs. An attorney might get the evidence on the first request, or he or she might have to schedule depositions or send out interrogatories and / or requests for admissions.
- Settlement or trial. Your contingency agreement will most likely have two amounts. One percentage if the case settles and a second amount if you decide to litigate your claim after the insurance company refuses to offer a fair and reasonable settlement.
After Your Case Ends
You can’t pick up a check for your damages immediately after your case ends. First, agreements and courts usually give defendants a few days to pay. The defendant must then forward a check made out to your attorney. Generally, a defendant insurance company’s attorney will do this.
Once your attorney receives the check, he or she pays any expenses that you might owe. The attorney then takes the percentage listed in your retainer agreement. Once that happens, then the attorney will give you a check for the amount that is left.
What My Case Is Worth?
The value of your case depends on several factors, including the extent of your injuries. Because part of awarded damages covers medical expenses and lost wages, those with minor injuries that go back to work relatively quickly usually recover less than someone who has extensive injuries or even injuries that lead to long-term or permanent disabilities.
Economic damages, which cover those expenses that someone—you, an insurance company, or the defendant—pays out of pocket, as well as non-economic damages, are meant to make you whole again. They don’t erase what happened but instead provide some form of financial stability when you cannot work or when you lose a loved one in an accident.
Additionally, a court may order punitive damages in certain cases. When a court orders a defendant to pay punitive damages, it is doing so as a punishment against the defendant. The court does not order punitive damages to make you whole. You can use any punitive damage recovery as you wish. This also increases the monetary value of your recoverable damages.
To properly evaluate your claim, and to find out more about what contingency fee a lawyer will charge in your case, contact an attorney near you. To get a good attorney in your time of need reach out prepared and know the questions you need to ask to determine if you have the right attorney for the job.