Hiring a personal injury attorney typically involves agreeing to pay fees and costs for legal representation in a case. A lawyer can help explain how and why they charge for their services and costs throughout a case and which case factors may affect those figures.
Injured people are among the most financially vulnerable. Between struggling with a loss of work to facing mounting medical bills, the idea of adding attorney’s fees and costs may seem overwhelming.
However, learning how fees and expenses are commonly handled when hiring an attorney, and whether they are reasonable to you, could make the decision to hire an attorney much easier.
Also, knowing which case factors can affect how much an injury attorney charges could help if you are wondering what your net payout would be at the close of your case.
To find an exact dollar amount for your net compensation would be extremely difficult, as every case is different and circumstances can change over time. However, it is possible to develop an idea of what you could be compensated depending on different case outcomes and how attorneys’ fees and costs often affect a client’s net recovery.
What Is A Typical Personal Injury Attorney Fee?
Most personal injury attorneys get paid through a form of payment called a contingency fee, which means their payment depends on the outcome of the case. With a contingency fee payment plan, the attorney requires no money upfront to begin representing you for your case. Instead, their fees will be taken out of the winnings as a percentage from a settlement or from damages awarded after a favorable court verdict.
If your case does not have a positive outcome, then the lawyer does not collect any fees.
Contingency fees typically range anywhere from 25 to 33 percent, but most often personal injury attorneys ask for 33 percent, or one-third, of the compensation you receive at the close of your case.
Can Fees Change Throughout A Personal Injury Case?
There are times when an attorney working on a contingency-fee-basis may increase their fee percentage depending on where the case stands when it is resolved.
This is a structure that is often called a sliding scale, and it’s based on the fact that filing a lawsuit requires many more hours of the attorney’s time and effort than negotiating a settlement directly with an insurance company.
For example, an injury attorney may require 33 percent of a settlement but may raise it to perhaps 40 percent if the case progresses to the point where they file a lawsuit, or even higher if it reaches the trial stage.
What Are Costs In A Personal Injury Case?
Aside from the contingency fee that an attorney gets for their legal services, there are a number of additional costs and expenses that sometimes must be paid in order to keep a lawsuit going.
The amount of legal fees and costs required to move your case forward will likely depend on the seriousness of your injury and the complexity of your case.
Costs in a personal injury lawsuit typically include:
- court costs for filing fees and transcripts
- expert witness fees
- administrative expenses such as postage, travel, legal research, and trial exhibits
- deposition costs
- costs of investigation and gathering of documents, such as medical records and police reports
In many personal injury cases, your attorney pays these costs and expenses as they arise throughout the lawsuit. Then, if you have a positive outcome in your case (either by settlement or court verdict), costs are repaid to the attorney from the compensation you receive.
Deducting Legal Fees And Costs From Your Compensation
One of the most important points that a client can know about repaying fees and costs is whether the costs are deducted from the recovery amount before or after the attorney calculates their fee.
If the lawyer calculates their fee from the compensation amount before the costs are deducted, they would typically collect a larger fee, whereas if a lawyer’s fee is calculated after the costs and expenses are taken out of the recovery, their fee would likely end up being smaller.
It is fairly typical for personal injury attorneys to deduct costs first, but the best way to be certain about how your net recovery would be determined is to ask an attorney about how they handle fees and costs at the close of a case.
Many people make the mistake of only considering their attorney’s fees when calculating what they may net in recovery if their case has a successful outcome. It is common for litigation costs and expenses to be considered additional to fees, and they can end up totaling a significant amount, especially if the case progresses past the point of filing for a lawsuit.
It may be best to speak with an attorney to be clear about the costs and expenses that would be likely in your case and who would be responsible for them once it is resolved.
How Are Fees And Costs Determined In A Personal Injury Case?
Your attorney should explain what their fees are and how they will be calculated, as well as anything else that would come out of any settlement or damages award after a favorable verdict.
This information is also usually kept in a fee agreement, which is a written contract to document the terms of an attorney’s fee and cost structure. Most lawyers will present the fee agreement in writing, and many states have laws that require them to do so.
The fee agreement may cover any contingency fee percentages, any specific arrangements for fees and/or costs that you have made with them, and the net amount you stand to receive as a client (depending on the outcome of the case).
How Personal Injury Attorney Fees And Costs Affect Your Compensation
Fees and costs are usually a necessary part of hiring an injury lawyer, so making the decision to hire on a contingency-fee-basis may involve calculating whether a positive outcome in your specific case would provide a worthy amount of compensation to you after fees and costs are deducted.
Meeting with an experienced injury lawyer to discuss the details of your claim can help you decide whether hiring an attorney would be worthwhile, based on the specific details of your case.
Hiring A Personal Injury Attorney
There may be differences between personal injury lawyers when it comes to how they charge clients, but it may give you peace of mind to know how fees and costs are commonly handled before you hire an attorney.
If you have been injured and have questions about hiring an attorney, contact Florin|Roebig today. Our experienced attorneys can help explain our process of helping clients get the compensation they deserve.
- American Bar Association — Legal Fees and Expenses