Some attorneys charge fees based on increments of time. They document all the time spent speaking with their client, preparing the case, litigating the case in court and charge for their time against a retainer the client pays in advance so the attorney and their team can start work. With hundreds of dollars charged per hour of work, the case often costs thousands of dollars, and can require additional money to be paid should the retainer run out.
Personal injury is different
Lawyers handling personal injury cases are paid by contingency fee, which means they get paid when they win the case or secure a settlement. They will then receive a portion of the total. The scale will vary depending on the size of the settlement, however, the typical contingency is one-third of the total settlement or award.
Both the judge and the legal teams understand this, so the amount awarded to the victim will consider that part will go to the legal team. Conversely, personal injury attorneys who work on a contingency fee do not get paid if they do not secure a settlement or lose the court case.
Why use a contingency fee?
There are a few key reasons why the plaintiffs’ attorneys work this way:
- It levels the playing field: The insurance companies have considerable legal resources, so contingency ensures that the plaintiff also has legal representation even if they cannot afford to pay a retainer.
- It avoids predatory practices: Contingency fees prevent the issue of an attorney taking on a well-paying case that they know they will lose.
- Many cannot otherwise afford the fees: It ensures that legal representation is not tied to income level or personal net worth.
There are related expenses
While the attorney works on contingency, others involved in the case do not. It costs money to file a claim. This can include court costs, costs for medical and other records, costs to prove the defendants received a copy of the complaint, and other administrative costs. The plaintiff may also need to hire expert witnesses to strengthen their case. Whether this is a doctor specializing in traumatic injuries or an expert in motor vehicle crash reconstructions, these witnesses are paid for their time, travel and possibly lodging, as well as other related expenses. These people are paid regardless of how the case turns out.
Lawyers will explain this
Lawyers will go over their fee structure before the client hires them. The potential client should also feel free to ask questions about the fee if something does not make sense. At Goldstein, Ballen, O’Rourke & Wildstein, P.C., we advance all costs for expenses related to your case. In addition to our firm only earning a fee if we are successful for our client, we only seek reimbursement of the costs advanced for expenses if there is a successful recovery..