Some lawyers charge by the hour while others charge a client on a contingency fee basis. Many personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, which means they won’t collect their money unless they win your case. There are certain variations in the percentage that the lawyer will take based on when your case is settled. There are other fee arrangements that can be made before the attorney takes your case. You’ll have to sign an agreement with your attorney detailing his percentage or fee schedule.
Settlement Percentage for the Attorney
Personal injury lawyers will charge between twenty-five and forty percent of the settlement as their fee. For this amount, they won’t charge anything unless they win the case. That win might be a settlement or a trial in front of the court. If the case heads to trial, the attorney fees might be a higher percentage depending on the work involved.
Costs and Expenses
While the attorney might make the payments to experts, investigators and filing costs, they’ll expect to be reimbursed for those costs. There are numerous costs including those for obtaining medical records, police reports and summonses for witnesses.
In some cases, you might still be required to pay these fees as they become necessary. The payments will depend on the agreement you have with your lawyer. The case can stall while you’re trying to come up with money to pay experts and court reporter fees.
Some large personal injury firms can afford to pay these fees as the case progresses. At the end of the case, they’ll take those fees out of your share of the settlement. If you receive $50,000 at the end of the case, they could end up with almost $17,000. They’ll also take the costs out of the $33,000 you’d collect.
Settlement Before a Lawsuit
In some cases, the attorney might have a shifting fee based on the amount of work that will need to be performed. If the case is settled before a lawsuit, the lawyer will receive approximately 33 percent of the settlement amount. They can still hold you responsible for the other fees and charges involved like filing costs and postage.
Awarded Amount After a Lawsuit
If your case is resolved after the lawsuit has been filed, your lawyer could be entitled to 40 percent of the amount since there was more work involved. As your case progresses, it can become more costly. That will have to be weighed against any amounts you may receive in a settlement.
Other Fee Arrangements
Not all cases will proceed on a contingency fee basis. In some arrangements, a lawyer will ask for a retainer before they’ll take the case, and they’ll receive a contingency at the conclusion of the case. The retainer would be deducted from the contingency amount paid at the end.
- Filing fees
- Expert witnesses
- Police reports
- Trial exhibits
- Medical records
Settlement Check Sent to the Attorney
It’s common for the check to be sent to the attorney. It guarantees that the lawyer will be paid for their services. They risk not getting paid when working on contingency if the check goes to the client. The attorney will let you know the amount of the check as well as the fees and charges being deducted from that amount.
Review the contract
In California, there’s a statute that protects clients when they’re hiring an attorney on a contingency fee contract. The law requires that the fee is in writing and includes a statement regarding the costs and disbursement of the settlement. You’ll be asked to review and sign this paper. Make sure you understand the fees and charges you’ll be responsible for when the attorney takes your case.
Understand the agreement you’re signing with your attorney before hiring him or her. You’ll want to be sure that the contingency fee is fair, and you’ll need to ask who is covering the extra fees and expenses during the process.