Injury victims should have access to the best legal representation they can find. The old adage that “you get what you pay for” often applies when hiring a personal injury lawyer. Potential clients often ask us about our fees because they heard what other firms were charging. Clients are understandably concerned that they will not receive any money after paying the lawyer fees and doctors are paid.
Whether you were hurt in a car accident, truck crash, slip or trip and fall, or by medical negligence, hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer can make the difference in the outcome of your case. Hiring the most experienced and successful lawyers does not have to be more expensive than hiring new or average lawyers.
Most personal injury lawyers provide their services on a “contingency fee” basis. A contingency fee basis means the amount you pay the lawyer for their time, skill, and expertise is directly dependent on how much money they are able to get for you. Whether the lawyer helps you obtain a settlement, trial verdict, or arbitration award, the amount will be the same. The fee is capped at whatever percentage you agree to at the time you hire the lawyer.
This also means, generally, that if your case is unsuccessful, you do not have to pay a fee for your lawyer’s efforts. One great feature of contingency fee arrangements is that you do not have to pay any money upfront. Additionally, the lawyer usually advances all the necessary costs to pursue the case. This means you only pay a fee and reimburse the lawyer for the costs advanced if your case is successful.
The most common contingency fees range from 33 1/3% to 40%. The actual percentages vary based on case type and other factors specific to your claim. Most medical malpractice and product liability victims can expect their contingency fee to be at least 40%. These areas of law are high risk for law firms. They require extensive time and effort and require law firms to be very knowledgeable in these areas.
Most injury lawyers also employ a sliding scale fee where the fee varies depending on the stage at which the case resolves. The most common arrangement features a 33 1/3% fee for cases that settle before filing a lawsuit in court and 40% fee for cases that resolve after the lawsuit is filed. There are lawyers who raise the fee to 45% if the case goes to trial and 50% if the case goes on appeal.
In addition to paying your Arizona lawyer a fee, you will need to reimburse the lawyer for the case-related costs they incur on your behalf. Most personal injury lawyers will cover those costs throughout the duration of your case with the expectation that they will be reimbursed if your case is successful. Typical case-related costs are incurred for:
Case-related costs can get expensive, especially if your case goes into litigation. The most expensive personal injury cases tend to be medical malpractice, product liability, and truck crash cases. This is because they require several experts.
When your case is done, all settlement agreements have been signed or judgments issued by the court, the adverse insurance company will send your lawyer a check. The lawyer is required to place the settlement check into their Trust Account and then provide you with an accounting of how the money will be disbursed. This disbursal sheet will identify the settlement or verdict amount, the attorneys’ fee, costs, and any liens that must be paid, ultimately identifying the amount you will receive.
Here is an example from a typical car accident case. This example compares and contrasts outcomes based on when a case resolves (assuming no liens):
Pre-litigation Settlement Amount: $60,000
Attorneys’ Fee: $20,000
Typical Costs: $1,500
Payment to Client: $38,500
Litigation Settlement Amount: $100,000
Attorneys’ Fee: $40,000
Typical Costs: $20,000
Payment to Client: $40,000
A few things should jump out to you. First, litigation involves increased fees and costs; therefore, a significantly larger litigation settlement does not necessarily mean you end up with more money. So, you might want to think twice before rejecting a pre-litigation settlement offer.
Second, the contingency fee might seem high, but injury victims who hire a lawyer usually obtain higher compensation amounts for their claims. One resource about legal fees is Nolo, an online company that works to help consumers and small businesses find legal help. A Nolo survey determined that personal injury victims who had attorney representation were almost twice as likely to receive a payout and those payouts were almost 4.5 times higher than those who handled their own injury claims. Putting it into the context of this discussion, injury victims with a lawyer, after deducting the attorneys’ fee still ended up with net payouts that were nearly three times higher than what unrepresented readers received. While it might take longer to resolve your claim with a lawyer, it appears to be worth it.
Hiring a contingency fee lawyer is almost risk-free. You can focus on your treatment and recovery while your injury lawyer works hard for you. The lawyer does not get paid until you get paid, and the lawyer gets paid based on the results they obtain for you. The lawyer has a vested interest in getting you the maximum amount you deserve. You and your lawyer are teammates fighting a common enemy—the wrongdoer and their insurance company.
Injury claims can be time-consuming and expensive. Very few injury victims have the time, energy, and money to handle their own claim; and most do not have the knowledge or expertise to do it well. That, along with the improved results, is why hiring a personal injury lawyer on a contingency fee makes sense—peace of mind and knowing you have someone fighting for you. Joseph D’Aguanno and Martin Mathers are award-winning lawyers with decades of experience obtaining great results for their clients.
Posted by JD
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