How Much Does A Lawyer Cost?
September 14, 2021
When it comes time to hire a lawyer, the process can seem intimidating, as choosing the right lawyer can significantly impact the outcome of your case. In addition, many people put off hiring a lawyer because they have concerns about the cost. After all, we regularly hear about lawyers charging hundreds of dollars an hour, which might mean a simple email or phone call could cost $100 or more.
If you need legal assistance because someone else caused you to suffer injuries, you should not put off calling a personal injury lawyer because of concerns about legal fees. Personal injury attorneys handle cases in a particular manner that ensures you can receive quality legal assistance as an injury victim without paying out of pocket.
What Is A Contingency Fee?
Personal injury law firm should always take cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that their payment depends on the outcome of your case. Specifically, the following will apply in contingency cases.
#1. Free Initial Consultation
You will receive a consultation and case evaluation at no cost. You can meet with several personal injury lawyers for free to determine which one is the best fit, as there is no obligation to hire an attorney following your free consultation. This is a good way to learn whether you have a case and what your legal options might be. You have absolutely nothing to lose by setting up the free consultation.
Be sure to go into the meeting with a list of questions to ask the attorney.
These can include:
- Do I have a compensation claim?
- How much do you think my claim is worth?
- What are some outcomes you received in similar cases?
- What is your experience with cases like mine?
Make sure to ask all the questions you have, as this can help you choose the right attorney without having to pay anything for the discussion.
#2. No upfront payments
Once you settle on a particular law firm and attorney, you will sign a representation agreement with them, which formally begins the attorney-client relationship. However, you still do not have to pay anything to retain their services at this time. Part of a contingency fee is that the lawyer works on your case before they receive anything, so you do not have to have the funds to pay a large retainer to hire a lawyer.
This is a relief to many injury victims, as they often have enough financial stress as it is due to medical bills and lost wages. Personal Injury attorneys are ready to help anyone who suffered harm by another’s negligence – not just wealthy people who have enough cash for a legal retainer. Do not wait to hire the right lawyer to represent you in your injury claim.
#3. Covering the costs of your case
Injury cases can involve expenses, especially if the case goes to litigation. Costs are different from fees, as costs are not general compensation for your attorney’s services.
Instead, these can include:
- Costs of obtaining records and transcripts
- Payment to expert witnesses for analysis and testimony
- Investigation costs
- Court filing fees
- Costs of depositions and other discovery tools
- Administrative expenses
Court filing fees can be a couple hundred dollars or more, and it can cost thousands to pay investigators and experts. You might not have the money handy to cover all the necessary costs of your case, but this does not mean you have to abandon your efforts.
As part of the contingency fee arrangement, your lawyer covers these costs while pursuing the case. You will not be responsible for any expenses until after your case resolves. This means that the idea of paying for the costs of litigation should not affect your decision to move forward with an injury case.
#4. You Only Pay Fees if Your Case Is Successful
What happens if you hire an attorney, they spend hours pursuing your claim and cover your costs, and then the claim is unsuccessful? It would not make sense to leave injury victims with medical bills, lost income, and then attorney’s fees when they do not receive any compensation. This is why contingency fees mean that you only pay fees if the lawyer wins your case.
Under the agreement, if a lawyer is unsuccessful in obtaining a settlement or award in your claim, you do not owe them any fees. In some situations, you might have to reimburse the attorney for certain costs, but this will be clear before you sign your agreement at the start of your case.
When a lawyer’s fees are tied to the lawyer’s success for you, it aligns your interests in the case. Your personal injury will have their fees at stake, so they will have the motivation to do everything possible to pursue the full damages you deserve.
If your claim is successful, the fees you owe will be a percentage of your compensation. You will agree to this compensation in your representation agreement, so you should know exactly how much will go to the law firm and how much you can keep. Percentages can vary based on the attorney and whether your case settles directly with the insurer or requires litigation. However, ethical rules require that a percentage is always reasonable given the circumstances.
The more your settlement or award is, the more the attorney will receive, which incentivizes them to fight for full compensation instead of pushing you to accept a lowball settlement.
#5. The Fees Come Directly From Your Settlement or Award
If your claim is successful, you will not have to worry about gathering money to pay your lawyer. Instead, their fees come directly from your settlement.
For example, if an attorney’s fees are one-third on your settlement, the following might occur:
- Initial settlement offer from the insurance company = $25,000
- Final settlement with the help of your personal injury attorney = $150,000
- Fees that go to your attorney = $50,000 (one-third of $150,000)
- Reimbursement for case costs = $5,000
- Settlement funds that you keep = $95,000
Even though your attorney takes a portion of your settlement as their fees, the difference between what you receive with legal representation and without is stark. Having an attorney maximizing your settlement is worth it, as most unrepresented claimants receive settlements that are much lower than they need.
Once your case settles or you receive a jury award, the check will go to your attorney. Your lawyer will then subtract their fees and costs from the amount and forward the remainder to you. You never have to deal with writing a check from your own account or figuring out the math regarding fees. You will not receive bills from your attorney since by the time you receive your compensation, they have already resolved the matter of payment.
This arrangement allows you the representation you need with minimal stress.
You Should Completely Understand the Contingency Fee Structure Before You Sign
You should never feel pressured to sign a representation agreement—or any contract—without fully understanding all the terms and conditions. If you have questions about how a contingency arrangement works, make sure to ask. You should feel comfortable with all the fee obligations before you hire an attorney.
Make sure you know:
- What percentage of your settlement will go to lawyer’s fees if you settle an insurance claim?
- What percentage of your settlement will go to lawyer’s fees if they need to file a lawsuit and you settle during the litigation process?
- What percentage of your settlement will go to lawyer’s fees if your case goes to a jury trial?
- Does the lawyer take the percentage of your settlement before or after they deduct the costs?
These will all matter in your case, so you should be confident in your attorney’s fee structure and what they will receive if your case is successful.
When Can A Lawyer Use Contingency Fees?
Contingency fee structures can be beneficial to clients who do not have funds to pay a costly retainer or ongoing hourly fees. Such clients might need representation and cannot afford it without a contingency fee arrangement.
This arrangement commonly applies to the following types of civil cases:
- Personal injury
- Workers’ compensation
- Disability benefits
- Malpractice claims
- Employment discrimination and harassment
- Wage and labor law claims
- Debt collections cases
- Class action lawsuits
On the other hand, there are certain types of cases in which professional rules prohibit a lawyer from using a contingency fee arrangement. These include divorce and criminal defense matters. In those cases, lawyers often charge a flat fee, retainer, or by the hour.
Pros of Contingency Fees
There are many advantages to contingency fees, such as:
- You do not have to have a ton of money saved up to afford a lawyer. This is particularly beneficial for injury clients who are likely missing work, losing income, and facing a pile of medical bills.
- You can meet with many different attorneys to choose the best one for you without paying for several consultations.
- You can be sure that your attorney’s interests are in alignment with yours since they only receive their fees if your claim is successful. They will put the necessary effort into seeking the most compensation available in your specific case because it benefits them also.
- You know that your attorney will not waste your time by pursuing an unlikely case because chances are they would waste their own time, as well, without any payment.
- You know that if you lose your case, you will not be stuck with additional bills for legal fees on top of the losses you already have for your injuries. You do not have to stress about the possibility of losing and still owing your attorney thousands of dollars at the end.
Contingency fees work in your favor, and they allow you to pursue your claim with all the legal tools at your disposal. Having a lawyer is often the difference between covering your losses and not, so this fee arrangement provides you with the best chance of receiving just compensation.
Cons of Contingency Fees
Contingency fees might have many advantages, but it is still not a perfect system. Like anything else, there are some cons to go along with the pros of contingency fee arrangements.
Some might include:
- If you have a borderline claim that might be challenging to prove, it can be difficult to find a lawyer who will take your case. Some injury attorneys only take clients they believe will have easy victories with minimal work, so you might have to search longer to find the right law firm willing to take a complex matter that requires more time and resources. If someone else caused your injuries, however, do not give up and keep meeting with attorneys.
- Once you agree to pay the contingency fee, you must do so no matter how quickly your case resolves. You might expect your lawyer to put in months of work for the percentage they receive, but they might convince the insurance company to offer a fair settlement in a couple of weeks. You might think paying a percentage of your settlement is unfair for such a short time, but you agreed to pay a certain amount if the lawyer obtained compensation for you – no matter how long or short of a time it took.
- Contingency fees could end up being more than hourly fees if your case does not take a long time to resolve. If one lawyer charges $200 per hour and spends 100 hours on a case, the client would pay $20,000 in fees. Under a contingency fee, a lawyer can spend 100 hours on a case and obtain a $150,000 settlement, which means they receive around $50,000 (depending on the agreed-upon percentage).
While there are some possible disadvantages to contingency fees, the advantages far outweigh them. Contingency fees allow you to get the help you need from a trusted and experienced legal professional regardless of your financial situation. If you would like to learn about your rights after an injury, contact a personal injury attorney in your area right away.
“These lawyers are not only very efficient, but caring as well. I would not hesitate to refer them to anyone.”
MATTHEW T. / FORMER CLIENT