How are Personal Injury Lawyers Paid?

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 What Is a Personal Injury Claim?

When an individual files a personal injury claim, they assert that they suffered an injury because of an act or a failure to act by the defendant. The individual who was injured and files the claim is called the plaintiff.

An injury in a personal injury claim can be physical, mental, or both types. These types of lawsuits typically ask the court or jury to award the plaintiff monetary damages for personal injury.

Examples of physical injuries that are often the basis of personal injury claims include injuries to an individual’s:

  • Limbs;
  • Organs; or
  • Other parts of their body.

A physical injury does not have to be discovered instantly. It can develop over a period of time. Mental health injuries may include emotional pain and anguish that result from the incident.

Personal injuries that form the basis of claims may be intentional or unintentional. An example of an intentional injury would be when the defendant intentionally injured the victim or intended to commit the act, resulting in the plaintiff’s injury.

In many cases, unintentional injuries result from the defendant’s negligence. Common examples of cases that involve negligence include;

What Is a Personal Injury Lawyer?

A personal injury lawyer is a professional who represents clients who have suffered injuries. Common examples of personal injury lawsuits include those that involve:

  • Automobile accidents;
  • Pedestrian accidents;
  • Slips, trips, or falls; and
  • Other types of cases.

A personal injury lawsuit may also involve claims against physicians, such as in cases where negligence on the part of the physician is alleged. These types of cases are referred to as medical malpractice cases.

What Information Should I Ask My Personal Injury Lawyer?

An individual needs to learn about personal injury lawyers before hiring one. Before hiring an attorney, an individual can interview them over the phone, in person, or via email.

A prospective personal injury lawyer should provide detailed information about their experience and knowledge during this interview. There are several issues an individual should address during the interview, including:

  • The role of the lawyer in the firm
  • The experience of the lawyer in the field of personal injury;
  • The lawyer’s experience in handling similar cases;
  • Successful cases the lawyer has handled in the past;
  • The lawyer’s fees for related cases;
  • A lawyer’s prediction of the outcome of the case;
  • The number of other cases the attorney is currently handling;
  • The average amount of compensation an attorney wins in related cases; and
  • Any conflicts of interest.

Individuals should not hesitate to thoroughly interview a potential attorney because they will work closely together. A strong attorney-client relationship will help the success of the client’s case.

What Kind of Fee Does a Personal Injury Lawyer Charge?

In general, a personal injury attorney will work on a contingent basis, also called contingency. This means the lawyer is not paid upfront before they begin working on the case.

Instead, they are paid contingent upon the outcome of their client’s case. If a plaintiff settles their case for money or the court awards them monetary damages as compensation for injuries, the personal injury attorney will receive a fixed percentage of what the plaintiff settles for or is awarded.

The percentage that the personal injury lawyer will receive is not set in stone. In other words, the law does not require that the number be a specific percentage.

Many lawyers will charge a ⅓ contingency fee or 33⅓ percent. If the plaintiff settles their case or is provided a monetary award, their lawyer will receive ⅓ of that settlement or award.

A contingency fee usually ranges between 25% and 40%. Contingency fee agreements must be in writing in a retainer agreement.

The client has to be notified of the percentage that will be charged before the representation begins. A client can try to negotiate for a lower percentage rate.

The attorney may impose a higher or lower contingency fee based on their judgment of the merits of the client’s case and its chances for success. If the attorney believes the case is strong, the lawyer may charge a lower contingency fee if they think the plaintiff will receive a monetary award.

If the lawyer thinks the case may not be that strong, they may choose to insure against the risk by charging a higher contingency fee. The contingency fee cannot be excessive.

Factors that are considered when determining whether a fee is excessive include:

  • The time and labor required of the attorney to properly represent the client;
  • The difficulty and novelty of the case;
  • The skills required for proper representation;
  • The likelihood that the representation will prevent the attorney from being able to represent other clients;
  • The legal fee customarily charged in the locality for legal services of a comparable or similar nature;
  • Any time limitations that are imposed either by the client or the circumstances of the representation;
  • The nature and length of the lawyer’s professional relationship with the client; and
  • The lawyer’s:
    • experience;
    • reputation; and
    • ability.

What Must the Client Pay for in a Contingency Case?

As noted above, a contingency fee does not mean the lawyer takes the case for free. In most contingency fee cases, the client is still responsible for covering various expenses or litigation costs unless their retainer agreement provides that the lawyer will pay for them.

Examples of common costs of litigation include:

  • Photocopying fees;
  • Consultation fees;
    • Lawyers in personal injury matters are permitted to charge a flat or hourly fee for an initial consultation with a potential client;
    • During an initial consultation, the potential client discusses the facts and circumstances of their claim, and the lawyer asks questions to obtain additional details;
    • If, after the consultation, the individual then becomes a client, the lawyer and the client may then enter into a contingency fee arrangement;
  • Fees required to file a lawsuit, called filing fees;
  • Court reporter fees;
  • Fees that have to be paid to obtain transcripts of depositions;
    • A deposition is a series of questions asked by an attorney of the plaintiff, under oath, to gather evidence;
  • Fees for expert witness testimony;
    • Experts typically charge a fee for reports they create as well as for testifying in court; and
  • Fees must be paid to receive copies of evidence, such as medical and accident reports provided by a state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

These costs will vary by case, as each lawsuit is unique. In addition, state laws may also determine how fees and court costs are calculated.

Do I Need a Lawyer for a Personal Injury Matter?

If you believe you have sustained an injury because of another individual’s negligence, it is important to consult with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Your lawyer will review your claim and advise you of its strengths and weaknesses.

Your lawyer can explain whether they take contingency cases and, if so, how their fee structure works. In addition, your attorney will represent you during settlement meetings and court appearances.

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