After being injured by the negligence of another, the first priority most people have is to recovery physically. However, it may be impossible to fully recover without paying expensive medical bills or losing money through lost wages.
It doesn’t seem fair that the injured party should be responsible for using their personal money to be made whole again. As a result, the law allows injured people to retrieve their losses from the party who was at fault without necessarily spending anything from their own pocket.
This model is known as a contingency fee. This type of fee structure is where a lawyer is agrees to take a case and front the client their fee and even their costs. Making this arrangement more appealing, under many of these agreements, the client will not owe the lawyer a dime unless the client’s case is successful. Still, the overall cost of a lawyer and their services will vary depending on several factors.
What Factors Cause Costs and Lawyer’s Fees to Vary?
Below is a few of the factors that may cause the cost of a case and a lawyer’s fees to vary:
- Type of Injury – Every injury is a bad injury. However, some injuries may be less obvious than others. For example, illnesses and injuries caused by toxic substances may require more time researching liability for the injury than a car accident would.
- Experts Hired – Similar to the above, some injuries can only be clearly shown through expert testimony and advice, and this will add the overall cost of the litigation.
- Costs, Costs, Costs – It can’t be said enough - this type of litigation is expensive. Between depositions, outside research, preparing exhibits, copies required for the court and each party, phone bills, travel costs, and other expenses can accrue over the years this dispute can be going on.
What Is a Typical Contingency Fee?
Traditionally, personal injury lawyers would recover 1/3 of the award. This 1/3 did not cover costs or any other expenses, such as medical bills. These days, it is not uncommon for a lawyer to employ a tiered contingency fee. Under a tiered system, it may be that the lawyer will only take 1/4 if the case settles before litigation begins, 1/3 if litigation starts but settles before a jury verdict, and 2/5 if the case goes to trial, is appealed, or must be tried again.
Would a Personal Injury Lawyer Charge an Hourly Fee?
It would be extremely uncommon for a personal injury lawyer to ask for an hourly fee, but not necessarily unheard of or impossible. However, if a client has a surplus of cash or can afford to pay a lawyer’s bill as they go, a lawyer may be willing to work for an hourly rate. Hourly rates will vary greatly, depending on the relative ability of the lawyer. Expect to pay $100-$500 an hour for a lawyer’s time. With an hourly fee structure, it is not uncommon for legal bills to get into the $10,000 - $15,000 range quickly.
A lawyer who works on an hourly rate may also require the payment of a retainer. This retainer will cover a certain amount of that lawyer’s time. After the retainer is expended, a standard - or potentially discounted - hourly rate will apply.
Is One Fee Structure Better than Another?
Ultimately, the best billing structure is the one that works for the client. Personal injury lawyers understand how stressful of a time this is, and how much pain you are going through. Thus, they will try to make the financial aspects as painless as possible. Still, it is always best to know what you are paying for.