In general, the average cost of a personal injury lawyer depends on the individual’s case, the severity of their injuries, and who will be providing compensation for those injuries. Although there are different ways attorneys can charge for their services, the most common fee arrangement for a personal injury case is a contingency fee, which is explained below.
It is very uncommon for a personal injury lawyer to charge an hourly fee. However, if the client has a large amount of cash or can afford to pay as the case progresses, the attorney may use that type of a fee arrangement.
Hourly rates for attorneys vary greatly, depending on the relative ability of the lawyer, the complexity of the case, and the location. A client can expect to pay $100 to $500 an hour on average for a lawyer’s services.
An attorney who charges an hourly rate may also require the client to pay an up-front retainer. After the retainer, or down payment, is expended, the lawyer’s hourly rate will apply.
Another type of fee arrangements is a flat fee, which is one payment made for the attorney’s services on a case. However, this type of fee arrangement is almost never used in a personal injury case.
In most cases, a personal injury attorney will charge a contingency fee. These are the types of fees where the attorney does not get paid unless they win a case.
In a contingency fee arrangement, an attorney is paid a percentage of the damages that are awarded at the completion of the case. The attorney is not paid a regular hourly fee and, in exchange, the client does not pay unless their case is won.
Depending on the state and the details of the contingency fee arrangement, the fee may range from 5% to 50% of the damages award. The lawyer’s compensation is dependent upon, or contingent upon, winning the case.
It is important to be aware that, while the lawyer does not receive their payment until the end of the case, the client may still be responsible for some up-front fees that are related to the case. These fees may include:
- Court filing fees;
- Discovery costs;
- Expert witness fees; and
- Other required fees to keep the case moving.
What are Some Factors Used When Determining Fees for Personal Injury Attorneys?
There are many factors that are considered when determining the fees for a personal injury attorney. For the attorney specifically, factors may include:
- The location of the case;
- How complicated the case is expected to be;
- How must work the lawyer believes will be necessary to complete the case;
- The lawyer’s skills and abilities;
- Any special training or education the lawyer possesses;
- The fees of other similarly situated attorneys in the area; and
- The amount of damages requested in the lawsuit.
There are also other factors surrounding a case that may cause a lawyer’s fees to vary. These include:
- The type of injury;
- The experts that are required; and
- Other necessary costs.
The type of injury may impact the cost. Every injury is bad but some may be less obvious and more difficult to show than others. For example, an illness or injury that is caused by a toxic substance may require more time to research liability for the injury than an injury such as a car accident would.
The experts which may be necessary to prove the case may also impact the cost. There are some injuries which can only be shown by expert testimony and advice, which adds to the overall cost of the case.
Personal injury litigation is often expensive. Many tasks must be completed in order to build the case, including:
- Outside research;
- Preparation of exhibits;
- Court costs;
- Costs for each party;
- Phone bills;
- Travel costs; and
- Other expenses.
In most cases, a personal injury lawyer may recover one-third of the damages award. This amount did not cover costs and expenses.
Currently, it is common for a lawyer to use a tiered contingency fee. In a tiered setup, the attorney may take one-fourth of the damages award if the case settles prior to trial, one-third if the trial begins but is settled prior to a jury verdict; and two-fifths if the case goes to trial, is appealed, or has to be tried again.
What Services Do Personal Injury Lawyers Typically Provide?
Personal injury is an injury to an individual’s body or mind. Personal injury causes of action are based in tort law, a broad area of law which covers behaviors causing injury, suffering, or harm to another individual.
The most common personal injury cases include:
- Negligence related injuries, including car accidents;
- Malpractice related claims;
- Injuries related to defective products;
- Injuries related to premises liability claims; and
- Pedestrian accidents.
Personal injury cases are commonly litigated in court because of the injuries that are associated with them. These cases often result in major expenses for the victim, called the plaintiff.
Personal injury law is a broad category of law. In many cases, a personal injury lawyer will handle specialized types of cases, such as automobile accidents, defective products, or medical malpractice.
A personal injury lawyer can provide assistance when an individual has:
- Been in an automobile accident;
- Been bitten by a dog;
- Had a slip and fall accident;
- Been injured by a dangerous building condition;
- Been a victim of medical malpractice; and
- Been injured due to other occurrences.
One of the most common types of personal injury cases is an automobile accident. A typical individual is estimated to have three to four car accidents over the course of their lifetime.
Personal injury attorneys who handle automobile accident cases assist their clients in recouping damages, or compensation, for the injuries sustained in their accident. These funds are intended to assist them with recovery and help attempt to restore their life to the way it was prior to the accident.
Although the first priority after an automobile accident is physical recovery, in some cases, it may not be possible to recover without paying medical bills or suffering lost wages because of the time away from work required to heal.
Because it is unfair for the injured party to be responsible for using their personal funds to recover from an accident they did not cause, personal injury law permits individuals to recover compensation for their losses from the individual at fault. The general goal of personal injury litigation is to compensate the victim.
Compensation most commonly comes in the form of a monetary compensation award, called compensatory damages. Damages are typically awarded to cover expenses such as:
- Hospital bills;
- Lost wages due to missed work because of the injury; and
- Property damage, such as the vehicle involved in the accident.
There are two categories of compensatory damages, special damages and general damages. Special damages may be awarded to restore the plaintiff to the position they were in prior to the accident and injury. General damages are damages that may be awarded for losses which are not easy to calculate, such as defamation.
What are the Advantages to Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer?
There are many advantages to hiring a personal injury lawyer. As previously discussed, personal injury cases can be extremely complex and some may be difficult to prove.
A personal injury attorney is best equipped to present a convincing case to the court or jury. There are three main types of claims:
- Intentional torts;
- Negligence; and
- Strict liability.
Each of these types of claims has elements that must be proven in order for the plaintiff to recover damages. This makes these types of cases even more complex.
Fault is one of the most difficult elements to prove in personal injury cases. The plaintiff must show that the defendant was at fault for their injuries or they cannot recover damages.
Do I Need to Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer?
Yes, it is essential to have the assistance of an experienced personal injury lawyer. As discussed above, personal injury cases are complex and require proof of many elements.
If you have been injured, it is important to contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. In most cases, you will not be required to pay unless your lawyer wins your case. Your best shot at recovery after an injury is to have a personal injury lawyer on your side.