Attorney Fees for Personal Injury Cases

Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Ruth E. Bernstein with Ruth Bernstein Law.

Attorney Fees for Personal Injury Cases

Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Ruth E. Bernstein, a Personal Injury attorney based in New York.

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How much does it cost to hire a personal injury lawyer? You might be wondering if you need to pay a retainer to obtain the services of a personal injury attorney. A retainer is what you would pay an attorney if hiring for a case before you even see any results. Pretty typical, yes, but costly, as many lawyers would charge anywhere from $200/hour to a flat fee that would conveniently combine all the hours it would take to manage a case within a period of one to three months. Do the math, and that’s a lot of money you would have to put upfront just for an attorney to take your case right from the very beginning. However, if you’re dealing with a personal injury issue, there’s a light at the end of this particular financial tunnel. It’s called the contingency fee.

The Contingency Fee—Also Known as the “No Win, No Fee”

What is a contingency fee? In short: if your case is not successful, you don’t owe any attorney fees. It makes sense as you’re hiring a personal injury attorney to obtain compensation for medical bills, lost wages and emotional distress. Having to pay upfront for such a lawyer would then seem to add insult to injury. For all intents and purposes, though, in a personal injury case, you most likely won’t have to actually pay any retainer, any attorney fee, at all. The fees an attorney will earn are contingent on whether or not that lawyer wins your case. Period.

Here’s What You Need to Know About the Contingency Fee

It’s a percentage of your settlement, whatever amount that may be. When the court awards you a specific amount, it then means it’s in the lawyer’s best interest to try and aim for the highest amount. Highest settlement means the highest paycheck for your lawyer. Depending on the state you live in, the contingency fee may differ in terms of percentage. Most vary anywhere between 33 percent to 40 percent of the final settlement. Generally speaking, you can negotiate with your attorney for a reduction, though. Expect in most cases to shell out 33 percent of your settlement to your attorney, though. That means if your injury awarded you a lump sum of $30,000, $20,000 will go to you, and $10,000 will go to the lawyer. It may seem high, but also keep in mind that your lawyer is investing many hours and resources in your case. If the case isn’t successful, your lawyer doesn’t get anything, either. However, many cases don’t even see the inside of a courtroom. Oftentimes a personal injury attorney will draft what’s called a demand letter regarding the complaint, requesting an amount of compensation as a result of the injury in question, and then typically negotiations proceed. This helps to avoid any additional costs and time constraints with respect to the courts as many parties would rather try and settle immediately instead of involving a judge. In this case, you can expect no lawyer ever receiving more than 33 percent of any settlement agreed upon outside of court before any lawsuit is filed. Be, however, very wary of turning down any offers before considering a lawsuit, as that may drive up the cost of the contingency fee, as high as 40 percent, to account for additional expenses.

Does Your Lawyer Receive the Settlement Check After You Win?

Yes. As a common practice, although the settlement is entitled to you, you hired an attorney to win it for you. It’s sent to your lawyer, which the amount is then processed and the fee is taken out of the settlement amount. Typically your attorney contacts you to let you know, and you can have a check mailed out to you, or you can obtain it yourself at the attorney’s office. Undoubtedly a streamlined way for attorneys to get paid and clients to be assured that they have a chance in winning their cases. Written on behalf of Ruth Bernstein by AskTheLawyers.com™

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