Virtually all personal injury attorneys accept cases on a
“contingency fee” basis. A “‘contingency
fee” means that the fee which the attorney receives
depends entirely upon the attorney getting you a recovery,
either through a negotiated settlement or by a jury trial.
The attorney receives an agreed upon percentage of the amount
recovered as a fee for his or her services. It also means
that if there is no recovery, the attorney is not entitled
to a fee.
For example, if your attorney puts in one to three years of
time and effort and recovers $1,500,000 for you, then he or
she would receive the agreed upon percentage of this gross
recovery. If, on the other hand, the attorney spends one to
three years of time and effort on your case and there is no
recovery, then no fee is owed for his or her services over
the prior three years.
It is important to note that the attorney’s fees are
contingent; however, the costs of litigation that the attorney
may advance during the case are not. In other words, the attorney
is entitled to recoup any costs of litigation advanced for
the client regardless of the outcome of the case. These expenses
include filing fees, deposition fees, fees for expert witnesses,
consultants, investigators, graphic exhibits, medical records,
etc. These fees can total anywhere from $2,000 - $100,000
in personal injury cases. Most lawyers will advance 100% of
these expenses on your behalf and deduct them out of any settlement.
The contingency fee percentage your attorney will charge you
depends on the state in which you live. State laws differ,
Bar Rules differ, and the practices in states vary from one
to the next. In some states, a common arrangement is 33.33%
of any recovery before filing the lawsuit, and 40% of the
recovery after filing (and possibly more if the case is appealed
after trial or has to go through extensive judgment collection
Whatever the percentage is, the fee arrangement should be
put in writing in a fee agreement signed by you and the lawyer
or law firm. At Dozier Law Group, all engagements begin with
the signing of a representation agreement which outlines all
the material terms of the representation.
Some lawyers will lower the contingency fee if they feel particularly
strong about your chances of recovery, if your case has a
high dollar potential, or if they are low on business. Be
careful. You deserve high quality representation, and not
just any personal injury lawyer will do. Truly, whom you hire
to represent you or a family member can make an enormous difference
in the outcome. Interview the lawyer thoroughly. This decision
should not hinge upon whether a lawyer is willing to negotiate
a couple of percentage points off his fee agreement. Quality
attorneys expect and require a market rate for their services
and do not discount them.