Many people have heard the term, contingent fee, but perhaps don’t know exactly how it works. A contingent fee relies on the success of the legal representation, and is the customary payment for personal injury attorneys. Other attorneys work on an hourly basis. This doesn’t work with personal injury claims, because so much time goes into preparing those cases that the $250 to $350 per hour fees would be astronomical and unaffordable to the injured client.
In a personal injury case there are two kinds of expenses to clients, the fees and the costs. The fees are the attorney’s payment for handling a case and are percentage based. The usual percentage is about one-third of the recovery, but can depend on the degree of difficulty and risk in a case. If there is no recovery, there is no fee. Fee agreements are signed up front, when the attorney is hired. Always make sure you retain a copy of the fee agreement for your records.
The other type of expense in a personal injury case are the “costs.” Costs are out-of-pocket expenses that are incurred by the attorney in processing a case. Attorneys typically advance these costs to the client and are entitled to repayment at the close of the case. Costs can include things like, the fee for getting medical records, hiring expert witnesses, travel expenses and more. Be aware though, that if you lose the case and no money is recovered, the costs are still your responsibility. As a case progresses, costs can add up. It’s good to keep track of them. You should ask to have your bill sent to you on a regular basis.
Though some may argue this point, contingency fees actually protect against “frivolous lawsuits.” Attorneys who work on a contingency basis do not want to invest their time and their own money on a case without merit. Many cases, depending on the type and severity, take hundreds of hours of investigation and research, which also costs money.
Those who are seriously injured may not be able to cover the costs of pursuing a legal matter on their own. Contingency fees make the justice system equitable and accessible to all who need it.