People who need personal injury lawyers are usually in a difficult time of their life, both personally and financially. The injuries that they suffered in the accident can affect both their health and their wallet. Chances are that they are dealing with doctor bills as their out-of-pocket costs begin to add up quickly. Combine medical bills with the loss of income when an injury prevents them from working, and they are in a difficult financial situation. On top of that, family members may lose work as they care for their loved one and take them to doctor’s appointments.
You can imagine that these families may not be in the best financial or personal situation to afford a lawyer. If accident victims had to write a retainer check upfront that most attorneys require, or pay an hourly fee, they may never be able to afford the legal representation that they need. Most families simply do not have this money, even under the best circumstances.
You Don’t Need Money for Hire a Lawyer for Your Personal Injury Case
The good news is that reputable personal injury lawyers accommodate accident victims and make it easy for them to afford a lawyer. Lawyers practicing in the filed of Personal injury law usually use a contingency fee arrangement. Accident victims wondering how much money they need to have for a lawyer are pleasantly surprised to learn that they can find help, even if they have no money at all.
When you are thinking about a contingency fee, just remember the definition of contingent. One thing must happen for something else to happen after that. In this case, what must happen is that you must receive payment for your claim. Only once that happens will an attorney receive payment for their services. In other words, your obligation to pay the attorney only happens if you receive money yourself. Even then, the money does not come out of your pocket.
If You Don’t Win, You Don’t Pay
If, for some reason, your claim is not successful, then your attorney will not receive any money. They will not charge you anything regardless of how much time was spent on your case. They could spend hours or months on your case and end up with nothing to show for it. That is the risk they take, and why they must investigate cases to make sure they likely have merit before accepting representation. When an attorney accepts your case, it is a sign that they believe that there is enough evidence to justify their investment of time.
Your representation agreement with the lawyer should spell out the detail of the contingency fee arrangement. Before your lawyer establishes an attorney-client relationship with you, they will have you sign this agreement. This is a contract between you and the lawyer, and it lists the terms of their representation. They are providing you with legal services subject to the rules in the representation agreement.
The contingency agreement means that you do not need to pay a lawyer hourly bills as the case progresses. You should not need to pay them anything at all during the case. Even when you win your case, you will not directly write a check to them. They deduct their share of your proceeds directly from your settlement or award, and the predetermined portion would go straight to them.
There Are No Surprises With Contingency Fee Agreements
Your lawyer must specify all fees in advance and include this information in the representation agreement. An attorney cannot charge you a fee after the fact that they did not include in the representation contract. It is against the rules that lawyers must follow.
The contingency percentage will be something that you and the lawyer will agree to in advance. In other words, if you recover money, your lawyer will receive a predetermined percentage of your recovery as agreed to. There may be a sliding scale built into the agreement, meaning that the lawyer’s compensation rate changes based on how much money you can recover, or what stage the case is in when the recovery occurs.
Usually, there are different contingency percentages based on how far your case goes before being resolved. For example, your attorney will often charge a lower percentage if your case settles without a trial or arbitration. The rate escalates some if your case requires these processes. The reason for this is that your lawyer risks even more on a jury trial due to increasing costs and time spent. This will take them countless hours of preparation, using their time and that of their other attorneys. They are taking on significant risk when they take your case to trial.
Some rules protect clients from excessive contingency fees. Each lawyer is subject to the rules of their State Bar. Usually, these rules are similar to those of the American Bar Association. ABA Rule 1.5 forbids a lawyer from collecting an unreasonable fee for their services. What is unreasonable depends on the particular factors affecting your case, but there are outer limits on what an attorney may
In most cases, competition will keep most attorneys’ rates within a narrow band, with a lower contingency fee for cases that settle and an increased contingency rate if the case goes to trial.
In general, the contingency arrangement is a good thing for you as the client. It helps you get an experienced lawyer when you otherwise could not afford it. Nonetheless, make sure to read the agreement closely before you sign it, so you understand all the terms in advance. Since money is not an issue, you should not let it get in the way of finding someone to fight for your legal rights.