Table of Contents
- How Does a Personal Injury Fee Structure Work?
- What Are the Costs and Expenses in a Personal Injury Case?
- Where Does the Contingency Fee Or Sliding Scale Option Come From?
- How Personal Injury Victims Benefit From Contingency Fee Agreements
- Contingency Fee Agreements Take the Uncertainty Out of Legal Fees
- Contingency Fee Agreements Cover Expenses
- Contingency Fees Level the Playing Field
- Contingency Fees Reduce Risk
- Other Forms of Fee Arrangements
According to the law, any injury you sustain due to someone else's negligence is termed personal injury. The nature of this injury can be of three types:
- Physical: This is where you suffer external or external bodily harm.
- Mental: These injuries include mental trauma, anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
- Property Damage: There are two types of property damage. Physical injury refers to damaged property, such as a broken vending machine, car, furniture, or a smashed fence. Loss of use is when something is not damaged, but its normal use is interrupted.
Depending on the nature and intensity of the injury, your lawyer may be able to file a court case against the party at fault. This will enable you to get monetary compensation from the at-fault party for your financial loss due to their actions. Three main grounds can result in the filing of a personal injury claim.
- Negligence: Negligence accounts for most personal injury claims that go to court. This is where the individual or organization at fault does not show adequate care toward others. E.g., random shooters.
- Strict Liability: This comes into play where the at-fault party or defendant is held accountable irrespective of the intent. E.g., manufacturers in the case of defective products.
- Intentional Wrongs: This is where the intentions of the at-fault party are aimed at hurting the injured party. E.g., battery, assault, and illegal trespassing.
If you are a victim of personal injury due to the actions of others, you must seek counsel from a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. According to statistics, the number of personal injury claims filed in the US yearly is over 400,000 each year, of which approximately 40% go to trial.
Of all these personal injury cases, nearly 52% involve motor accidents. The good thing about personal injury lawyers is that they charge their fees based on the outcome of the injury claim and not upfront. Read on to learn how this works in the following sections.
How Does a Personal Injury Fee Structure Work?
Personal injury fees lawyers operate on a contingency fee basis. This means the first work is to get you the maximum compensation for your injury and then charge you a predetermined percentage of the compensation amount. There is a two-way benefit to this arrangement.
Your attorney is incentivized through a high-risk, high-reward outcome upon winning you a fat settlement. On the other hand, you need not worry about paying your attorney anything upfront, thereby eliminating your financial obligation unless and until you are compensated.
On average, the contingency fees of personal injury lawyers vary between 33 and 40 percent. For example, if you and your attorney agree upon a 33% contingency fee and receive $50,000 in compensation against your injury claim, you will pay $16,500 to your lawyer.
Confused about how personal injury settlements work? Read our article on how personal injury settlements are paid out.
What Are the Costs and Expenses in a Personal Injury Case?
In most personal injury cases, the attorney handling the case will handle the regular costs and expenses throughout the claim filing process, investigation and discovery, medical consultation, and court cases.
Lawyers cover these expenses during the process and deduct the amount they have paid from the settlement amount later. Nowadays, personal injury lawyers rarely charge clients for expenses on the spot.
The expenses and costs that can accumulate through a personal injury claim include the following:
- Expenses are required for securing medical records and police reports and making copies.
- Fees are paid to expert witnesses for their supporting testimony.
- Postal expenses are paid for mailing important documents.
- The court filing fees at the time of filing the claim.
- The amount of money paid to investigators to dig up evidence that supports your claim.
- Depositions require recording equipment, and sometimes the deposition venue can be a distant location in case both parties are not from the same area.
- Transcriptionists are required to transcribe depositions and eyewitness interviews.
Often, these expenses can pile up quickly and amount to thousands of dollars. This amount usually totals between 45% and 60% of the total settlement amount. The same percentage share of these expenses out of the settlement amount depends on the size of the settlement.
Therefore, the bigger the settlement, the lower the percentage of the expenses. For example, for expenses of $4,000 against a settlement of $10,000 is 40%. The same amount of expenses against a settlement amount of $40,000 is 10%.
It's also important to make sure you have an understanding with your attorney about the settlement amount being deducted first. Then the attorney's fee will be calculated.
Otherwise, your lawyer's contingency fee will be larger, and you'll be left with a smaller share of the pie. Make sure to have your lawyer draft the fee details in writing, including how to assign expenses if you lose the claim.
Where Does the Contingency Fee Or Sliding Scale Option Come From?
The contingency fee is the most common and preferred payment arrangement between personal injury claimants and their lawyers. Under this payment arrangement, your lawyer agrees upon a fixed percentage of the compensation that will be paid to you. All the fees and related expenses would be due and payable upon the successful outcome of the personal injury claim.
The merits of a claim and the case length determine certain percentages. They are known as sliding scale fees, where the lawyer's fee increases as the claims process progress, with settlements, reached before filing a formal complaint resulting in a contingency fee of 33% and prolonged cases resulting in a contingency fee of 45%.
A contingency fee of 33% to 45% is considered to be reasonable by both lawyers and personal injury victims, as it is a fact that having a competent and experienced lawyer on your side for a personal injury claim can potentially result in a significantly greater compensation amount.
The duration of a personal injury case varies based on different factors. Learn how long personal injury cases take to settle.
How Personal Injury Victims Benefit From Contingency Fee Agreements
A contingency fee arrangement in personal injury cases benefits the injured party. You do not need to pay your personal injury attorney's upfront. This way, you can receive high-quality legal representation since this arrangement is very risky for lawyers.
Only a competent lawyer who is extremely confident about the outcome of your injury claim will take on a case under a contingency fee arrangement. The following are personal injury victims' benefits from a contingency fee arrangement.
Contingency Fee Agreements Take the Uncertainty Out of Legal Fees
One of the most important concerns that the general public, claimants, and defendants have when seeking legal help is the sky-high legal fees that lawyers charge, either per hour or case-by-case basis.
Litigants are often concerned about their ability to cover their lawyer's fees and other legal expenses. With contingency fees, this uncertainty is eliminated as you only need to pay your lawyer if you get a settlement amount as compensation for your injury.
Contingency Fee Agreements Cover Expenses
As mentioned above, a host of other expenses are associated with a personal injury claim in addition to the attorney's fee. Under a contingency fee agreement, these expenses are also subject to the outcome of the settlement.
Contingency Fees Level the Playing Field
Often, the at-fault party is financially stronger than the injured party. For example, a homeless pedestrian hit by a car or an employee of a big manufacturing company is injured due to faulty equipment or machinery. In such instances, contingency fees level the playing field as they do not require an upfront payment.
Contingency Fees Reduce Risk
One can never be certain of the outcome of a personal injury claim. It can go both ways, depending on the case's merits and the evidence presented. Therefore, contingency fees reduce the risk of financial loss for the claimant if the injury claim is lost.
Other Forms of Fee Arrangements
In some cases, the lawyers may agree upon alternate fee arrangements (other than contingency fees) with their clients. These fee arrangements include the following:
- Dead Deal Discount: If the personal injury claim is halted or terminated for any reason (e.g., an out-of-court settlement between both parties), the client pays only a fraction of the agreed-upon legal fees.
- Flat or Fixed Fees: Under this arrangement, the client agrees to pay a fixed amount of legal fees over a specific duration of time, irrespective of the case's outcome.
- Hard Cap: Here, the client is billed an agreed-upon hourly rate, but there is a hard cap (fixed amount) beyond which the law firm absorbs the remaining expenses.
- Success Fees: These are discretionary fees or performance incentives paid to the law firm if it successfully achieves a specific predetermined outcome.
If you are seeking Social Security assistance, read our article on this medical conditions that qualify for Social Security disability.