In a recent survey, 7 in 10 consumers stated that they considered hiring an attorney at some point during the course of their legal issue, but didn't go through with it because they feared the price. Despite this, 58 percent of those surveyed stated that lawyers are worth every penny you pay them.
At Weinstein Legal, we understand that the idea of having to pay another set of fees outright can play a major role in a victim's decision to seek legal help. But when a victim of personal injury has a hard time making ends meet, paying medical bills, and accumulating lost wages, they require the highest quality legal help and deserve their right to fair compensation for their personal injury claim.
Attorney contingency fees allow for this to happen. With contingency fees, there is no up-front payment or hourly charge. In fact, if the contingency fee lawyer is not able to win a recovery for you, you do not need to pay anything at all. This arrangement allows every victim and every family, no matter their financial circumstance, access to trusted personal injury attorneys.
Keep reading to learn more about contingency fees and how a personal injury lawyer gets paid.
What Is a Contingency Fee?
If you've been injured due to another's negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for your damages, such as medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. A personal injury attorney's job is to prove that the individual who caused the accident was negligent and that you were injured due to their actions, hence compensation for the damages can be the responsibility of the at-fault party or their insurance company.
However, an attorney is only paid for that job if they can secure their client a settlement. Payment for a personal injury attorney is contingent upon the amount of money awarded in the case, and this is why their payment is called a contingency fee. If a client does not recover damages in a case, an attorney will not get paid either. If the client does recover, the attorney will be granted a percentage of the client's financial recovery. In this way, a client is not forced to spend any money out of pocket in order to receive proper legal representation.
How Are Contingency Fees Decided?
In the state of Florida, contingency fees are set in place by Florida Bar Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 4-1.5. The statute is complex, and the percentage of contingency will vary dependent on the case. However, an attorney may decide to paid a lower percentage than this Rule lays out but is not allowed to charge more.
For a Personal Injury Case That Settles Before a Lawsuit Complaint
In some situations, a personal injury case is settled before the defendant (the at-fault party) answers a lawsuit complaint. In this case, a fee cap of 33.33 percent, or one-third, is placed on a settlement of up to $1 million. Additionally, an attorney would receive 30 percent of any portion of the recovery between $1 million and $2 million, plus 20 percent of any portion of the recovery exceeding $2 million.
For example, if a client was awarded a settlement of $30,000 from the at-fault party or their insurance company, the attorney would immediately be granted $10,000 of that settlement.
For a Personal Injury Case That Goes to Trial
A defendant has 20 days to answer a lawsuit complaint. If the defendant answers within that 20-day window, or if the case goes to trial and the injured party succeeds in recovering their damages, the cap increases.
In this case, an attorney is granted 40 percent of any recovery up to $1 million. Additionally, an attorney would receive 30 percent of any portion of the recovery between $1 million and $2 million, plus 20 percent of any portion of the recovery exceeding $2 million. In this example, if you received a judgment of $30,000, your personal injury attorney would be granted $12,000 of your recovery amount.
For a Personal Injury Case That Is Appealed
If a notice of appeal is filed, or post-judgment relief or action is required for recovery on the judgment, an attorney is granted an additional 5 percent of any recovery.
For a Personal Injury Case that Results in a Structured Settlement
It is not uncommon for cases to be settled by periodic payments, as opposed to one lump settlement. In this case, the contingency percentage will be calculated on the cost of the structured settlement, or if the cost is unknown, on the present money value of the structured settlement. Attorney fees will be paid in a lump sum at the time of the settlement.
How Do I Agree to the Fee?
Before ever agreeing to a contingency fee, you should have discussed it in great detail with your attorney. Your attorney should have made it clear to you that if no recovery is made on behalf of the client, you will not be responsible for paying any attorney fees for services. They should also outline the exact terms of what you will be responsible for paying as well as what responsibilities are required from both parties in order to have a successful attorney-client relationship.
While these matters are discussed during your consultation with the attorney, they are also agreed upon in what is called a contingency fee agreement, or contingency contract. This document explicitly states what fees you will be responsible for throughout the course of the case. When both the attorney and the client sign the contingency fee agreement, it is considered a legally binding contract.
Any contingency fee contract must be in writing. You have three business days to reconsider the contract. Moreover, you may cancel the contract without any reason if you notify your lawyer in writing within three business days of signing the contract. If you withdraw from the contract within the first three business days, you do not owe the lawyer a fee, although you may be responsible for the lawyer’s actual costs during that time, if any.
Am I Responsible for Any Other Payments?
Aside from the contingency fee, there are other costs and expenses deducted from a settlement amount. During the course of a case, many personal injury lawyers will cover any upfront costs and expenses, so that you don't need to pay them out of pocket. The return of these expenses is also agreed upon in the contingency fee agreement.
These costs will be deducted from the client's share of the settlement. The order is fees first, then costs. So, this means that a lawyer's contingency percentage is taken from your gross settlement, and the remaining costs and expenses will be deducted second from the remaining balance. Common costs and expenses covered by personal injury attorneys during the course of a case include:
- Computer research fees
- Copying charges
- Deposition costs
- Expert witness costs
- Fax charges
- Filing fees
- Investigator costs and time
- Mediation expenses
- Medical or nursing consultations
- Messenger charges
- Out‐of‐pocket expenses incurred on the client's behalf
- Travel expenses
- Telephone charges
- Witness fees
Again, the repayment of costs is contingent upon a client recovering damages. If no recovery is made, the client owes nothing for costs and expenses.
Contacting a Trusted Personal Injury Lawyer
We understand that lawyer fees can be intimidating when you don't understand what is expected of you. Rest assured knowing that no recovery means absolutely no fees to you. At Weinstein Legal, our dedicated personal injury lawyers will take the time to explain every step of the legal process in great detail, so that you can feel comfortable signing your contingency fee agreement.
When a victim of personal injury is having a hard time making ends meet, it is at that moment more than ever that they deserve the highest quality legal help. Contact Weinstein Legal today. Our experienced lawyers will fight for your right to fair compensation for your personal injury claim.