When you are injured in a car accident your personal injury lawyer will charge you based on a contingency fee structure. Being the injured party, it’s a very good idea to know how this structure works so you are fully aware of how payment is arranged for your legal counsel. We are going to go over the major facts about contingency fees, but for more specific questions you should talk to your personal injury attorney.
What Is A Contingency Fee?
A contingency fee is an agreement set up between a lawyer and their client that states the lawyer will only charge a fee once a favorable settlement or judgment is obtained. Each contingency fee is typically based on a percentage of what the settlement or judgment amount is for. Most lawyers will use this structure, however, there are some that do offer hourly and flat fees for certain cases.
What Are Case-Related Expenses?
Case-related expenses are defined as those that were incurred while pursuing a case. These expenses are things like court filing fees, medical tests, evidence gathering, and other similar costs for things associated with the court case. These are not considered part of the contingency fee and can be billed separately.
These case-related expenses are an important consideration that needs to be discussed at the time of going over the contingency agreement with your lawyer. You should understand if you are responsible for these costs if your case is lost. Also, you should know how these costs will be handled in the event that you win your case.
Some lawyers will cover the cost of the case-related fees in the event they are unable to reach a settlement. Other lawyers will charge the client for these fees if the case is lost. If you have a strong case, it’s likely the lawyer will opt for paying for these expenses in the event they lose the case because the odds are slim. Alternatively, if your case is more difficult, the lawyer may require you to pay these costs in the event you lose your case since it’s a distinct possibility.
Consenting To A Fee Agreement
When you speak to a lawyer about your auto accident case, you need to realize that your case is individual in circumstances. Although the lawyer may have represented many clients in the past with a similar case, it doesn’t mean that you should simply agree to their generic fee schedule.
You should look at the different aspects of your case. If you feel your case is strong with a lot of evidence, don’t settle for paying the case-related fees in the event the case is lost. You have bargaining power when it comes to a fee agreement. You don’t need to settle for a generic fit that is not what you want it to be.
When the fee agreement is made, you should be able to know the following:
- What the contingency percentage is?
- How contingency and case-related fees will be paid?
- Who is responsible for paying the case-related fees upon a losing case?
- If you have to pay these fees, how can you pay them and what is the amount?
You should have a good understanding of how these fees will play out whether you win or lose the case. You don’t want to be surprised in the future with a large bill if you end up with a losing case. Take the time to talk with your lawyer to ensure you understand everything you are agreeing to before signing the contract.
Are These Costs Included In My Settlement Amount?
In most personal injury cases, your lawyer will seek a settlement for the total amount of damages you incurred plus their legal fees. For example, your case may be to seek $50,000 worth of damages to your vehicle and associated medical costs. Your lawyer would include their attorney fees, say $5,000, in the overall settlement request. This would total a settlement request of $55,000.
When you take somebody to court it is intended to provide you with compensation for the damages that you incurred. The damages amount should be a number that puts you in the same standing you were in before the accident. This is why the attorney fees are added onto the settlement request. Otherwise, you would not be back on the same financial standing you were before you were involved in the accident.