Were you involved in a personal injury accident? And you’re wondering how much it costs to hire a personal injury lawyer? Read the short blog article below.
A lot of people will call my office after they’ve just been in a car accident and they often have the same question – is it expensive to hire a lawyer?
I’m always a little surprised by that question, because I thought it was common knowledge about how personal injury lawyers bill for their services.
Personal Injury Lawyer Fees
The first thing to know is that unlike business attorneys or divorce attorneys who charge $400 or $500 an hour, the cost to hire an injury lawyer is very different.
Instead, we work on what is called a ‘contingency fee’ basis. What is a contingency fee?
It means that the attorney will only get paid if their client recovers compensation either through a settlement or winning at trial.
The next question you’re asking is how much is a contingency fee? It’s a percentage of the gross settlement of the recovery. Typically personal injury attorneys charge one-third of whatever the gross recovery is or 33.3%.
However, some p.i. lawyers charge 30% or 40% and sometimes even higher. Note that if the case goes to litigation, meaning a lawsuit has to be filed, the attorney fees might go up.
Keep reading because at the end of this article I’ll tell you whether a personal injury lawyer’s fees are negotiable.
Positives of a Contingency Fee
First and foremost, you don’t have to pay an hourly rate and you don’t normally have to put down a retainer of $2000 or whatever the lawyer usually charges.
That’s a big benefit because the vast majority of the people who call our office can’t afford to pay that kind of money.
Cons of a Contingency Fee
There are some cons to contingency fees also. First, it’s a lot of money. You’re probably thinking a third of the gross recovery and I have to pay medical bills out of the settlement as well.
It is a lot of money. The reason though is that attorneys who take cases on a contingency fee basis are taking all the risk! Why? Because if there’s no recovery (after 18 months of investing time and money in the case) then the attorney is not going to get paid.
Personal Injury Attorneys Front the Costs of Cases
Although it doesn’t relate to ‘attorney’s fees,’ you should also know that personal injury attorneys, generally speaking, we’ll cover all the costs of the case upfront.
That is another benefit because you do not have to pay for depositions, investigators, getting the police report, and more. Rather, the personal injury attorney will pay for those and will only be reimbursed for those expenses if the case is resolved (generally speaking).
Two other things to know about contingency fees:
First, when you sign up with a personal injury attorney, make sure it’s in writing. You’re going to sign a document called a ‘retainer agreement’ which sets forth the relationship between you and the attorney.
Read it! Make sure that retainer agreement is crystal clear about the percentage that you’re paying the attorney. I’ve heard of cases where people have hired a lawyer for a car accident or other injury case and there’s no retainer agreement. That’s a big mistake.
In this era of technology, a lot of lawyers will get these retainer agreements signed electronically over the internet.
The second thing I want to point out is that most retainer agreements include something called an ‘attorney lien’ clause. That means your attorney has a vested interest or a stake in your case.
This protects attorneys from doing a lot of work and obtaining a settlement only to be fired by the client. The attorney can seek payment from the proceeds of the settlement pursuant to this clause.
Are Injury Attorney Fees negotiable?
I mentioned earlier that I would discuss whether personal injury attorney fees are negotiable. Generally speaking, they’re negotiable. You can try at least to negotiate with your attorney.
Our Chicago injury law firm does not negotiate our attorney fees because it’s a Pandora’s box. Once you start charging different clients different fees it becomes a mess.
But some attorneys might negotiate their fees with you. One tip – I might be skeptical of an attorney that charges a really low fee to get you to sign up with them. That might raise a red flag for me as to how good that attorney is.