Hiring an attorney is the best thing to do after suffering from a personal injury. It gives you legal backing to fight your case and get compensation from the guilty party/ insurance company. However, many people hesitate to find a lawyer because of the heavy fees and costs they need to pay to fight a case in court.
Lawyer fees and additional expenses can strain your budget. Furthermore, there’s a difference between attorney fees and attorney costs. You have to pay both amounts to the attorney.
The attorney fee is what you pay the lawyer for their expertise, skills, and knowledge. It is for the time they spend on your case. Attorney costs are court fees your lawyer pays when fighting the case. Lawyers incur a few other costs when fighting a case on behalf of a client. These costs will be charged to the client’s account.
However, the question remains. Is it costly to hire really good personal injury lawyers? Can you afford to pay them the amount when you are already burdened with medical bills?
Let’s find out.
What is Contingency Fee?
Personal injury lawsuits are handled differently from other cases. Most lawyers take up such cases on a contingent basis. Basically, there will be no initial fee for going through the details or filing the case in court. Instead, the attorney will take a percentage of the settlement amount as their fee. The additional costs are also subtracted from the settlement amount.
While this is beneficial for the client and the lawyer, it can also mean that the client will take home much less compensation than expected. Furthermore, contingency fees are high. Lawyers charge around 33% to 40% of the settlement amount because they are taking a risk by accepting the case without any initial fee.
However, it also means that the lawyer will fight to get you the highest settlement amount possible for the case. You and your lawyer can discuss how much you want as compensation. Then add the approximate costs of fighting the case and the attorney fee. That will be the settlement amount you want from the other party. Of course, your attorney will advise you on the right amount to file, depending on the case.
What happens if you lose the case? In most instances, the lawyer will not take any fee if they lose the case. This allows them to consider each personal injury case on a merit basis and accept only those with a high chance of winning. That said, some lawyers don’t mind gambling and take a risk with a complex case when they know you deserve justice.
What are Additional Costs?
As mentioned earlier, a lawsuit attracts many additional expenses. These costs are non-negotiable. You have to pay for these even if you lose the case. That’s because the following costs are incurred by anyone who files a lawsuit.
- Court filing fees
- Costs to access police reports
- Costs to get medical records
- Expert witness fees
- Court reporters fees
- Trial exhibits fees
- Copying fees
- Postal charges
It can be difficult to exactly estimate how much the costs would be as they differ from one case to another. The longer the trial runs, the higher the additional expenses to keep it going. On average, the court and additional costs will come up to 10 or 15% of the settlement amount.
Your attorney may send you monthly bills to pay the court's costs or maintain a record of all expenses and deduct it from the settlement amount. You can negotiate it with the lawyer.
For example, you get a settlement amount of $100,000 after winning the case (this will be provided to the lawyer by the insurance company). Your attorney will deduct their fee (40%) from this amount.
$100,000-$40,000 = $60,000
The court costs will be deducted from the remaining amount.
$60,000-$15,000 (court costs) = $45,000
$45,000 is the final compensation amount you will receive from the lawyer.
Talk to your attorney about various costs and ask for ways to reduce additional expenses. The final amount you get depends on how well you negotiate with your attorney. Remember that the lawyer will have to provide you with a detailed record (in writing) of the expenses and their charges.
In most cases, it is advisable to have a written agreement with the lawyer about their fee and other expenses related to the case. This ensures that you know how much you will have to pay the attorney and the range of costs involved in fighting a lawsuit. Similarly, the attorney will be cautious about running up additional costs as they are bound by an agreement. This will prevent further complications between you and the lawyer.