There are many types of fee arrangements that lawyers enter into with clients. Most personal injury attorneys operate on a contingency basis. This type of fee arrangement differs significantly from the fee arrangements in other areas of law.
For example, family law attorneys typically bill on an hourly basis and often require the client to pay a retainer at the outset of the representation. Criminal defense attorneys, by contrast, typically charge a flat fee that is required to be paid upfront by the client or in installments. Sometimes, criminal defense attorneys charge an extra fee if your case goes to trial.
How Does Contingency Work?
Contingency basis fees are completely different. As the name suggests, the fee is contingent on the outcome of your case. If there is not a successful recovery for you, there will not be a fee. Contingency fee agreements do not require that the client pay a retainer fee or any attorney’s fees out-of-pocket.
The client will not be required to make any payment to the attorney at the initial consultation or during the pendency of the case. The contingency fee is paid out of the settlement proceeds at the end of the case as a percentage of the settlement.
In Florida, the typical contingency fee that personal injury attorneys charge is 33 ⅓ percent if the case settles without a lawsuit being filed and 40 percent if a lawsuit is filed. Your lawyer will get that percentage of the final settlement or judgment.
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Why Is a Contingency Fee Arrangement Better?
The beauty of a contingency fee agreement is that it allows personal injury attorneys to represent clients from all walks of life. It widens access to the civil justice system by allowing individuals from all income levels and all economic situations to be able to find a lawyer.
Built into the contingency fee arrangement is an alignment of interests between the attorney and the client, who are both motivated to maximize the recovery. The more money you get, the more money the attorney can earn.
This urge to maximize recovery is balanced by the length of time of the case and the circumstances. Yes, you could potentially earn more going to trial, but if a settlement offer is fair, then advising you to wait for more could be a disservice.
How Are Costs Paid on Contingent Cases?
During your initial consultation, which is free at Andrew Pickett Law, you should always ask about fees and costs. Costs are another important aspect of the representation in a personal injury case.
These are the costs that go beyond the contingency fee of the lawyer that are necessary to litigate your case. At Andrew Pickett Law, we advance all costs associated with representing you.
In most cases that settle without a lawsuit being filed, the costs are relatively small. In almost every case, Andrew Pickett Law will advance costs for investigation and postage. If there is a settlement, Andrew Pickett Law will be reimbursed for those costs out of the settlement proceeds. If there is not a settlement, the client will not be responsible for the reimbursement of those costs.
If a lawsuit has to be filed in a case, the costs generally increase. Once a lawsuit is filed, additional costs may include expert witness fees, filing fees, deposition transcript fees, and travel expenses. In the context of litigated cases, Andrew Pickett Law will also advance all costs necessary to bring your case to trial.
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How Are Legal Costs Tracked?
My staff keeps track of all costs associated with your case. They are deducted from your settlement or jury trial award, in addition to my fees. Costs may be a very small amount, or they may run into thousands of dollars, depending on the complexity of your case and whether your case goes to trial.
The most expensive cost is for expert witnesses, but they are often a necessity to get you a fair settlement or award at trial. Again, these costs are only reimbursed if there is a monetary recovery for the client. If there is no recovery, the client will not be responsible to reimburse Andrew Pickett Law for advancing these costs.
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What About Attorneys’ Fees?
Attorneys’ fees for a personal injury case range from 33 ⅓ percent to 40 percent, depending on whether the case is successfully negotiated for a fair amount, or if a lawsuit has to be filed. Often, insurance companies will not offer a fair amount of compensation for your injuries.
If this happens, it is then that I will file a lawsuit and take your case to trial, if necessary. Because of the extra work involved in preparing for trial and presenting your case to the jury, the percentage you will pay for attorneys’ fees increases from 33 ⅓ percent to 40 percent.
The Disadvantages of a Contingency Plan
There are two major disadvantages to working on contingency from the perspective of the client. The first is that you may have trouble finding a lawyer if you have a weak case. Lawyers on contingency seek out cases they feel they can win. You may need to see multiple lawyers until you find one that will take your case.
The second is what happens if your lawyer can settle your case quickly. If your case settles fast, your lawyer may earn more than they would have if they were using an hourly rate. Unfortunately, this factor is beyond the client’s control unless they know how to judge the value of a case.
Even with these disadvantages, having a personal injury lawyer is preferable. Most insurers will immediately raise their offers once they know you have a lawyer on your side because that opens them up to the threat of a lawsuit.
Types of Compensation You Could Receive
There are six types of damages that are potentially available to victims in personal injury cases. These include:
- Past medical expenses
- Future medical expenses
- Past lost wages
- Loss of future earning capacity
- Past pain and suffering
- Future pain and suffering
Pain and suffering includes mental anguish, disability, physical impairment, disfigurement, inconvenience, aggravation of a disease or physical defect, and loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life. In motor vehicle crash cases, a permanent injury or loss of the use of an important bodily function is required in order to collect damages for pain and suffering.
If the defendant is found to be grossly negligent, you may be entitled to punitive damages. In a civil matter such as a personal injury case, you, as the plaintiff, are required to show proof that the defendant was grossly negligent. Examples of gross negligence may include drunk driving and texting while driving.
Contact Andrew Pickett for Help Today!
If you were injured in any way due to the fault of someone else, contact me online at Andrew Pickett Law to schedule a free consultation, and to learn more about your rights.