Personal Injury Lawyers
Most personal injury lawyers throughout the United States, represents clients using a contingency fee agreement (or CFA.) Under a contingency fee agreement, a personal injury lawyer does not get paid an hourly fee. Instead, the attorney’s fee is calculated as a percentage of the settlement or award obtained for the client. Under a typical contingency fee agreement, the lawyer will pay all the costs and expenses incurred in litigation. These costs and attorneys fees are then deducted from any settlement or award obtained for the client. If the case is not successful, the client will not owe the attorney the money spent pursuing the case. In addition, the attorney will not earn a fee.
The use of a contingency fee agreement offers several benefits to the client. The most significant benefit is that the client, who may be out of work and incurring large medical expenses as a result of an accident, does not need to pay litigation costs up front. Most clients can’t afford to pay an attorney out of pocket. Depending on the legal market, attorney fees range from hundreds to thousands of dollars per hour. In addition, costs for experts, court fees and other litigation expenses can range from a few thousand dollars in a simple case, to a hundreds of thousands of dollars in complex civil cases. The average Joe could not afford to bring a claim for personal injury if he needed to pay these fees up front. Through the use of a contingency fee agreement, these expenses are paid by the lawyer who will then be reimbursed and paid a percentage fee if the case is successful.
The rate of a contingency fee agreement varies depending on legal market, case type, risk, complexity and case value. In some states, the amount that can be charged for a contingency fee is capped by state statute which limits the attorneys fee to a certain percentage. In other states, the rules of professional conduct provide that the fee must be reasonable.
So, Can I Negotiate my Lawyer’s Fee?
The question many clients want to know is whether they can negotiate the contingency fee on a personal injury case. Whether you can negotiate a lawyer’s fee will most likely depend on the risk your lawyer attributes to litigating the case. If it is anticipated that the case will be hotly contested, complex, expensive or time consuming- it is unlikely that the lawyer will negotiate their standard contingency fee. However, in some cases, such as an auto accident where the liability is undisputed and damages are significant, a lawyer may be willing to accept the fee at a lower percentage than their customary rate. This is because there is less anticipated risk involved in litigating the case.
However, as the old saying goes, you get what you pay for. I strongly caution clients to beware of law firms that advertise low contingency fee rates. You will likely get a much better result by choosing a highly qualified and respected lawyer, then a bargain rate lawyer who doesn’t properly work up your case or settles it for below case value. Without question, your case outcome is highly dependent on the lawyer who represents you.