Stephen Schultz | November 16, 2023 | Personal Injury
“How much does a lawyer cost?” It is a question that comes to prospective clients’ minds almost instantly, given that — as you likely know — lawyers have a reputation for being notoriously expensive. What many do not know, however, is that personal injury lawyers don’t typically charge anything upfront for their services.
Instead, they are compensated on the back end from settlements and verdicts, a form of client billing known as a contingency fee arrangement. It makes it easier for injured persons to get justice for their losses without worrying about the money they need to spend from the get-go.
Expenses vs. Fees
Clients of personal injury attorneys could be required to pay certain fees and expenses. If you are wondering how much it costs to hire a St. Louis personal injury lawyer yourself, you must first understand the difference between costs and fees.
An attorney’s fee covers the specialized work your attorney provides for you, from negotiating with insurance companies for a settlement to representing you in court. The expenses, on the other hand, are costs related to pursuing your claim.
Personal injury lawyers typically, but not always, cover the following aspects of a case:
- Court costs
- Administrative expenses
- Witness costs
- Costs of investigations and evidence collection
- Payments related to serving complaints and summons
- Jury expenses
As with attorney fees, the amount of these costs will generally not be taken until the end of the case. What typically occurs is that your attorney will receive your settlement check and take out appropriate fees and costs before turning the rest of the check over to you. However, you should check how these costs will factor into the equation (for instance, who will pay them if the lawyer loses the case) for your specific case before you hire the attorney.
The contingency percentage is that which your attorney will use to calculate their fee. Generally speaking, personal injury attorneys in St. Louis, MO, charge anywhere between 33.3% and 45%, depending on the circumstances of the case.
For relatively straightforward cases, the percentage charged is typically on the lower end of that range, but the legal and factual complexities of a case can bump that figure up quite easily.
Additionally, the lower end of the contingency percentage range is typically reserved for cases that are settled without too much difficulty. When a trial is involved, contingency fees might jump to 40% or more.
For example, if you are awarded a $100,000 settlement because of a relatively straightforward car accident, your attorney’s fee will likely be around $33,300, leaving you with just over $66,000.
But if the case goes to trial, the attorney will likely increase their percentage to anywhere between 40% and 45% and receive $40,000 to $45,000 as a result.
Free Initial Consultations
How much does it cost to talk to a lawyer in the first place? Fortunately, for injury victims, the vast majority of personal injury lawyers do not charge for their initial consultations.
Instead, they provide free basic reviews of potential clients’ cases, a practice that makes it more likely for injury victims to seek competent legal counsel after a harmful incident instead of forgoing it.
Alternative Billing Practices
Although the contingency-fee model is by far the most widely used method of billing in personal injury cases, there are a few others that injured victims might encounter in their searches for competent lawyers.
These include the following:
Flat-rate fee arrangements are popular because the client will know just how much they will have to pay in the end. They are more appropriate for high-volume, relatively simple services, such as:
- Will drafting
- Uncontested divorce filings
- Residential real estate sales and closings
When it comes to personal injury cases, however, flat-rate pricing is typically not as flexible as it needs to be, given the sometimes unpredictable circumstances surrounding such cases.
It is rare, but you might find a personal injury attorney who charges by the hour. The problem with such an approach to payment is that it often ends up being extremely costly for clients, something that contingency fees are meant to avoid.
With that said, how much does it cost to have a lawyer on retainer? The answer depends on the work that needs to be done. For other areas, such as criminal law and business law, hourly and retainer agreements are often deemed more appropriate.
Some personal injury lawyers make use of hybrid arrangements with their clients, typically billing a portion of their work on an hourly basis and charging for the rest under a contingency fee model.
For example, a law firm using a hybrid model might charge their personal injury clients half their normal hourly rate and take the rest of their pay via a contingency fee, which will typically be much lower than the standard percentage range between 33.3% and 45%.
Never Go It Alone
At the end of the day, personal injury lawyers cost money, and that money will come from the compensation you receive. For many, that may cause a degree of hesitation; some will even attempt to calculate how much more money they would get if they sought compensation without a lawyer.
However, what they don’t realize is that attorneys work to substantially increase the amount of compensation that their injured clients receive. Research has shown that victims with attorneys can get up to (and in some cases, over) three to four times the amount of compensation than those who seek compensation without lawyers.
The disparity in outcomes is primarily due to the fact that insurance companies are only interested in profit. Adjusters, therefore, will fight hard to find reasons to deny or reduce perfectly valid personal injury claims, and sadly, they are often successful when a lawyer is not part of the equation.
You Can Afford a St. Louis Personal Injury Lawyer
The bottom line is that you can likely afford a personal injury lawyer because they typically collect their fees and associated costs from the money they win on your behalf. With no out-of-pocket payments necessary, you won’t have to worry about the pressure of coming up with the cash to get justice. Initial consultations are also free, making it worth the time to at least meet with an attorney for a review of your case.
Contact Our Personal Injury Law Firm in St. Louis, MO
If you’ve been injured, please contact Schultz & Myers Personal Injury Lawyers at the nearest location to schedule a free consultation today: