Most personal injury lawyers charge something known as a contingency fee. The fee benefits the client and provides the lawyer with the incentive to maximize the compensation recovered in a case.
When you hire a lawyer, make sure you understand the lawyer’s fee structure. Fee disputes can occur when lawyers and clients do not communicate their fee arrangements clearly.
How Do Lawyers Charge Legal Fees?
Private attorneys charge for legal services, and these legal fees usually take three forms:
Lawyers charge a flat fee for projects with a predictable amount of work. Through a flat fee, the lawyer quotes a fixed cost for the entire project.
Some projects that fall into this category include:
- Traffic tickets
Clients like flat fees because they provide predictability, but lawyers only offer them for specific types of legal work.
Lawyers may charge an hourly fee for projects that have an unpredictable amount of work, ensuring the lawyer gets fairly compensated for the time they spend on the project.
With an hourly fee, the lawyer quotes an hourly rate and bills the client for the amount of time spent working on a case. Clients tend to dislike hourly fees because of their inherent lack of predictability.
Lawyers can only charge a contingency fee in certain types of cases. Missouri’s Rules of Professional Conduct prevent lawyers from charging a contingency fee in criminal and divorce cases, but you will often incur a contingency fee in personal injury cases such as car accidents or slip and fall accidents.
With a contingency fee, the lawyer quotes a percentage and calculates the final bill by multiplying that percentage by the amount of compensation the lawyer has won for their client.
How Does a Contingency Fee Work?
A contingency fee can only be calculated at the end of the case once the outcome is known. When you hire a lawyer on a contingency fee basis, the lawyer works on the case without charging the client until the lawyer either wins, loses, or settles the case.
If the lawyer wins compensation for the client, the insurer or at-fault party pays the lawyer. At that point, the lawyer can calculate their contingency fee, generate a bill, collect their share of the compensation as payment, and send the rest of said compensation to the client.
Benefits of Contingency Fee
A contingency fee provides several benefits to clients, including:
No Upfront Fee
Since this particular legal fee depends on the compensation earned, a lawyer cannot charge any upfront fee. The client will sign the lawyer’s contingency fee agreement, and the lawyer will start working on the injury case.
No Fee for a Loss
A typical contingency fee falls somewhere between 30% and 40% of a client’s total compensation. If the lawyer wins or settles the case, the lawyer receives the quoted percentage of the compensation.
If the lawyer loses the case, the lawyer also receives the quoted percentage of the compensation. With that being said, though, 30% of zero is still zero, so the lawyer receives no contingency payment.
An Incentive for the Lawyer
The more the lawyer wins for the client, the larger they receive from their legal fee, which incentivizes them to receive as much as possible for the client’s injuries and damages. Thus, when hiring a contingency fee lawyer, the lawyer’s interests align with the client’s.
While the amount of the legal fee will depend on the settlement or damage award won by the lawyer, the percentage is a fixed value, which guarantees the client will receive the bulk of the compensation their lawyer wins for them.
For instance, if a lawyer quotes a 35% contingency fee, the client will receive 65% of the compensation, which will go to pay the client’s medical bills and living expenses while the client recovers from the injuries.
Questions to Ask a Contingency Fee Lawyer
When you hire a lawyer that makes use of contingency fees, make sure you ask about any additional costs, so you know exactly what you will pay for your legal representation. During your case, you will incur costs to keep the claim going.
Some examples of litigation costs include:
- Stenographer fees
- Lawsuit filing fees
- Expert witness fees
- Medical records copying fees
Most contingency fee lawyers will pay for these costs during the case, but in the end, you will need to reimburse the lawyer for any additional costs paid on your behalf.
Ask your lawyer about the process of approving litigation costs and whether you will need to reimburse the lawyer even if you lose your case.
Contact Schultz Myers Personal Injury Lawyer For Help
You will likely schedule free consultations with several lawyers before picking the one that’s best for you and your situation. Discuss legal fees with each lawyer you meet and request a copy of the lawyer’s contingency fee agreement.
Read them carefully so that if you have any questions about the agreement, you can discuss them with your lawyer before signing it.