Suffering a personal injury can impact much more than just your health. Doctor’s appointments, medications, and treatments can be expensive while medical bills continue to add up. On top of the medical expenses, you might be missing time off work, resulting in a loss of wages.
When facing these financial burdens on top of your physical and emotional recovery, the thought of hiring a lawyer might be the last thing on your mind, even if you deserve compensation for your damages. The good news is, though, that hiring a personal injury lawyer might be easier than you thought.
If you have found yourself in a situation where you need the help and support of a personal injury lawyer, you should know what contingency fees are, how they work, and what other costs you can expect along the way.
What Are Contingency Fees and How Do They Work?
Law firms understand that personal injury victims are not usually in a financial position to pay upfront for what can be a costly legal process. These clients are often already facing burdensome financial expenses caused by their injuries, and additional expenses might be impossible to pay. That is why the majority of personal injury lawyers charge a contingency fee instead of an out-of-pocket, up-front cost.
Contingency fees are an agreed-upon percentage of your settlement that goes to your lawyer as compensation for his or her representation. That means that your attorney is not paid until or unless the case is one and a settlement is awarded. These contingency fees ensure that it is in the lawyer’s best interests to fight for a large settlement for the client, and if the case is unsuccessful, the client is not left with a legal bill on top of other expenses – a win-win for both the lawyer and the client.
As a general rule, contingency fees can range anywhere from 33 to 40 percent of the awarded settlement, and they can be negotiated with a lawyer before signing a contract. Some law firms may have a sliding fee with a larger percentage going towards the lawyer if the case is complex or needs to go to trial, and a smaller fee percentage if the case is more straightforward and reaches a settlement easily.
Limits On What Can Be Charged
It is important to recognize that Massachusetts law has regulations regarding lawyer’s fees. For example, it states that lawyers cannot charge a “clearly excessive fee.” Whether or not a fee is ‘clearly excessive’ depends on such factors as the complexity of the case and the amount of time and labor required to handle it.
Before entering into an agreement with a personal injury lawyer, take the time to do your research and compare different firms, looking at their reputation, cost, and experience. Of course, not all lawyers are created equal, so looking at contingency fees alone may not tell the whole story.
For example, one lawyer may charge a 30 percent contingency fee but does a mediocre job researching and building your case, winning only $10,000 of a settlement. Another lawyer may charge a 40 percent contingency fee but has more experience and resources available to handle your case, winning you a $20,000 settlement. Even though in the second example the contingency fee is higher, you would still net more from the settlement in the end.
Do Contingency Fees Cover Everything?
The fee your lawyer charges you – take 33 percent, for example – often doesn’t include the cost of the necessary legal processes to fight your case. For example, there may be fees to file certain documents in the courts, the cost of paying for expert testimony and conducting depositions, and other necessary expenses that have added up through the course of the legal process.
Depending on the contingency agreement you have, these extra costs may not be included in the fee your lawyer is charging. Generally speaking, the costs are deducted from the settlement before the contingency fee is taken to ensure that the victim receives a higher amount of the settlement. The contract you sign with your lawyer should outline the payment structure so there is no confusion or misunderstanding as to what he or she will be taking out of your settlement.
The Bottom Line About Personal Injury Lawyers
Thinking of signing away 40 percent of your potential settlement might seem like a hefty price to pay for a personal injury lawyer. But studies like Martindale-Nolo Research’s 2017 personal injury study have shown that victims with legal representation are not only more likely to receive a settlement but also that the average compensation amount is much higher with a lawyer than without one.
At the very least, if you have been injured due to someone else’s negligence, you should seek legal advice. You can get a free consultation and case review with Kiley Law Group, an experienced law firm that can help you better understand your legal rights and figure out your next steps – all with no obligation.