In 2021, approximately 1 in 5 Americans sought medical attention for an injury. If you were harmed in an accident, you may be considering hiring a personal injury lawyer to represent you in filing a claim. However, you may be concerned about how much it will cost to hire an experienced lawyer to handle your case.
Fortunately, most personal injury attorneys take cases on a contingency fee basis. This means you will not have to pay any upfront costs or fees. Your legal fees will be based on a fixed percentage of the amount you are awarded for damages.
When a personal injury law firm accepts personal injury cases on contingency, this allows accident victims to hire an experienced legal representative regardless of a person’s current financial situation. This article will discuss the typical percentages a lawyer will charge for personal injury cases and what factors can affect the percentage charged.
What Is a Contingency Fee?
Most personal injury lawyers use contingency fees for personal injury cases instead of charging an hourly rate. Under this arrangement, you do not pay a fee when you hire a lawyer to represent you. Instead, you agree to pay your lawyer a percentage of the money you are awarded for your injury claim.
You and your lawyer agree to the percentage before you sign the documents, thereby hiring the law firm to handle your case. Typically, the percentage ranges between 30 and 40 percent of your settlement or verdict.
You are only charged the contingency fee if your lawyer recovers money for your injuries. So you lose nothing if your case is unsuccessful.
Factors that Affect Personal Injury Lawyer’s Fees
Typically, a lawyer will charge around one-third or 33 percent of your total settlement or court award. However, a personal injury lawyer may charge a higher or lower fee depending on the circumstances of your case.
The following are some factors that can affect a lawyer’s percentage fees.
The complexity of your case
Personal injury attorneys will assess the complexity of the case they are going to take on. For example, cases involving medical malpractice can be difficult to prove. It may take many months of research and preparation until the case is ready for trial.
Since your lawyer will need to put extra effort into building a complex case and settling successfully, he may request a higher fee percentage.
Time constraints on the case
State laws determine how long an accident victim has to file a claim or lawsuit. In Massachusetts, most personal injury cases must be brought within 3 years from the day the injury occurred.
If you wait until the deadline is almost up to hire a lawyer to file a personal injury lawsuit, your lawyer has another reason to charge a higher contingency fee for your case. Your lawyer would have to act quickly to gather all evidence and file the necessary paperwork to file a claim.
Once the statute of limitations passes, you cannot file a lawsuit.
This is one of the many reasons it is beneficial to consult with a lawyer as soon as possible after your accident. Some personal injury lawyers may be able to offer you a lower percentage fee if they do not have a severe time constraint to file your case.
The value of the case
Your personal injury attorney will consider the value of your case when determining what percentage to charge for his or her services. How much your case is worth will depend on factors such as the extent of your injuries, whether you sustained permanent or long-term harm, and who caused your injuries.
The larger the value of your claim is, the greater the opportunity to make money. If the value of your claim is high, a personal injury lawyer may charge a lower contingency fee percentage.
Whether you have a claim or lawsuit
Since negotiating a claim with the insurance company is not as complex and time-consuming as a lawsuit, your injury lawyer may charge a smaller fee if negotiations remain out of court. However, if the claim becomes a lawsuit, the lawyer may increase the fee.
For instance, you and your lawyer may have agreed to a 30 percent fee to have your liability claim settled with the insurance company. However, if you do not end up agreeing to an out-of-court settlement, you may need to bring a lawsuit to recover a fair amount. Due to the work involved in going to trial, the lawyer’s fees may increase.
The experience level of the personal injury attorney
The education, skills, and experience level of an attorney may play a role in the legal fees. Experienced personal injury attorneys with a proven track record of success are in higher demand than a new lawyer just starting his or her career.
Lawyers with years of experience and a history of winning cases can charge higher contingency fees since their skills put them in higher demand and make them more valuable.
The geographic location of the personal injury case
Geographic location can significantly affect the cost of retaining legal services. Typically, personal injury attorneys in urban areas, where the cost of living is rather high, will charge higher fees.
For example, a lawyer in Boston may charge a higher contingency fee than a personal injury lawyer in a rural Massachusetts town. However, the trade-off could be advantageous since personal injury attorneys in large cities often have more experience.
Are Court Costs Included in the Contingency Fee?
The costs associated with pursuing a personal injury claim are not usually included as part of the contingency fee percentage paid to an attorney at the successful end of a case.
Your lawyer may cover any court costs or other fees incurred through the duration of your case, but then deduct the sum of these fees from your awarded settlement along with the contingency fee.
Court costs and expenses may include:
- Court filing fees
- Expert witness fees
- Administrative fees
- Fees to obtain medical records
- Transcript fees
- Travel expenses
- Deposition fees
- Trial preparation costs
Before signing paperwork to obtain legal services, you should ask your personal injury lawyer to explain the legal costs related to your case and how these will be paid. Be sure to ask if you are responsible for reimbursing the law firm for associated costs if the attorney does not win your case.
The terms should be clearly explained and included in the retainer and contingency fee agreement.
Limits on Contingency Fees
Each state sets its own laws regarding the contingency fee percentage that lawyers are able to charge for personal injury cases. Some states put caps on the percentage amount lawyers can request from their clients.
The following are the limitations on contingency fees in Massachusetts:
- 40 percent of the first $150,000 recovered
- 33 and one-third percent of the next $150,000 recovered
- 30 percent of the next $200,000 recovered
- 25 percent of any excess amount over $500,000 recovered
What Are Other Types of Legal Fee Structures?
While most personal injury attorneys take clients on a contingency fee basis, others utilize different fee structures.
These are some other common types of fee agreements:
- Flat fees: A lawyer charges a set amount for legal services, regardless of how much time is spent on the case
- Hourly rates: An attorney will charge you for each hour or portion of an hour that he or she works on your case
- Retainer fees: You pay the lawyer a set amount upfront, which is usually a deposit, and legal costs are deducted from the retainer fee
- Consultation fees: While most personal injury lawyers offer potential clients a free consultation, some law firms may charge a fixed or hourly fee for your first meeting
How Contingency Fee Agreements Are Beneficial to Personal Injury Victims
The contingency fee arrangement benefits victims of personal injuries in several ways:
- You can hire an experienced lawyer to represent your personal injury case regardless of your current financial situation
- You can bring a personal injury lawsuit you might otherwise not be able to afford
- You do not own the contingency fee if your lawyer does not recover your compensation, thus eliminating the risk of paying high legal fees for a case you lose
- Your personal injury lawyer has an incentive to recover maximum compensation for you; the more money you receive, the more money the lawyer will get from the contingency fee percentage
- Your personal injury attorney is encouraged to work as quickly as possible on your behalf, since the sooner the case is settled and you receive compensation, the sooner the lawyer can recover the contingency fee; lawyers who work hourly could intentionally drag out the case to increase billable legal fees
Is Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer Worth the Fees?
After being involved in an accident, you may be unsure whether you should hire a personal injury lawyer or simply file a claim on your own.
There are some situations in which you may not need to hire a lawyer. For example, if you were in a minor car accident and only sustained property damage and/or superficial injuries, you should be able to file a claim with your insurance company without needing legal assistance.
However, there are many other situations where, despite the contingency fees, it is still in your best interests to hire a lawyer.
Note the following situations when it is advisable to have an experienced personal injury attorney on your side:
- When you are being pressured to accept a low settlement offer: The goal of the other party’s insurer is to get you to settle for as low of an amount as possible. But a lawyer can combat their line of reasoning and can handle all communication and negotiations with the insurance company on your behalf.
- When the insurance company denies your claim: If the insurance company has denied your claim in bad faith, a personal injury lawyer can investigate your accident, build a solid case on your behalf, and help you recover compensation for your losses.
- When you have a lot of damages: After a severe accident, you may be entitled to receive both economic and non-economic damages. Pain and suffering and other non-economic damages are difficult to quantify. A lawyer will have resources available to accurately calculate non-economic damages and ensure you receive the maximum compensation you deserve.
Contact Us to Schedule a Free Case Consultation
If you are wondering whether a contingency fee arrangement is the right type of fee structure for you and your personal injury case, we encourage you to contact Kiley Law Group today. We work with injury victims throughout Massachusetts in various practice areas, including car accidents, motorcycle accidents, premises liability accidents, medical malpractice cases, and much more.
Our law firm has helped thousands of clients over the past 40 years through contingency fee agreements. During your initial consultation, we can tell you more about the percentage that our lawyers will take from a case.
Schedule a free case review with one of our team members today. Call us 24/7 at (978) 965-3228 or complete the contact form here on our website.