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How Much Does a Personal Injury Attorney Cost?

If you need to hire a personal injury attorney, you may wondering how much personal injury law firms cost. Typically, personal injury lawyers charge their clients either a contingency fee or an hourly fee. A contingency fee is only paid if the attorney is able to successfully settle or win the case. With an hourly fee (also known as an hourly billing rate), the client pays for the actual time the attorney works on the case, regardless of its outcome.

Contingency Fees & Personal Injury Lawsuits

Contingency fees are, by far, the more common billing structure in personal injury lawsuits. These fees offer a couple of advantages to injury victims: You don't have to pay your lawyer any money up front, nor do you have to pay anything if the lawyer is unable to negotiate a settlement or win at trial. In addition, the attorney is motivated to work hard on the client's behalf because that is the only way the lawyer is compensated.

Typically, contingency fees are calculated as a percentage of any money collected from the negligent party in settlement talks or at trial. Exact percentages vary from region to region, and most injury attorneys in your area probably charge about the same amount. If you collect money for your accident, you'll also be responsible for reimbursing the lawyer for any expenses he or she may have incurred on your behalf.

Two tips to consider when negotiating a fee contingency arrangement with a personal injury attorney:

  • You can try to negotiate a lower percentage contingency fee with your lawyer
  • Ask to have the contingency fee calculated based on the net award (in other words, after expenses have been deducted), not the gross award (before expenses have been deducted)
    • Remember, the time to negotiate these details is before signing the fee agreement, not after you've won your case.

      Hourly Fees & Personal Injury Cases

      When you hire an attorney and agree to pay an hourly rate, you're obligated to pay that lawyer regardless of whether you win or lose your case. Hourly rates are uncommon in personal injury cases. Most lawyers prefer contingency fees.

      If injury attorneys only want to handle your case for an hourly fee, this may be a sign that your case is weak or not worth a lot of money. Feel free to ask attorneys if they work with other clients on contingency fees and why they won't take your case on contingency.

      Understanding Personal Injury Attorney Fees

      Before hiring a personal injury attorney, take some time to walk through the numbers and make sure you understand how much you'll be paying. Ask the lawyer to break down the following:

      • Realistically, what size award can you expect to receive if your personal injury case settles? If your personal injury case goes to trial?
      • Using those estimated amounts, how much would you pay in legal fees if the case settles? If it goes to trial?
      • How much would you pay in legal expenses if your case settles? If it goes to trial?
      • How much money would remain after these legal fees and expenses are deducted?

      Remember that you'll be obligated to pay your injury attorney's bill and expenses, even if it ultimately leaves you with less money than you need to pay your medical bills and other accident-related expenses.