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How Much Does a Personal Injury Firm Charge?

After being injured in an accident that's someone else's fault, it's common to consider hiring a personal injury law firm to help collect compensation for your injuries. But if you've never before hired an attorney, you may be wondering how much a personal injury firm costs. This article outlines how personal injury lawyers and attorneys charge for their time.

Two Types of Fees

Personal injury lawyers generally charge for their services in one of two ways: contingency fees or hourly fees (also called hourly billing rates). With a contingency fee, you only pay the lawyer if he or she recovers money on your behalf. With an hourly billing rate, you pay the attorney for his or her actual time worked, regardless of the outcome of your case.

Contingency Fees in Personal Injury Cases

The majority of personal injury law firms charge accident victims what is known as a contingency fee. When a personal injury accident attorney takes a case on contingency, the client agrees to pay him or her a percentage of any money the attorney obtains on the client's behalf. If the attorney is unable to win a judgment or negotiate a settlement for the accident victim, the attorney is paid nothing. Typically if the client wins money, he or she will also be responsible for reimbursing the personal injury firm for any expenses incurred in handling the case.

Contingency fee percentages vary from region to region, but most personal injury lawyers in an area typically charge approximately the same percentage. You can, however, try to negotiate a lower percentage. You should also ask the attorney whether the percentage is paid from the gross award (the amount of money received before expenses are deducted) or the net award (the amount of money received after expenses are deducted).

There are two advantages to contingency fees: As the injury victim, you pay nothing if the personal injury firm is unable to obtain a judgment or settlement on your behalf. Also, because the personal injury firm also stands to benefit, they are motivated to obtain the largest settlement or judgment possible.

The disadvantage of contingency fees is that if your case settles relatively quickly, you may feel as if the attorney did not earn his or her fee.

Hourly Rates in Personal Injury Lawsuits

Infrequently, a personal injury accident lawyer will offer to represent a client and charge an hourly rate. In this case, the client is responsible for paying for the time the attorney actually spends on the case, plus expenses, regardless of whether the case is won or lost.

If a personal injury firm offers to take your personal injury case for an hourly rate, this may be a sign that your case is weak or unwinnable. Consider asking the law firm if they represent other accident victims on contingency and why they are unwilling to take your case on contingency.

The Cost of Hiring a Personal Injury Firm

Whether you hire a personal injury firm on contingency or on an hourly rate, it is important to remember that you are not guaranteed to receive an award that meets or exceeds the total cost of your medical bills, lost wages, and other injury-related expenses. You will still be responsible for paying the lawyer's bill even if this means you have to pay some injury-related costs out of pocket.

When considering a personal injury firm, ask them how much your case could reasonably settle for or how big a judgment you could receive if the case went to trial. Then ask them to walk you through the math:

  • Approximately how much would you pay in legal fees?
  • Approximately how much would you pay in expenses?
  • How much would remain after legal fees and expenses?

Doing this exercise should help you better understand the total cost of hiring a personal injury law firm.