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What Types of Fees Do Attorneys Require in Personal Injury Cases?

Most persons injured by falls or accidents or as a result of defective products or malpractice of medical professionals hire attorneys to help them through their personal injury cases and hopefully obtain a maximum settlement. Hiring that counsel to navigate personal injury litigation does not come without a price. What are the types of fees that attorneys charge in personal injury cases?

There really is no typical attorneys' fee because every case is different with varying facts and circumstances. Notwithstanding case-specific nuances, there are other factors that may impact attorney fees. Fee-impacting factors include the locality of the suit (rural, urban, area serviced by many or few attorneys), experience level of the attorney in personal injury law, and simplicity or complexity of case (cookie cutter, run-of-the-mill variety versus novel, complicated case that is likely to involve many parties and expensive experts, and likely will last a long time).

Types of Attorney Fee Arrangements

Attorneys are paid in several ways.

  • Retainers. Some attorneys require the payment of a retainer. A retainer is a set advance fee that the client pays up front and that the attorney subtracts expenses from throughout the personal injury case. Retainers are often used in high-profile celebrity cases, large criminal cases, and high-profile divorces.

  • Flat Fees. This fee structure is often used in simpler cases. A flat fee makes the most sense if the injury case is straightforward and lacks complicated details, issues, and fact patterns. The flat fee can include costs or be exclusive of costs, depending on the agreement reached between attorney and client.

  • Hourly Fees. This fee structure is the most common way that most attorneys are paid outside of personal injury suits and in civil matters, especially on the defense side. The specific hourly fee is agreed to with the client in a fee arrangement or engagement agreement. Hourly fees are charged during the case until it concludes and are billed in monthly intervals. Costs are added to fees.

  • Contingency Fees. This fee structure is the most common way that attorneys are paid in personal injury suits. Attorneys are not paid any fees up front. Instead, attorneys are paid a set, agreed upon share of the final settlement. Contingency fees are usually at least 25 percent on the low end and span upwards to 40 percent on the high end. A one-third contingency fee of 33 percent is common. The higher end of the spectrum occurs after mediation or trial, and the lower end may apply if the case settles early. Clients do not pay their attorneys if they do not recover, so this structure is attractive to clients and one that attorneys must manage effectively to have profitable practices.