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How Much Does a Personal Injury Lawyer Charge?

If you need to hire a personal injury lawyer, you may want to know how much a personal injury lawyer charges. Most personal injury lawyers charge for their time in one of two ways: contingency fees or hourly fees (often known as an hourly billing rate).

Contingency Fees & Personal Injury Lawyers

By far, most personal injury attorneys charge their clients a contingency fee. With a contingency fee, you only pay the lawyer if he or she is able to negotiate a monetary settlement or win a judgment on your behalf. If you receive no money from the party responsible for your accident, then the lawyer collects no fee. If you win, you'll also be responsible for any expenses the attorney incurred in preparing your case. Many personal injury lawyers will waive the expenses if the case is lost.

Typically, contingency fees are charged as a percentage of any money you are awarded. The exact percentage will vary from region to region, but you may find that every personal injury lawyer you meet charges the same percentage. You can try to negotiate a lower percentage, but do this before hiring the lawyer.

There are two advantages to contingency fees: A contingency fee costs you nothing if you win no money, and your attorney is motivated to get the biggest award possible because he or she also stands to benefit.

The primary disadvantage to contingency fees is that you may not feel as if your lawyer has earned his or her fee if your lawyer is quickly able to secure a large settlement on your behalf.

When negotiating a contingency fee, make sure you understand whether the fee is calculated on the gross award (the award before your lawyer's expenses have been deducted) or the net judgment (the award after your personal injury lawyer's expenses have been deducted).

Hourly Fees & Personal Injury Attorneys

With an hourly billing rate, you pay your personal injury lawyer for every hour that he or she works on your case, regardless of whether you win or lose. You are also responsible for reimbursing the lawyer for an expenses incurred.

Hourly billing rates are far less common than contingency fees in personal injury lawsuits. They are less popular because they require injury victims to pay cash up front, at a time when money may already be tight. They are also less popular because, if the case is won, the attorney makes less money than he or she might make if handling the case on contingency.

If a personal injury attorney offers to represent you for an hourly fee, it may be a sign that your case is weak or unlikely to yield a large payoff. You should feel free to ask the lawyer if he or she represents other clients on contingency and why the lawyer isn't interesting in taking your case on contingency.

Remember that with an hourly billing rate, you'll be responsible for paying the lawyer's fees and expenses even if the case is ultimately unsuccessful. If money is already tight because of your accident, you may want to think twice before hiring a personal injury lawyer for an hourly fee.

Understanding How Much a Personal Injury Lawyer Costs

Before hiring a personal injury lawyer, ask the attorney to walk you through the numbers:

  • How much does the attorney think you could receive in damages?
  • How much of that award would go toward the attorney's legal fees?
  • How much of that award would go toward the attorney's legal expenses?
  • How much money would remain to pay for your medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering?

It's important to remember that you're obligated to pay your legal fees, even if it means you're left with less money than your injury-related expenses.