By Michael P. Ehline, Esq., of Ehline Law Firm – If the occasion arises that requires hiring a personal injury lawyer, you may wonder what it will cost to have legal representation. Generally personal injury lawyers charge for their services in one of two ways, they either use the contingency fee method or hourly billing.
Contingency Fees Charged by Personal Injury Lawyers
Most personal injury lawyers use the contingency fee to charge clients. This is a fee that is only paid to the lawyer, if he or she is able to negotiate a settlement or court verdict in the case on your behalf. If you are not awarded compensation or obtain a settlement from the liable party for your accident, then the attorney will not collect any fee. There are other expenses, which might be in the form of investigations, collecting records and expert testimony, which lawyers may waive, if there is no compensation obtained. If you win your case, then you will be responsible for these costs the attorney incurred in preparing your lawsuit.
Contingency fees are normally are charged by the attorney as a percentage of any money that is awarded. This percentage can vary from location to location, but it may be found that every lawyer charges the same percentage. You may attempt to negotiate a lower percentage with the lawyer, but this must be done prior to hiring him or her. There are advantages with the lawyer who charges using contingency fees; the contingency fee method costs you nothing, if you do not win money. It is also a motivation factor for the lawyer to win the largest award possible, because this will be beneficial to them in their payment.
The disadvantage of contingency fees, is you may not believe your attorney has earned the amount that they are paid, when they secure a large settlement quickly, on your behalf. When negotiating a contingency fee with the lawyer, it is important to be clear about whether the fee is calculated on the gross award, which is prior to the lawyers fee has been deducted, or if it is on the net judgment. The net judgment contingency fee, will mean that the personal injury lawyers fee and expenses are deduced, prior to your award.
When the personal injury lawyer bills hourly, this will mean it will be billed for every hour the lawyer works on your case, whether you win or lose. The client is also responsible for reimbursing the attorney for any expenses that are incurred, while preparing the case.
It is uncommon for a personal injury lawyer to charge hourly billing rates, rather than using a contingency fee basis for lawsuits. One reason for this is, because it will mean that the injured victim will be required to pay upfront fees, during a time when finances might already be strained.
The other reason is the lawyer will stand to make a lower fee, billing at an hourly rate, instead of a percentage of the total amount awarded on behalf of the client, on a contingency fee basis. In the event that a personal injury lawyer does charge hourly billing, rather than a contingency fee, it could be a sign that your case is weak.
That would mean it may not produce a large award. What you can do is ask the attorney, if they represent other clients on a contingency basis, and why they did not offer to represent your case in this manner. The one thing that must be remembered, is that you will be responsible to pay the lawyers hourly billing rate, fees and expenses, even when the case is unsuccessful. If the accident has caused money to become strained, then you may want to seriously consider, if hiring an attorney at an hourly billing rate is the best plan.
What Personal Injury Lawyers Cost
Prior to hiring a personal injury lawyer, it is important to have them go through the numbers with you. There are questions that may be helpful in this part of the lawyer consultation process.
- How much does the lawyer expect your case could receive in damages?
- What amount of that award would go toward their legal fees?
- What amount would you retain, after their payment for medical expenses, loss of income, property damage, and pain and suffering?
When a settlement or award is obtained in a personal injury lawsuit, the client is obligated to pay legal fees, even if that means that all your injury related expenses are not completely covered.
Relevant California Vehicle Code Sections;
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