Do I Have to Pay My Attorney Upfront?

The cost of litigation can be intimidating and legal fees can often scare someone off from pursuing a legal claim. Following a car accident, you may need to seek the assistance of a lawyer in getting payment for your injuries, but that does not mean you are sitting on thousands of dollars with which to pay an attorney.

How do so many others do it? The legal fee process can be complex, so how do other litigants manage to obtain the services of an attorney?

We have asked attorney, Alaina Sullivan, about how a personal injury attorney gets compensated. Here is what she had to say:

Contingent Fees

For most civil legal matters, such as divorce cases, attorneys will require the litigant pay a retainer from which to draw legal fees as work is completed. These retainers can be as low as a couple thousand and go up from there.

It can be hard to accumulate the money to pay the retainer, and most attorneys will not even touch your case without securely having this money in hand.

However, in personal injury cases, because of the nature of the beast and the money involved, most personal injury attorneys operate on a contingent fee basis. This means they do not get paid unless you get paid.

It is what you hear on all of those television ads. “We do not get paid unless you do.” That describes the contingent fee.

A Lawyer Explains How personal injury lawyers are paid

However, what does that mean? Normally when you hire an attorney to help you with a personal injury matter, you enter to an agreement whereby you agree to give the attorney a percentage of whatever total award you receive.

How high that percentage is depends on your case. If you are seeking millions of dollars in a wrongful death litigation, your attorney might seek a higher percentage, such as a third, of your award. More complex cases take a lot of work, research, expert witnesses and time in court.

He or she will want to ensure that the firm is adequately compensated. If your damage request is not too significant, your attorney may not ask for much in terms of contingent fees. It all depends on the facts.

Upfront Costs

However, given the fact that the attorney still has to pay the bills while doing the work and not receiving payment, certain expenses may need to be paid upfront.

If you are financially able to pay for these expenses, your attorney may require you to pay for the filing fee to file your claim in court, fees for expert witnesses, depositions, and other costs.

Expert witnesses will not want to be paid after the case is won. They will want payment prior to testifying in court, and an attorney may not want to front those costs alone. The amount you would pay in this situation depends on the case.

What Happens If I Lose My Case?

When you pursue a personal injury claim, you are hoping to win it and recover compensation for your damages. However, there is always a chance that you may not recover compensation. You may be left wondering what will happen if you don’t win and recover your losses.

Personal injury lawyers work on a contingency basis, which means that your lawyer isn’t paid for his or her work until you win your claim. If you don’t recover compensation for your damages, then your lawyer will not be paid.

You may be concerned about what you will have to pay for out of pocket if you don’t win your claim. When you hire a lawyer, you will enter into an agreement with them. It will clearly state who is responsible for any costs associated with the case. If you win your claim, those costs will be deducted from the settlement.

In some situations, you may be responsible for reimbursing your attorney those fees if you don’t win your claim, but in other cases, the lawyer may eat those costs simply because you didn’t win your claim. You need to make sure you understand the costs fully should you lose your case.

Costs associated with an accident injury case may include the costs of getting copies of medical records, costs associated with expert witnesses, court costs, and the expenses associated with investigating the auto accident.

You will also be responsible for paying for your medical expenses if you don’t win your personal injury claim. That includes doctor visits, hospital bills, prescriptions, physical therapy, medical devices, and any other expenses related to your medical care and treatment for your injuries.

However, if auto insurance isn’t covering your medical costs, you may be able to file the claims with your medical insurance. Your health insurance may pay toward your medical care for your injuries. Your personal injury lawyer will be able to help you determine if that is a possibility for your specific situation.

Who Gets Paid First?

If you have settled your personal injury claim, or if you have gotten a judgment for your damages, you are awaiting the check. Your personal injury lawyer will be sent the check and will make sure the payments are distributed as they should be.

If your medical bills have been paid by your health insurance, a subrogation agreement was most likely made with the insurance company. This says that after you recover damages, you will reimburse them either all or a portion of the medical costs that they covered.

After the medical expenses are covered, your attorney will get his or her portion of the lump sum. Usually, this is about 33 percent of the overall settlement or judgment. However, that should be in the agreement when retain your lawyer’s services.

Also, any expenses that the lawyer has advanced for your claim will be reimbursed. This could be for the copies of medical records and for any court costs. Be sure to get a list of the common advanced costs that you will be expected to reimburse after your claim has been settled. You should have a general idea of what you will be paying for after your accident injury case is resolved.

Does The Lawyer Get Paid In Installments?

When your claim is resolved and the insurance sends the check to the attorney’s office, your lawyer will be paid in a lump sum just as you will receive a lump sum. The only time that an attorney will be paid in installments is if you receive installments for your damages. At that time, your lawyer may continue to receive a portion of your payments.

When you hire a lawyer, you will go over the costs associated with their legal services, and then you will know when they will be paid and how much payment they will receive for your accident injury claim.

When you retain the services of a lawyer, he or she will tell you how much they will receive as a contingency fee. Because your lawyer isn’t paid until you receive a settlement or a judgment, they will take a percentage of what you recover. While the percentage of your settlement goes to the contingency fee, that percentage can vary.

Most agreements for contingency fees vary from 33 to 40 percent. You can try to negotiate an alternate agreement or have the fee reduced. There is a sliding scale option in which the contingency fee percentage varies depending on the stage at which your claim is resolved.

As an example, if your case is settled out of court, your attorney may get 33 percent. If your claim must advance to the lawsuit level, your lawyer may charge a higher fee, such as 40 percent.

The costs associated with the claim will need to be reimbursed. These expenses include the costs for medical records and police reports, fees for expert witnesses, the costs of postage, filing fees, investigators and attorneys, depositions, trial exhibits, transcripts, and so forth.

Contact an Attorney Today

Be sure to understand the process and the fees, so have a sit down with your attorney. Ask questions before you hire a lawyer, and you may even want to talk to more than one attorney who handles accident injury cases in your state. With the help of an attorney, you can get your claim underway in a timely manner.

If you have been injured in an accident, and you think that your injuries were because of the negligence of the other driver, you should consult with a personal injury lawyer. There is a time limit – which is known as a statute of limitations – for pursuing a personal injury claim.

Most attorneys will consult with you first free of cost before you make your decision on pursuing litigation. If you have been involved in a car accident, you should contact an attorney today to discuss your case.

A licensed personal injury attorney will be able to evaluate your case and determine if you have a claim against the other party’s insurance company.

To receive the compensation for your medical bills, property damages, and pain and suffering, you should speak with a personal injury attorney in your area today.