Last Updated: May 21st, 2020 at 2:14 pm
Once you've gotten over the shock of being injured in an accident, and you notice your medical bills piling up, you may decide to sue to get what you deserve. If you feel an insurance company is not offering enough compensation to cover the scope of your injuries, seek representation immediately.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, contact a personal injury attorney today for a free consultation about your case.
If you are thinking about filing a lawsuit to get the compensation you deserve, one of the first questions you may have is how much does a personal injury lawyer charge for their services. It might surprise you to learn that payment is often structured without upfront costs on your end. There are several reasons for this, but most importantly, it lets you focus on any medical treatment you may need while ensuring that your legal rights are protected.
There are several ways to structure the payment for your personal injury lawyer, so don't let that keep you from consulting us about your case. Once your legal right to sue has been forfeited, you will lose your chance for compensation permanently.
How Much Do Personal Injury Lawyers Charge?
The majority of personal injury lawyers do not expect accident victims to pay their fees out of their own pockets. Most of the time, these fees are paid on a contingency basis. A contingency agreement means that you agree to pay your lawyer a specified portion of the total settlement, should you win your case. If you lose, then the lawyer generally does not get paid.
What Are Contingency Fees and Should You Pay Them?Generally, with a contingency fee, the attorney fronts the money for the expenses and is paid back out of your settlement, if a settlement is agreed on. However, contracts can be structured in many different ways. Therefore, you should read your contract thoroughly to make sure that your payment schedule works in this manner.
Personal Injury Claims GuidelinesFlorida has put in place rules of professional conduct for lawyers handling personal injury claims. These are general guidelines, and lawyers can charge more or less than the amounts covered below if a client agrees in writing.
- 33% of any amount recovered up to one million dollars if the case is settled before filing an answer to a suit.
- 40% of any amount recovered up to one million dollars if the case is settled or won at trial at any time after filing an answer.
- 30% of any additional recovery between one million and two million dollars either through settlement or trial verdict.
- 20% for any additional recovery more than two million dollars either by settlement or trial verdict.
- After the settlement or trial, if your case is appealed or your lawyer has to file papers to help collect the money, they may add 5% to their fees.
How Much Do Injury Lawyers Charge for Medical Malpractice?Florida law puts limits on how much a personal injury attorney can charge in a medical malpractice case. The client is entitled to receive at least 70% of the first $250,000 awarded in the case, and at least 90% of any award over $250,000, minus costs. However, these fees can be negotiated with the signed and notarized agreement of the client.
Why Choose a Contingency Fee?
A contingency fee agreement gives personal injury victims the chance to seek justice and the compensation they deserve. Without a contingency agreement, victims often cannot afford access to justice. And the costs can quickly add up, as litigation is time-consuming and sometimes lengthy. It takes a lot to build a case, including deposition costs, investigation fees, and more.
When you are dealing with injuries, treatment, and medical bills, you may not be able to afford the costs of litigation. With a contingency fee, your lawyer can take care of the majority of these fees, and then be reimbursed for them after your case is won. This gives victims who may not normally have the resources to seek compensation a chance to get legal representation.
Get Fee and Expenses Agreement in Writing
In Florida, contingency fee agreements must be in writing and signed. If this agreement is not in writing and signed by the client, a personal injury lawyer cannot collect their fee.
That being said, you should not feel pressured to sign a contingency fee agreement with an attorney if you don't understand it or don't agree with it. You have the right to read it thoroughly and carefully. You also have the right to ask questions until you are sure you understand what you are agreeing to.
Can You Agree to an Hourly Fee?
Sometimes, a personal injury attorney may agree to an hourly fee, but this is not common. When this happens, the attorney will set an hourly fee. The client then pays a deposit or retainer that is put in a trust account and signs a contract agreeing to the hourly fees.
As the case progresses and the lawyer works on it, they will send itemized statements of the time spent on the case. The retainer fee is moved from the client's trust account as the attorney bills for their work. When the account is empty, the attorney may ask for an additional retainer or bill the client monthly.
These types of agreements are more common in family law and criminal defense cases. Although not unheard of in personal injury lawsuits, they are rare. The contingency fee agreement is much more common.
Setting a Reasonable Hourly RateIf you do enter into an hourly rate agreement with a personal injury lawyer, they are ethically bound to offer a reasonable rate. Lawyers who fail to do this can be sanctioned by the state bar for violating their ethical obligations. There is no single standard for what makes a fee reasonable or unreasonable. However, according to Rule 4-01.5 of the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct, there are several factors an ethics committee or court can consider when determining if a lawyer has set a fee that is unreasonable, such as:
- Labor and time required, the difficulty, complexity, and novelty of the questions involved, and the skill needed to fulfill the legal service properly.
- The probability that taking the case will prevent the lawyer from taking other cases.
- The rate or fee usually charged in that area for similar or comparable legal services.
- The significance of the subject matter of the case and representation, the responsibility involved in the representation, and the results of the case.
- The time limitations imposed by the circumstances or the client, and any special requests or time demands of the lawyer by the client.
- The length and nature of the professional relationship between the lawyer and the client.
- The reputation, experience, ability, and diligence of the attorney performing the service and the expertise, skill, or efficiency of effort required by the actual providing of the services.
- Whether the fee is contingent or fixed, and if fixed, is it amount or rate, then whether the client's ability to pay is attached in any significant way to the outcome of the case.
Flat Fees in Personal Injury CasesIn general, personal injury attorneys work on a contingency basis, but some may work on a flat fee basis. It is important that you cover this with your lawyer during your initial consultation, so you know exactly what to expect.
Questions to Ask Your Attorney Up FrontDuring the course of your lawsuit, you will be working very closely with your attorney. You should feel comfortable with the person representing you. You should feel comfortable enough to ask questions about his fees and other costs of the case, such as:
- What are the terms of your contingency fee?
- What costs and expenses do you cover?
- Will I be responsible for paying any advanced case costs if we lose?
- Do you have a sliding scale option?
- Do you have a flat fee option?
- Do you charge by the hour?
Why Does My Lawyer's Fee Change for Going to TrialIf settlement negotiations in a personal injury lawsuit go to trial, everyone spends more money. This is why insurers usually settle credible injury claims, rather than fighting them in court. First, there are legal fees for taking a case to court. Expert witness fees, administrative fees, court filing fees, and other expenses all add up. In addition, these cases are time-consuming and require a lot of preparation. Therefore, the percentage that your lawyer takes out will go up.
What Expenses Are Charged Separately?Separate from fees, "costs" refer to the expenses that are necessary to prepare and pursue your personal injury case, from pre-lawsuit investigation and discovery all the way through trial (and in some cases, appeal). Costs can vary significantly from case to case, but they typically include:
- filing fees for the personal injury complaint (the document that starts the lawsuit) and any other legal documents
- fees for serving the complaint, summons, and other documents on the defendant
- investigation costs such as charges for medical records, police reports, and locating witnesses
- court reporting fees
- witness fees
- expert and consultant fees and expenses
- mediation fees
- jury fees
- administrative costs, such as phone, postage, copying, mileage or travel costs, and more.
Negotiating with a Personal Injury Attorney
You may have already investigated your accident and obtained all the documentation pertaining to your claim before you contact an attorney. You may even have negotiated with the insurance company to increase their first settlement offer. If this is the case, you may have done a lot of the work an attorney would do.
In this instance, some attorneys may be willing to lower the percentage of their contingency fee. If you are thinking about negotiating with a lawyer, be sure to bring all your documentation with you to the initial meeting. Show them the organized file of the information you have gathered. If you stress how much work you have already done that their office won't have to do, the attorney may agree to a reduced arrangement.
However, most lawyers won't suggest a reduced fee, you will need to bring it up. And many may be slow to agree, in part because their fee would be lower, of course. They may also not feel comfortable not doing their own work so that they can make sure everything is done correctly and your case is as strong as it can be. It's up to you to demonstrate that the case is in good shape, and your work is useful.Here are three ways to structure fee agreements that take into account the work you've already done: