If you get hurt in any kind of accident that someone else caused, you need a personal injury lawyer. A lawyer can work to obtain compensation for your injuries and losses while you focus on healing and returning to your life.
Do not let worries about the potential cost of a lawyer keep you from contacting one right away. With rare exceptions, personal injury attorneys work on a contingent fee basis, which means that you do not have to pay them any money upfront because they only get paid if they win your case.
Let’s take a closer look at how personal injury lawyers make their services affordable to anyone who needs them.
First Consultations With Personal Injury Lawyers Are Free
All reputable personal injury lawyers offer a free consultation to potential clients.
The consultation, which can happen in-person or over the phone, serves as a no-risk, no-obligation opportunity for you and the attorney to explore your potential legal options for seeking compensation for your injuries and losses.
During a typical initial consultation, you and a personal injury lawyer may discuss:
- How your injury happened and who may have caused it;
- The type and severity of your injury, and what your doctors have to say about it;
- The lawyer’s experience handling cases like yours;
- The lawyer’s initial view of your potential legal options;
- Whether the lawyer is a good fit to handle your case; and
- How the lawyer would get paid.
Contingent Fees Mean You Pay Nothing Unless The Lawyer Gets You Money
Contingent fees consist of a percentage of any money that a lawyer secures on your behalf, typically through a settlement, judgment, or jury award. The lawyer’s fee is contingent on the successful outcome of the case. In other words, the lawyer only gets paid if you get paid.
Contingent fees often range from 30 to 40 percent, although higher and lower percentages are also common. Lawyers and clients agree on the percentage before the lawyer takes the case, but the contingent fees themselves typically get paid only when the client receives money after a case.
As a simple example, if a personal injury lawyer secures a $100,000 settlement for a client, and they agreed on a 33 percent contingent fee at the beginning of the case, then when the settlement money arrives the lawyer keeps $33,000 as a fee, and the remaining $67,000 goes to the client.
Lawyers and clients may also agree on limitations or adjustments to the percentage based on certain types of case outcomes. For example, they may cap the percentage of a settlement a lawyer receives if the case settles early on, before the lawyer has done much work. Or, they may agree to increase the percentage if the case goes to trial, to account for the additional work the lawyer may have to do. This is called a sliding-scale, and it is a common feature of contingent fee arrangements.
Some states cap contingent fees, or require that they reasonably reflect the value of the lawyer’s services if the lawyer had charged the client on a per-hour basis.
Lawyers May Also Agree to Pay Case Expenses
Contingent fees represent payment for a lawyer’s services.
However, pursuing compensation for a personal injury also comes with some expenses, such as:
- Case filing and other court fees;
- Fees for obtaining official records like police reports and medical charts;
- Hiring investigators and expert witnesses;
- Paying court reporters for transcripts of depositions and court proceedings; and
- Travel, food, and other administrative costs.
At the beginning of a case, personal injury lawyers and their clients agree on how to handle these and similar expenses. Many lawyers agree to pay those costs, but sometimes clients may want to pay them. If the lawyer agrees to pay these costs, then the lawyer will be reimbursed for these expenses from any recovery or settlement.
Why Do Personal Injury Lawyers Work on Contingency?
Clients sometimes wonder why personal injury lawyers would agree to work on a contingent fee basis, when so many other lawyers charge their clients by the hour or ask for big up-front payments.
The answer is simple: personal injury lawyers know that getting hurt can put you and your family under intense financial strain. Suddenly, you have unplanned medical expenses to pay. You may miss work while recuperating. Your injuries may even prevent you from returning to your job in the future. Most personal injury victims simply cannot afford to pay a lawyer by the hour. By agreeing to work on contingency, personal injury lawyers make their services affordable for everyone.
What Money Does a Contingent Fee Come From?
The personal injury attorney’s contingent fee comes out of the amount of compensation the attorney succeeds in securing for the client. In a typical personal injury case, damages include:
- Medical expenses. Virtually all medical expenses associated with an injury constitute recoverable damages in a personal injury case, including past, current, and estimated future costs of emergency care, hospitalization, surgery, medication, doctor visits, therapy sessions, and medical devices.
- Other expenses. Accidents and injuries can inflict other monetary costs, too. You may need to hire someone to help you complete day-to-day tasks, or you may incur costs modifying your living space to accommodate a disability. You deserve payment for these costs.
- Lost wages. It’s common to miss time from work after getting hurt in an accident. In a legal action, you typically have the right to seek reimbursement for the wages you would have earned during that time, and any estimated wages you reasonably expect not to earn in the future.
- Diminished earning capacity. Some injuries limit a person’s ability to grow in a job to seize earning opportunities. Injuries that cause disabilities may even prevent you from returning to work altogether. The damages you may recover in a legal action can include the estimated value of that lost earning ability.
- Pain and suffering. In addition to monetary losses, an injury can make your life more difficult in a host of ways. Lawyers refer to these non-monetary harms generally as pain and suffering. They include not just physical discomfort and mental anguish, but also harm done to your personal and intimate relationships, and diminishment of your ability to enjoy life.
- Punitive damages. In some cases, the at-fault party’s behavior was so extreme and outrageous that a court will order that party to pay you additional damages as punishment.
Types of Cases Personal Injury Lawyers Handle on a Contingent Fee Basis
Personal injury lawyers work on a contingent fee basis in a wide variety of cases. Here are some common ones.
Falls (slips and falls)
Property owners must generally make their premises reasonably safe for others who come there. Personal injury lawyers routinely take cases on contingency in which their client fell and got hurt because of an unreasonably dangerous condition on someone else’s property.
Motor vehicle accidents
Motor vehicle accidents constitute a leading cause of accidental injury and death throughout the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Personal injury lawyers take motor vehicle accident cases on contingency to secure compensation for victims of crashes involving cars, trucks, buses, and motorcycles, as well as for cyclists and pedestrians who get hit by motor vehicles.
Dangerous drugs and other defective consumer products
A dangerous medication has the potential to harm millions of Americans before regulators remove it from store shelves. Other consumer products may also hide extreme dangers that could hurt, or even kill, unsuspecting users, including children. Personal injury attorneys represent clients on contingency in cases seeking compensation from manufacturers, distributors, and others who put the public in harm’s way by making and selling dangerous, defective products.
Is Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer Worth It?
Hiring a personal injury lawyer is almost always worth the contingent fee you pay if the attorney can secure compensation for your injuries and losses.
This question often comes up when an insurance company representing the party at-fault makes a quick settlement offer directly to the person who suffered an injury. The injured person feels tempted to take what seems like easy money, and wonders whether it’s really worth hiring a lawyer who will keep a percentage of the money.
However, an insurance company’s offer directly to the injured party rarely amounts to anything close to what the person deserves. Hiring a personal injury lawyer ensures that you do not fall victim to this type of manipulation. It puts a professional negotiator on your side who understands how to determine the amount of compensation you are entitled to for your injuries, and how to obtain as much of that amount as possible from the parties who owe it to you.
In virtually every case, a skilled personal injury lawyer stands an excellent chance of securing far more compensation for you than you could hope to get on your own, even after accounting for the lawyer’s percentage contingent fee.
How to Select the Right Personal Injury Lawyer for Your Case
Many people question how to find the right personal injury lawyer for their circumstances.
Here are some tips.
- Make the most of free consultations. Personal injury lawyers offer free consultations to give you, and them, the chance to explore your legal options and to decide if it’s a good fit. Take advantage of that opportunity to develop an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of your case, and of the personality and working style of the lawyer you meet. Choose a lawyer whose approach, communication style, and understanding of your case make you feel comfortable and confident.
- Look for local knowledge. You want your personal injury lawyer to have familiarity with the local aspects of your case, such as where your accident or injury happened, the doctors and medical practices that treated you, and the judges and other staff in the courthouse that would hear your case. Local knowledge helps to ensure the lawyer you choose can obtain the evidence your claim needs to succeed, and presents your case in the light best calibrated to get a favorable reception in and out of court.
- Seek experience in cases like yours. By the same token, choose a lawyer who has experience representing clients who suffered injuries in the same way you did, and whose injuries resemble yours. This helps to ensure that your lawyer understands and anticipates the issues that may arise in representing you, and knows how to achieve the highest possible compensation for your situation.
Cost Is Not an Issue. Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer Today.
People who suffer injuries through no fault of their own have lots of unwelcome challenges to contend with in their lives. They should not have to worry about paying for a lawyer who can represent their interests and get them the compensation they deserve.
By working on contingency, personal injury lawyers make it possible for injured individuals to seek justice without breaking the bank.
Learn more about your personal injury legal options by contacting a skilled personal injury lawyer today for a free consultation.