How Much Does a Personal Injury Lawyer Cost?

HutzlerLaw May 3, 2022

Regardless of what accident you endured, the financial consequences can heavily affect your life. The healthcare and personal property repair bills drain resources. A lawsuit may reimburse you for the expenses you have accumulated.

However, litigation can become expensive while a person seeks compensation. A few people do not sue due to a lack of affordability. One worry people have is the cost of a personal injury lawyer.

They needn’t worry. Personal injury lawyers work on contingency. More about that further down in this blog.

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Pay for Legal Advice by the Hour

Some people choose not to hire a lawyer, but they may pay one for legal advice. The advice can address specific issues regarding their claims. Someone might need to know more about the admission of evidence or calculating non-economic damages. Firms assist to a certain degree without assuming responsibility for the case.

Most lawyers will provide their advice for an hourly rate. The rates are over $100 an hour, and discussions usually last a few hours a day. A few sites have prepaid plans where you can get multiple 30-minute consultations. Someone can benefit from the arrangement if they get useful information in the allotted time.

When someone pays for legal advice by the hour, the firm does not represent them in court. The lawyer does not deal with the insurance company for the claimant or put the firm’s name on legal documents. You would need to handle the case on your own every step of the way.

Even with the advice from an attorney, you may find a lawsuit challenging, so you must hire a lawyer to take on your claim and oversee paperwork and negotiations.

How Much Does a Personal Injury Lawyer Cost?

Lawyers in various areas of law may charge clients different fees like an hourly rate. However, most personal injury lawyers operate on a contingency basis. A contingency fee means you pay the attorney only after they win your case.

As a result, a lawyer does not cost you a dime for most of the lawsuit process. The bill arrives after the other side sends the settlement paycheck. If someone does not win their case, they do not have to pay the fee.

The amount of money your attorney takes is a percentage of compensation, and the average is 33 percent. Therefore, the final check you receive may appear smaller once they deducted their fee and other costs.

A few people pay an hourly rate for a personal injury attorney if the insurance company responds quickly with a fair offer. You can specify the hours the attorney can work on your case to avoid high costs.

The percentage may remain the same the entire time, or the firm could use the sliding scale option. Under the sliding scale option, the lawyer may raise the fee if the case takes a while to resolve. For instance, some increase the rate to 40 percent if they need to file a lawsuit or go to trial.

A client and their attorney usually agree to the contingency arrangement before proceeding with the claim. You are free to ask the lawyer questions about any confusing parts of the fee.

Opportunity to Negotiate the Contingency Fee

Some people negotiate a reduced fee if they have completed a portion of the investigation and collected the documents. Several firms may lower the contingency percentage, but they may not suggest a reduction during the initial meeting.

One way to negotiate a lower cost is to reduce the fee to a specific amount of compensation. You would propose a maximum settlement amount, and the attorney would collect a smaller percentage. However, they can raise their fee if the value of the actual settlement ends up over the maximum number.

A person can receive a reduction if the lawyer lands a fair settlement before litigation. If pre-lawsuit negotiations fail, the percentage may go back to 33 percent.

Additional Expenses

Litigation costs are not the same as attorney fees. They are the expenses a firm pays to investigate a claim and go through the lawsuit process. Typically, personal injury firms do not reimburse themselves for the costs until after a case resolves.

The expenses of a lawsuit include court costs. A lawyer’s office usually pays over $100 to file a complaint. If the case goes to trial, the bill goes up to accommodate the payment for jurors. Additionally, a copy of the trial’s transcript is a couple of dollars per page.

Many personal injury cases rely on the testimony of neutral third parties. They can be anyone who was there to see the event, but your lawyer may call upon expert witnesses. An expert witness is someone who can offer insight into the damage. They may charge by the hour, which accounts for a significant portion of litigation costs.

Other expenses include investigation and deposition costs. Many lawyers have to pay for trial exhibits and postage as well. The price of litigation can become substantial the longer a claim takes to settle.

Many attorneys deduct the additional costs before the contingency fee, but a few do so afterward. During a consultation, your lawyer lets you know what calculation method they use.

Do You Have to Pay to Change Lawyers?

People have multiple reasons why they choose to change lawyers. They can do so in the middle of the case, but they must follow a process if they have filed the lawsuit. Some people do not make the switch because they do not know they can or worry about a fee.

Usually, you do not have to pay a fee upfront when you choose another lawyer. However, your current attorney may use some of the settlement to pay the previous firm. The reason is your prior lawyer worked on a contingency.

You do not need to worry about penalties impacting your ability to seek compensation. The only setback is if you wait long enough to fire your attorney in favor of another. The new lawyer requires sufficient time to catch up on the development of your claim.

If you believe a firm is not a good fit, you should not hesitate to find the right lawyer. Browse online or ask someone you know for recommendations.

A Personal Injury Lawyer May Work Pro Bono

Many personal injury lawyers offer around 50 hours of pro bono services. Pro bono means the attorney aids a client for free or at a reduced fee. Assistance primarily goes toward people who cannot afford representation in court. Usually, they need to meet income requirements.

Over 4.3 million hours of pro bono work occurs every year, and about half go towards low-income clients. The average hours a lawyer puts into the service has increased by about 15 percent in recent years. People who need affordable legal assistance have more opportunities available.

When finding lawyers who offer pro bono support, a local law school is one place to start. Some schools have legal clinics for students to provide free help and gain experience.

Other options include:

  • Directories. The American Bar Association runs the Pro Bono Resource Directory. People can search for a list of potential legal aid offices and law firms.
  • The courthouse. You can try your local courthouse for names of pro bono lawyers. Some try to ensure everyone has an attorney to make claims progress efficiently.
  • Local bar association. When you search for personal injury lawyers near you, the bar association might list ones who offer pro bono services.

Not everyone can get a lawyer who works pro bono. Negotiations for a lower contingency fee are possible, and other affordable options may be available.

The Purpose of a Consultation

You and a personal injury lawyer would meet for a consultation before the two of you agree to work on a case. Most firms offer free consultations. On average, an initial meeting is an hour long. Depending on how complex the claim is, some may finish earlier or later.

The purpose of the initial meeting is to assess the claim. The attorney wants to understand the injured party’s situation better. They review the documents a person has so far and determine liability.

The lawyer may ask you about the details of the accident, your injuries, and if any witnesses were there. They inform you if you have a valid case and of any possible options you have. You can learn more about your legal rights during the initial meeting.

A lawyer may explain the process of filing a claim during a consultation. For instance, you could gain insight into the statute of limitations and how to assess medical documents. The discussion may include a general timeframe of how long the process lasts.

Consultations are a time for potential clients to gauge the firm as well. You want a lawyer who can get the job done and makes you feel comfortable. A starter question would be how long the firm has been in practice.

You can use the time to learn more about the results the attorney achieved in claims like yours. Remember, you have no obligation to hire someone if you are not confident in them.

What Do Lawyers Do With the Settlement Check?

Once both parties agree to a settlement offer, the plaintiff signs the release form. The insurance company does not issue payment until the person submits the documents. Once the insurer receives the release form, the company writes a check to the injured person’s lawyer.

After your attorney receives payment, they deposit the money into an escrow account. The account protects the money. The escrow ensures the other party has enough funds to fulfill the settlement agreement.

The money will remain in the escrow account until the check clears. However, the attorney may have obligations to fulfill until they can issue the settlement to the client. A person might need to pay off one or more liens.

Liens are the debts someone owes a third party regarding the personal injury claim. For example, in a car accident, a medical provider may agree to treat you if you pay them upon receiving a settlement or judgment. The third party must request a lien, and a judge either approves or denies it. Upon approval, you must wait for your lawyer to pay the lien.

Next, the attorney deducts their contingency fee and any additional costs the case accrued. They produce another check for the remaining settlement money and mail it to the client. You might have to wait for one payment if the settlement is a lump sum. Alternatively, you could get multiple checks if you agreed to a structured settlement.

Reasons Personal Injury Lawyers Reject a Case

Someone can decide against a firm, but a lawyer may reject a claim instead. An expired statute of limitations or another technicality could cause them to refuse a case. Other firms have multiple reasons to turn down a potential client.

Unfamiliar With the Accident Laws

The accident might not be in the lawyer’s area of expertise. State and local governments have statutes concerning each type of personal injury accident. An attorney could be familiar with motor vehicle collision laws but not with medical malpractice ones.

Minimal Damages

The number and severity of damages influence how much someone receives for compensation. A person could have pain and suffering. However, minimal physical injuries and missed work can lessen the lawsuit’s value. Therefore, a lawyer might not work on the case.

The Settlement Amount

The potential settlement could influence a firm’s decision to accept a new client. For instance, large firms might primarily consider high-value cases. A substantial compensation means more money for the attorney’s contingency fee. Single-attorney practices are more likely to agree to claims with smaller payouts.

The Risk Potential of a Case

Since most personal injury lawyers use contingency fees, their income relies heavily on successful cases. As a result, they may deny a prospective client if the lawsuit is risky. The question of liability could be unclear. The injured person might shoulder much of the blame for the accident. An attorney may want a lawsuit they believe they can win.

The Attorney Is Busy

An attorney might be busy with one or more cases. As a result, they likely will not have enough time and energy to devote to your claim. The results have a higher chance of being unfavorable due to a lack of proper attention.

If one lawyer rejects your claim, you should not give up. They could be busy or unfamiliar with the legal side of your accident. Find other attorneys who might be interested.