Contingent Fees of Personal Injury Lawyers

It is considered a good thing that most Americans have never felt the need to engage the services of a personal injury lawyer. However, if and when that need arises, a majority of these clueless individuals have no idea what they should expect in terms of legal fees.

It is common knowledge that the number of personal injury cases has been on the rise as more and more people are made aware of their rights under tort law. However, the traditional view of lawyers who bill by the hour on top of other charges does not generally apply to personal injury lawyers, which mostly take on cases on a contingent fee basis.

A contingent fee is that percentage of any award that a claimant may win in a personal injury case. If a case fails in securing compensation, the lawyer does not get anything. The legal fees, therefore, are contingent to (dependent on) success, hence the term “contingent fees.”

Prior to engagement, the client should be made clearly aware of a particular lawyer’s contingent fee terms so that when the time comes, there are no unpleasant surprises. Typically, contingent fees for personal injury claims are one-third or 33% of the total award, although various factors such as competition and prominence in the field have driven it into a range of 25% to 40%. For example, if the case is settled for or awarded $50,000, the contingent fee of the lawyer at 33% is about $16,500, leaving the claimant with $33,500.

This may seem a large wedge of the pie, but considering the amount of investigation necessary to build personal injury cases and that they take between 6 months and two years to even get to trial, it is a reasonable trade-off to billable hours. Moreover, a lawyer with a proven track record in certain types of personal injury cases have the knowledge and experience to push for the maximum compensation allowed under the law, which is generally a whole lot more than what a claimant with no lawyer or a lawyer with no experience in such matters would ever be able to get. On the whole, it is a win-win situation for the claimant to engage the right lawyer on a contingent fee basis.