A lawyer’s costs for representing a client in most personal injury cases are removed from the ultimate personal injury settlement in the client’s case—or the damages award after a successful verdict, in the rare event that the client’s case makes it to a court trial. If the client does not receive a favorable conclusion (in other words, does not receive any money), a Gainesville, GA personal injury lawyer does not accept any fees. Before you hire a personal injury lawyer, here’s what you should know.
Contingency Fee Percentages
Most contingency fee agreements give the lawyer a percentage of the charge that ranges from 33 to 40%, although you can always try to negotiate a lower proportion or a different arrangement. A personal injury lawyer will typically take 33 percent (or one-third) of any settlement or award. For example, if the at-fault party’s insurance company offers you $30,000 in compensation, you will receive $20,000, and your lawyer will receive $10,000. (Learn more about hiring and working with an attorney, as well as when it’s best to go it alone.)
The “Sliding Scale” Option
Many lawyers will draft a fee agreement in which the percentage of the contingency fee varies depending on the stage of the litigation. The previously mentioned definition is a description of a “sliding scale.” Your lawyer, for example, may issue a demand letter to the opposing party early on. Then, suppose you have a strong case. In that case, the opposite side may counteroffer, more negotiations will ensue, and a reasonable settlement before you have to go to court to file a personal injury lawsuit. In that case, the lawyer’s fee portion could be the typical 33 percent (or even less).
However, if you settle filing a lawsuit, your lawyer may take a more significant share of the settlement, maybe as high as 40%. For example, if your case settles for $30,000 but only after you’ve filed a lawsuit in court, your lawyer may be able to recover $12,000 if the fee agreement provides for a 40% cut at this point. If the case proceeds to trial, the percentage may even rise a few notches. So, when you decide to reject a pre-suit settlement offer, keep in mind that as your case develops, the percentage you’ll have to give up may become more expensive.
Expenses and Costs
Most personal injury attorneys will handle case costs and expenditures as they arise, deducting them from your part of the settlement or court award. It’s uncommon for a personal injury attorney to bill a client for expenditures and expenses as they accrue.
In a personal injury case, costs and expenses may include:
expert witness fees
investigators and experts
Costs and expenses can quickly mount, especially if a settlement is not reachable until the subsequent trial. The lawyer’s final share, including all fees, charges, and expenditures, could range from 45 to 60% of the settlement.
Let’s say you settle your car accident lawsuit for $30,000 after filing your case. Your lawyer paid for a total of $4,000 in various costs and expenses. As lawyer’s expenses, the lawyer will receive 40% of the settlement sum, or $12,000. The lawyer will deduct $4,000 from the $30,000 payment for costs and expenses. The lawyer will receive $16,000 of the total settlement sum in this case. Learn how to keep track of fees and expenses in a personal injury case.
The Attorney will receive the settlement check.
It is standard practice to send the settlement check to the lawyer. The check guarantees that your lawyer will receive compensation for their efforts. However, many personal injury lawyers only take cases on a contingency basis, which means they may not receive compensation if the settlement check is not accepted. When the lawyer gets the settlement check, they should contact you and present you with an itemized account of what they deduct from your settlement check to cover the lawyer’s fees, costs, and expenditures. If you disagree with a charge, your lawyer may put the money in a trust account until the problem resolves.
What if you fire the lawyer before the case is over?
Suppose you change lawyers or decide to represent yourself. In that case, your previous lawyer will have a lien for fees and expenses incurred on the case before the switch, and they may be able to sue both you (the former client) and the personal injury defendant for failing to protect and honor the Attorney’s lien.
If you find yourself in a situation where you need to fire your lawyer, get a written agreement from them that they will not demand interest on fees or costs in the case. This document should be delivered to the defendant before settlement to minimize needless delays on the lien.
Contact Georgia personal injury lawyer
Although there may be discrepancies in how personal injury lawyers charge their clients, knowing how you can tackle fees negotiation before hiring an attorney may provide you peace of mind.
Contact a Gainesville GA Personal Injury Lawyer now if you have been harmed and have questions about hiring an attorney.
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