How Personal Injury Attorneys in California Get Paid
Sometimes I forget that not everybody has hired a lawyer before. Most lawyers get paid by the hour for their work. Criminal defense attorneys get paid up front for their work and it's usually a flat fee. Unlike either of those, injury lawyers get paid on a contingency. Everyone knows what that is, right?. Of course not.
A contingent fee is a fee which depends upon the outcome of a particular case. The fee is a fixed percentage of the recovery, but the recovery is not known until the end of the case. Thus, the actual fee is unknown until the end of the case. And, if there is no recovery, there may be no actual fee for the lawyer. Beware however, that there still may be "costs" associated with the case that the client must pay regardless of the recovery and the lawyer's fees. Costs are things the lawyer has to pay for and usually advances the money for until the case gets settled. Examples of costs would be a court filing fee, cost to retrieve medical records, cost to take a deposition or court reporter costs and the like.
So Here is How it Works:
The client gets injured in an accident and then calls the lawyer to help. The lawyer meets with the client and discusses the case and the fees. The fees agreed to are a contingent fee as follows:
331/3% of the bodily injury settlement prior to filing a lawsuit;
40% of the recovery after filing a lawsuit; and
45% of the recovery after trial, arbitration or mediation award.
The recovery is the gross or total amount of the settlement in the bodily injury case or for lost wages, lost earning capacity or for future medical bills. This does not include payment for any property damage, like the cost to repair the car or car rental.
At first glance, these numbers may seem high to you. The reason for this is because the lawyer is agreeing to wait to get paid until after the case is over. The lawyer is actually taking a gamble that there will be any recovery at all. The lawyer is putting up the costs of litigation for the client.
How Does the Client Benefit?
The clients benefit because they get the help of a skilled lawyer without putting any money out of pocket. If the client had to pay hourly for the lawyers work, many injured parties would not be able to afford to hire a lawyer in the first place. Furthermore, with the lawyer's skills, we are often able to achieve a much better settlement than the client could for him or herself. We negotiate settlements with medical providers to get bills reduced and negotiate repayment to insurance companies at reduced rates as well. All of this helps the client keep a greater percentage of the total recovery.
Is This Fair to the Lawyer?
Who cares? The reason this is fair to the lawyer is because the experienced lawyer has a pretty good idea at the onset of the case whether or not he has a winner. Every case is different and some are better and some are worse, but when a new client comes, in I can often tell after the initial consultation whether or not I'm going to make money on a particular case.
If after all this, you still want me to handle your personal injury case on an hourly basis, that's ok with me too. Be ready to pony up at least $3,500 to start and I will bill you $350 per hour of my time, plus costs. I assure you that as a client you are much better off with the contingent fee.
Finally, the State Bar requires any contingent fee agreements to be in writing. This is to protect the client, not the lawyer. Make sure you get your fee agreement in writing and READ IT. I am constantly amazed at clients coming into my offices and not looking at the retainer agreements. They simply asked where to sign it, and do. Please read the agreement. Ask your lawyer about costs. Will he advance the costs? Will you have to pay the costs if there is no recovery? Remember the retainer agreement is to protect you…Does it?
If you have questions abouthiring a lawyer or about any injury or accident case, call me:
Attorney Jeffrey Vallens (818) 783-5700 or (888) 764-4340,
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my sites for more information: