Do I Have to Pay My Personal Injury Lawyer?
July 1, 2023 – Michael S. Herman, Jr., Esq.
Florida law allows personal injury lawyers to take cases on a contingency fee. A contingency fee agreement provides a tremendous benefit to clients who cannot afford exorbitant hourly legal fees and upfront retainers.
Under a contingency fee, a client is not billed by the hour and pays no upfront fees or costs. Instead, attorney fees and costs are paid only if the attorney recovers a settlement or wins a judgment in your favor at trial.
Costs of litigation such as filing lawsuits, hiring experts, taking depositions, and other costs are paid by the lawyer as the case moves along. Like the attorney fee, those costs are only recovered by the law firm if the attorney recovers a settlement or wins a judgment in your favor at trial. They are paid back out of the successful recovery.
In the event of a successful recovery, such as a settlement in your car accident or personal injury case, the fees under a contingency fee agreement are paid to the attorney as a percentage of the total recovery. If there is no recovery, a contingency fee client generally owes the attorney nothing.
Contingency fee agreements are common in automobile accident, slip and fall, trip and fall, premises liability and other personal injury cases in Florida and other states. They provide a great public service by allowing the population access to lawyers at no out-of-pocket or hourly cost. After an accident people often have mounting medical bills and may be unable to work. For these people, the financial strain of paying an attorney upfront is not an option and contingency fees can be used to get back on track after a major injury.
How Much Can My Lawyer Charge Under a Contingency Fee?
The Florida Bar sets the rules for contingency fee agreements. A contingency fee agreement, whether used in a personal injury case or other type of case, must be in writing and signed by the client and all lawyers or law firms who will share in the fee.
The Florida Bar also publishes the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct, which set forth the percentage a lawyer, such as a personal injury lawyer representing a car accident victim, may charge under a contingency fee agreement as follows:
- 33 & 1/3rd percent of any recovery up to $1 million if you and your lawyer settle your case before the filing of an answer or demand for appointment of arbitrators or if you settle before the time for filing the answer or demanding appointment of arbitrators expires,
- 40 percent of any recovery up to $1 million if you settle or win your case at any point after the filing of an answer or demand for appointment of arbitrators or after the time expires for filing and answer or demanding arbitration through the entry of judgment.
- In addition to the above fee, your lawyer may charge up to 30 percent of any additional recovery between $1 million and $2 million either by settlement or trial verdict.
- In addition to the above fees, your lawyer may charge up to 20 percent of any additional recovery above $2 milion either by settlement or trial verdict.
At times, the person you are suing may admit that they are liable but may disagree with you on the amount of damages that they owe you. If a defendant admits liability when it files its answer to the complaint and only requests a trial on damages, the lawyer may charge up to 33 & 1/3rd percent of any recovery up to $1 million, 20 percent of any recovery between $1 and $2 million, and 15 percent of any recovery over $2 million.
If after the trial or settlement your case is appealed or your attorney has to seek post-judgment relief or file an action to help you collect your judgment, an additional 5 percent of the recovery may be added to the fee.
Why is the contingency fee lower if the negligent driver admits they were at fault for the car crash?
This is because there is less work to be done by the lawyer. Proving both negligence AND your damages is a tall task that can require accident reconstruction experts, vehicle computer downloads, and numerous depositions of the parties, police officers, fire rescue and eye witnesses. When a negligent driver admits they caused the crash, this work does not need to be performed.
To recap, if you are injured in an accident caused by someone’s negligence and have to hire a personal injury lawyer, your lawyer should:
- Use a contingency fee agreement
- Require no money up front
- Pay your costs for you as your case progresses
- Recover an attorney fee and the costs only if you win a pre-trial settlement or judgment at trial
In a personal injury case where a contingency fee is used, you generally owe nothing unless you win. This allows you to focus on things like your car repairs, your medical treatment, getting back to work and the host of other problems that come with a serious personal injury due to someone else’s negligence.
What are the benefits to hiring a personal injury lawyer on a contingency fee?
Secure Your Justice and Peace of Mind: 3 Compelling Reasons to Hire a Contingency Fee Lawyer after a Car Accident.
- No Upfront Costs: Relief from Financial BurdenPersonal injury accidents can lead to unexpected medical expenses, property damage, and other financial burdens. Hiring a contingent fee lawyer means you won’t have to worry about upfront costs. These lawyers work on a “no win, no fee” basis, meaning they only receive payment if they successfully secure compensation for you. By eliminating the need for upfront payment, a contingent fee lawyer provides immediate financial relief and allows you to focus on your recovery.
- Expertise in Personal Injury Law: Navigating ComplexitiesCar accidents involving personal injury often involve complex legal aspects, such as determining negligence, assessing damages, and dealing with insurance companies. Hiring a contingent fee lawyer specialized in personal injury cases ensures you have a legal expert by your side who understands the intricacies of such cases. They have the knowledge and experience to build a strong case on your behalf, gather relevant evidence, negotiate with insurance companies, and fight for the compensation you deserve.
- Motivated to Maximize Your Compensation: Alignment of InterestsContingent fee lawyers have a vested interest in maximizing your compensation. Since their payment is contingent upon winning your case, they are highly motivated to secure the highest possible settlement or court verdict. This alignment of interests ensures that your lawyer will go the extra mile to build a compelling case, gather supporting evidence, consult with expert witnesses, and negotiate aggressively on your behalf. With a contingent fee lawyer, you can be confident that your interests are prioritized, increasing the likelihood of obtaining fair and just compensation.
Hiring a contingent fee lawyer after a car accident ensures financial relief, legal expertise in personal injury law, and alignment of interests to maximize your compensation. With legal assistance, you can navigate the complexities of your case while focusing on your recovery and securing the justice and peace of mind you deserve.
If you need a contingency fee lawyer for your auto accident or personal injury case call the award-winning attorneys of Britto & Herman Injury Lawyers at (561) 835-5555(561) 835-5555 or browse brittoherman.com to learn more.
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