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Case Types We Handle
Personal Injuries
Car Accidents
Truck Accidents
Motorcycle Accidents
Bicycle Accidents
Nursing Home Abuse
Wrongful Death
Slip and Fall Accidents
Daycare Injury & Abuse
Premises Liability
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Case Types We Handle
Personal Injuries
Car Accidents
Truck Accidents
Motorcycle Accidents
Bicycle Accidents
Construction Accidents
Nursing Home Abuse
Wrongful Death
Slip and Fall Accidents
Daycare Injury & Abuse
Dangerous Drugs
Defective Products
Chemical Exposure

FAQ: How Much Does a Personal Injury Lawyer Cost? [2024 Guide]

Written By:
Tor Hoerman
Tor Hoerman

Attorney Tor Hoerman, admitted to the Illinois State Bar Association since 1995 and The Missouri Bar since 2009, specializes nationally in mass tort litigations. Locally, Tor specializes in auto accidents and a wide variety of personal injury incidents occuring in Illinois and Missouri.

This article has been written and reviewed for legal accuracy and clarity by the team of writers and attorneys at TorHoerman Law and is as accurate as possible. This content should not be taken as legal advice from an attorney. If you would like to learn more about our owner and experienced injury lawyer, Tor Hoerman, you can do so here.

TorHoerman Law does everything possible to make sure the information in this article is up to date and accurate. If you need specific legal advice about your case, contact us. This article should not be taken as advice from an attorney.

How Much Does a Personal Injury Lawyer Cost?

Question: How Much Does a Personal Injury Lawyer Cost?

Answer: A personal injury lawyer typically works on a contingency fee agreement, meaning they only get paid if you win your case or settle out of court, with their fee being a percentage of the settlement or award.

This arrangement allows clients to pursue legal action without having to pay any legal fees upfront.

On this page, we’ll discuss how much personal injury lawyers cost to hire, different structures and types of legal costs, what a contingency fee structure is, how an experienced lawyer can help you, and much more.

Personal Injury Attorney Fees Explained

Have you dealt with an accident that cost you a fortune in medical bills?

Has your loved one suffered an injury caused by someone else’s negligence?

You might qualify for a personal injury case, but maybe you are hesitant to pursue legal action because of the perceived cost.

FAQ How Much Does a Personal Injury Lawyer Cost

Many people are in the same boat as you.

Many victims rely on their insurance companies to offer the best settlement but are often met with low-ball offers that may not cover all medical expenses.

Pursuing legal action without spending money upfront is possible.

Most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, providing individuals with quality legal representation without financial risk.

If you need competent legal representation without breaking the bank, we can help.

Contact our attorneys at TorHoerman Law for a free consultation.

You can also use our chatbot to evaluate your case quickly and for free.

Table of Contents

The Cost of Personal Injury Attorneys

When dealing with a personal injury claim, one of the most evident concerns you’ll hear from potential claimants is the expensive cost of hiring a lawyer.

Almost 92% of low-income Americans facing civil legal issues cite the prohibitive costs of legal services as a barrier discouraging them from seeking legal assistance.

The Justice Index, a project by the Stanford University Cardozo School of Law, reveals that there’s only a single civil attorney for every 8,893 low-income claimants in the U.S.

This uneven ratio paints a clear picture of the financial challenges that many individuals face in seeking legal help after an accident or injury.

This problem led to various payment structures to make legal services more affordable and accessible for individuals who may not have the resources to pay upfront legal fees.

Different Forms of Legal Payment Structure

Law firms develop various payment structures to bridge the significant gap between low-income and average-income Americans regarding legal representation.

These structures can vary based on the nature of the case, client preferences, and the complexity of the legal work involved.

Contingency Fee

Contingency fees are commonly used in personal injury cases and other civil litigation.

In these cases, the lawyer’s fee is contingent upon the case’s successful outcome.

The lawyer typically receives a percentage of the client’s recovery through settlement or court verdict.

If the case is unsuccessful, the lawyer does not receive a fee, although the client may still be responsible for certain expenses.

Flat Fee

A flat fee arrangement allows the lawyer to charge a specific, fixed amount for particular legal services.

This structure is often used for routine legal matters like drafting a will, reviewing contracts, or handling uncontested divorces.

This arrangement also opens up unprecedented expenses.

Some attorneys might impose additional fees for other functions, such as filing fees or fees for expert witnesses.

Hourly Rate

Many lawyers charge hourly rates, especially for complex or ongoing legal matters.

The lawyer bills the client for the time spent working on the case, typically in increments (e.g., per hour or quarter-hour).

Hourly rates can vary widely based on the lawyer’s experience, location, and the case’s complexity.

An hourly rate might not be the best option for highly complicated cases, as they take time to resolve, and you would have to pay your attorney for this duration.

Retainer Fee

A retainer fee involves the client paying an upfront amount to secure the lawyer’s services.

This fee is placed in a trust account and used to pay for legal services as they are rendered.

The lawyer bills against the retainer, and once it is depleted, the client may need to replenish it to continue receiving legal services.

Mixed Agreement

Some legal matters may involve a combination of payment structures.

For example, a lawyer might charge a reduced hourly rate with a contingency fee based on the case outcome.

Another example of a hybrid or mixed agreement is where the lawyer charges a flat fee for legal services and an hourly rate for additional work they may require.

This hybrid approach can offer flexibility in fee arrangements while aligning the lawyer’s interests with the client’s goals.

Other Types

Beyond these common payment structures, other arrangements might exist depending on the nature of the legal issue, the lawyer’s and client’s agreement, and the jurisdiction.

Other fee types include:

  • Task-Based Fees: Lawyers may charge fees based on specific tasks rather than hourly billing, especially in transactional work or discrete legal projects.
  • Statutory Fees: In some cases, legal fees may be governed by statute or regulation, such as workers’ compensation or Social Security disability cases.

Understanding the different payment structures in legal cases is crucial for clients to make informed decisions about legal representation and budgeting for legal expenses.

A Detailed Explanation of the Contingency Arrangement

Of all the payment structures mentioned above, the contingency fee arrangement is the most popular and provides the most accessibility to clients from all backgrounds.

A contingency fee agreement is an alternative payment arrangement in civil litigation and personal injury cases.

This agreement specifies that the lawyer’s fee is contingent upon the case’s successful outcome, typically in the form of a settlement or court award.

Under a contingency fee arrangement, the lawyer’s fee is calculated as a percentage of the settlement amount or court award the client receives after the case.

Clients aren’t required to pay any upfront costs or legal fees to retain the lawyer’s services.

The lawyer only receives payment if the case is successful.

The exact percentage of the lawyer’s fee can vary based on several factors, including the case’s complexity, the stage at which the case is resolved (pre-litigation settlement vs. trial), and other relevant circumstances.

Contingency fees range from 25% to 40% of the total recovery amount.

The lawyer and the client should agree on the contingency fee percentage before the case commences.

The Benefits of Contingency Payment

A contingency payment arrangement offers several advantages to clients seeking legal representation in personal injury law.

This payment structure not only makes legal services more accessible, but also aligns the client’s and lawyer’s interests toward achieving a successful outcome.

Affordability and Accessibility

One of the primary benefits of a contingency payment arrangement is that clients do not have to pay any upfront fees or retainers to hire a lawyer.

This no-expense setup makes legal representation financially accessible to individuals who may not have the resources to cover legal expenses out of pocket.

Clients can pursue compensation for their injuries without the financial risk of paying attorney fees if the case is unsuccessful.

This risk-free approach allows individuals to seek justice without worrying about costs.

Contingency fees enable clients to access high-quality legal services from experienced and competent personal injury lawyers, regardless of their financial situation.

Aligns Interest With the Lawyer

Contingency payment aligns the interests of the client and the lawyer.

Since the lawyer’s fee is contingent upon a successful outcome, they’re motivated to achieve the best possible result for the client.

This shared incentive fosters a collaborative relationship focused on winning the case.

Lawyers working on a contingency basis are also vested in efficiently managing the case and maximizing the client’s compensation.

These professionals are incentivized to invest time and resources strategically to achieve a favorable outcome within a reasonable timeframe.

Increases the Chance of Success

Lawyers accepting cases on a contingency basis typically evaluate cases thoroughly before agreeing to represent a client.

This selective approach increases the likelihood of taking on cases with strong merits and potential for success.

Personal injury lawyers operating on a contingency fee often have extensive experience negotiating settlements and advocating for clients in court.

Their expertise and commitment can significantly enhance the chances of securing a favorable settlement or court verdict.

Contingency fee arrangements also allow lawyers to allocate resources effectively towards building a robust case.

This strategy includes hiring expert witnesses, conducting investigations, and preparing compelling legal arguments to maximize the client’s recovery.

What's Included in the Contingency Fee?

Contingency fees usually cover an extensive range of required and related legal expenditures.

Depending on your agreement with your attorney, they may require you to pay out of pocket for additional expenses.

They could also take these extra expenses on your claim on top of their legal service fee.

These expenses are typically covered in your payment after the success of the case.

Expenses include:

  • Case Investigation: Attorneys will investigate the circumstances of the case and collect shreds of evidence to assert the client’s claim. This step can involve significant time and resources to build a strong case.
  • Legal Research and Strategy: Lawyers will research relevant laws, statutes, and case precedents to develop a legal strategy tailored to the case’s specifics.
  • Trial Preparation: If the case proceeds to trial, the attorney will prepare for trial, which involves strategizing, preparing witnesses, drafting legal motions, and developing courtroom presentations.

Certain costs and expenses are typically considered separate from the contingency fee and are usually the client’s responsibility.

You could negotiate with your attorney to include this in the contingency payment.

These additional costs are often paid regardless of the case outcome and may include:

  • Court Filing Fees: These are fees required to file the initial lawsuit or other court documents.
  • Expert Witness Fees: If expert witnesses such as medical professionals, accident reconstruction specialists, or economists are needed to testify or provide opinions in the case, their fees are generally separate from the attorney’s contingency fee.
  • Costs for Medical Records: Obtaining medical records, reports, and other documents relevant to the case can involve costs that the client usually covers.

Clients should discuss these matters openly with their attorney before entering into a contingency fee agreement to ensure they understand the financial aspects of their legal representation.

The Limitations of the Contingency Fee Agreement

The contingency fee arrangement, while beneficial in certain types of cases, has limitations and isn’t suitable for all legal matters.

Restrictions include:

  • Limited Applicability: Contingency fees are primarily used in civil cases where monetary compensation is sought, such as personal injury claims or certain employment law cases.
    • They don’t apply to criminal cases or family law matters like divorce or child custody disputes.
  • Financial Risk for Lawyers: Lawyers who work on contingency take on significant financial risk because they only get paid if the case is successful.
    • This risk can lead some lawyers to be selective about their cases, potentially turning down cases that have merit but are perceived as more challenging or uncertain.
  • Client Understanding of Costs: Clients should know that while the lawyer’s fee is contingent on winning the case, other costs and expenses, as mentioned earlier, may still come from their pockets regardless of the case outcome.
  • Not Available in All Jurisdictions: Contingency fee arrangements are not universally permitted in all jurisdictions.
    • Some states or countries have specific regulations or restrictions on when and how contingency fees can be used.

Clients should discuss their legal options and fee arrangements with a qualified attorney who can provide advice tailored to their specific situation.

Alternative fee structures, such as hourly rates or flat fees, may be more appropriate depending on the nature of the legal matter and the client’s preferences and financial situation.

The Ethical Considerations of Contingency Fee Agreements

Despite its numerous benefits, the contingency payment structure has several caveats.

Critics argue that it encourages lawyers to deduct the maximum amount from their clients’ compensation or settle as early as possible to get their money quickly.

To prevent this problem, the American Bar Association (ABA) established several ethical considerations to ensure the fairness of the setup for both lawyers and clients.

Clear documentation and transparent communication between attorneys and clients are essential to ensure fairness and protect the interests of both parties.

Some of the important ethical considerations related to contingency fee agreements include:

  • Written Agreement and Client Consent: Ethical guidelines generally require that contingency fee agreements be in writing and signed by both the client and the attorney.
    • This written contract clarifies the terms of the arrangement, including the percentage of the recovery that will go to the attorney upon successful resolution of the case.
  • Explanation of Fee Calculation: The agreement should specify how the attorney arrived at the proposed recovery percentage.
    • This explanation may involve factors such as the case’s complexity, the likelihood of success, the risks involved, and prevailing legal norms for similar cases.
  • Transparency in Deductions: The agreement should clearly outline how the attorney’s fee will be calculated and deducted from any compensation obtained for the client.
    • Transparency helps the client understand the financial implications of the contingency fee arrangement.
  • Identification of Client Responsibilities: Ethical guidelines often require attorneys to clearly identify which expenses will be the client’s responsibility regardless of the case outcome, such as court filing fees, expert witness fees, and so on.

Clients should feel confident that their attorney is acting in their best interests and that the fee arrangement is reasonable and clearly understood.

Attorneys, in turn, must uphold ethical standards and maintain their clients’ trust and confidence throughout the legal representation.

Working With a Lawyer on a Contingency Fee Basis

When seeking legal representation on a contingency fee basis, it’s essential to find the right lawyer who understands your case and can effectively represent your interests.

Some tips to ensure you hire the best legal representative for your situation include:

  • Clarify Details Before Signing Anything: Before signing any agreements, make sure to clarify everything down to a T.
    • Understand the percentage of your recovery that the lawyer will take as their fee.
    • Discuss how this percentage was determined and ensure it aligns with industry standards for similar cases.
  • Ask About Their Past Cases: Ask your lawyer about past cases in which they also charged a contingency fee.
  • Read Reviews From Past Clients: Check online review platforms and legal directories for feedback from previous clients.
    • Pay attention to both positive and negative reviews to gain a comprehensive understanding of the lawyer’s reputation.

TorHoerman Law: Get Accessible Competent Legal Representation Today

The contingency fee basis removes the friction of upfront fees and makes competent legal representation accessible for people with limited means.

Finding the right legal representative for your case can be confusing, but with the right guidance, you can find the best lawyer to represent your interests.

At TorHoerman Law, we understand that every case is unique and requires individualized attention.

Our experienced personal injury attorney has in-depth knowledge of contingency fee arrangements and will work tirelessly to get you the compensation you deserve.

Call us now for a free consultation, or use the chatbot on this page to see if you instantly qualify for a lawsuit.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What percentage do personal injury lawyers typically take as a contingency fee?

    Most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, typically charging between 25% and 40% of the settlement or award obtained in the case.

    The specific percentage can vary depending on the complexity of the case, the stage at which the case settles, and the law firm’s policies.

    This means the attorney’s payment is contingent upon winning the case or achieving a settlement.

  • Are there any upfront costs when hiring a personal injury lawyer?

    There are no upfront costs when hiring a personal injury lawyer who operates on a contingency fee basis.

    Clients do not have to pay out of pocket for legal services initially; instead, the lawyer’s fees are deducted from the final settlement or award at the conclusion of the case.

    This allows individuals to pursue legal action without financial risk.

  • What additional costs can be expected in a personal injury lawsuit?

    Aside from attorney fees, personal injury lawsuits may incur additional costs such as court filing fees, costs for obtaining medical records, expenses for expert witness fees, and costs related to producing trial exhibits.

    While these costs are usually advanced by the attorney, they are typically reimbursed from the settlement amount before the contingency fee is calculated.

  • What happens if a personal injury lawyer does not win the case? Do I still have to pay?

    If a personal injury lawyer working on a contingency fee basis does not win the case or secure a settlement, the client generally does not owe any attorney fees.

    The client may still be responsible for paying any direct expenses incurred during the case, such as court filing fees or costs for expert witnesses, depending on the agreement made with the attorney at the onset of their representation.

Written By:
Tor Hoerman

Tor Hoerman

Owner & Attorney - TorHoerman Law

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