Last Updated: June 28th, 2019 at 2:14 pm
Read Time: 6 Minutes
The Initial Consultation is FreeIf you've been injured due to another's negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, property damage, and lost wages as well as pain and suffering. If taking the first step in pursuing compensation seems intimidating, this is where you'll want to consult with a trusted personal injury attorney. Your initial consultation with a personal injury lawyer is free - you do not need to pay any fees or hourly price for discussing your potential claim with them. During your consultation you'll have the opportunity to ask questions that will help you move forward, or continue searching for a lawyer that you feel suits your needs. There are many questions to ask a lawyer before hiring, but one of the most important questions to ask a personal injury lawyer concerns their contingency fee. Essentially, a lawyer's contingency fee is how they get paid. A contingency fee is one that is only paid if a certain event occurs. So, when a personal injury lawyer works on a contingent basis on your case, that means you won't pay him or her upfront or on an hourly basis. Instead, payment is contingent on you recovering compensation for your injuries. For personal injury lawyers, their payment is a percentage that will be deducted from the total compensation you receive. Florida bar regulates the highest percentages an attorney can charge as a contingency fee. Rule 4-1.5 Fees and Costs for Legal Services of the Florida Bar Rules of Professional Conduct defines what a reasonable rate is, which we will touch upon in an upcoming section. According to the Florida Bar, at the initial consultation, the attorney and the client should discuss the time anticipated to resolve the case, the difficulties likely to be encountered, and the complexity of the legal issues in the particular case, as well as clearly define their fees.
Signing a Contingency ContractOnce you've settled upon a personal injury attorney that you want to represent your case, you'll sign a contingency contract. A contingency contract states specifies the ground rules of your working relationship, including:
- What the lawyer is responsible for doing for you
- What you are responsible for providing to aid the lawyer
- Details of the contingency fee arrangement
- Expenses you will be responsible for paying
Contingency FeesAs we've discussed, a contingency fee is payment that is contingent upon the outcome of your case. With this being said, if you did not recover any damages from your claim, this means that you do not need to pay any contingency fees. In other words, if no money is recovered from a judgment or settlement, your lawyer will not get paid. Contingency fees are generally fixed at a percentage of the recovery, however, additional percentage may be added if the matter is tried or appealed to a higher court. Contingency fees are determined by Florida Bar Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 4-1.5.
Before Filing a LawsuitIf you and your attorney settle your case before the filing of a lawsuit, your lawyer's maximum contingency fee is 33.33 percent, or one third, of any recovery up to $1 million. For example, if your receive a settlement of $30,000 from the at-fault individual or his insurance company, you will receive $20,000 and your lawyer will receive $10,000. Bear in mind, these example numbers are representative of a settlement that does not have any medical bills left to negotiate, as that money would come out of the settlement as well. It also does not take into account any of the costs the attorney may also take from the settlement amount.
After Filing a LawsuitIf your case goes to court, your lawyer's contingency fee will most likely increase. In this case, your lawyer's maximum contingency fee becomes 40 percent of any judgement up to $1 million. Therefore, if you received a judgment of $30,000, your personal injury lawyer will recover $12,000. Again, this example does not include both a victim's medical bills as well as any attorney costs that would still need to be taken from the settlement amount.
Costs and ExpensesDuring the course of a case, many personal injury lawyers will cover any costs and expenses upfront so you don't need to pay them out of pocket. As we've discussed, these costs will be deducted from your share of the settlement. The order here is fees first, then costs. This means that a lawyer's percentage will be taken from the gross settlement, and remaining costs will be deducted second from the remaining balance. Common examples of costs and expenses include:
- Copies of records and reports, such as medical and police reports
- Legal research costs
- Copying, fax, and other office expenses
- Expenses for investigators and expert witnesses
- Court costs, such as filing and deposition fees