Whether it be from an auto accident, a slip and fall, or simply due to another's carelessness, suffering injuries due to another's negligence can take a toll on both your health and your finances. If you've been injured as a result of the negligence of another, a personal injury attorney can help defend your legal rights and fight for the compensation you deserve.
You might be thinking, "If don't have enough money to pay for my hospital bills, how can I pay for an attorney?" The answer to that question might surprise you. If you're confused on how personal injury lawyers get paid, keep on reading.
The Initial Consultation is Free
If 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 Contract
Once 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
By signing a contingency contract, you consent to forfeiting a percentage of your compensation in order to pay your lawyer. You also agree to paying certain expenses that will arise throughout the course of the case, which we will go into detail about shortly.
As 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 Lawsuit
If 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 Lawsuit
If 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 Expenses
During 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
Receiving the Settlement Check
It is typical for the attorney to receive the settlement check, as opposed to the client. The settlement check is written out to the attorney's trust account. Once the settlement check is received, the lawyer will then notify the client. It's at this point that the lawyer should provide a breakdown of the amount he or she will be deducting from the settlement to cover fees and expenses. Normally this amount is not a shock, as these fees were agreed upon in the contingency contract.
Finding the Right Lawyer for You
If you've recently been injured by another's negligence, time is of the essence to pursue justice and compensation. At Weinstein Legal, our trusted attorneys are always available to answer your call and treat your claim as a top priority.
Our consultations are free, and you can even complete the free and confidential case evaluation form to your right to get started. With a contingency fee of only 33%, our attorneys charge below the market maximum fee to guarantee that you're receiving the most compensation possible for your injuries.
Contact Weinstein Legal today to discuss the details of your case directly with a trusted South Florida personal injury lawyer. We look forward to hearing from you.