How Do Personal Injury Lawyers Get Paid?

People are sometimes reluctant to file lawsuits after being injured by the negligence of another party. They believe they cannot afford attorneys' fees and other legal expenses. In most cases, however, individuals who file lawsuits against negligent parties don't pay anything up front or out-of-pocket. This is because most personal injury lawyers handle cases on a contingency fee basis.

What does this mean? Put simply, a contingency fee is a fee that is only applied if the attorney wins the case - it is contingent upon winning. If the lawyer doesn't win the case, the plaintiff (the person filing the lawsuit) does not owe any attorney's fee. If the case is won, the lawyer is paid a percentage of the plaintiff's award.

Winning the case can mean one of two things: Either the case is tried in court before a jury or the case is settled before trial. If the person filing the lawsuit obtains money, known as damages or compensation, it is a winning case, whether it was settled or tried to a verdict.

A Standard Contingency Fee Depends on the Case

How much does the attorney receive once the case is won? Like so many things, it depends. It is almost always a percentage of the amount won, rather than a specified amount. At the beginning of the case, the lawyer will ask the client to sign an agreement that specifies the percentage that the attorney will receive if the case is successful. The percentage can vary depending on the difficulty of the case.

If an attorney does not win a case, he or she will not charge a fee for the legal work. However, lawyers almost always charge for the expenses they incurred while pursuing the case. If a plaintiff decides to change lawyers or to not bring a lawsuit after all, most lawyers will charge for the time they put into the case. Both of these charges should be described in the attorney-client agreement.

How Expenses Are Included in the Final Amount Received by the Plaintiff

Most attorneys advance expenses rather than asking the client to pay up front. When the matter is over and the case is won, attorneys and law firms usually add expenses on top of their fees . The client-attorney agreement should describe how expenses are included in the calculation of the final amount received by the plaintiff.

Legal expenses can include court filing fees, the cost of hiring expert witnesses, the cost of developing courtroom presentations, investigators' fees and other expenses needed to present strong cases. Other types of expenses ultimately paid by the client can include:

· Photocopying and faxing

· Phone and mail charges

· The time of paralegals and secretaries who worked on the case

· Messengers

· Research costs

· Costs of depositions and court reporters

Most Personal Injury Lawyers Are Cautious About the Cases They Accept

Because attorneys only get paid if they win, they are usually very careful about the cases they accept. They want to be sure they have a fighting chance to get paid. It's an informed throw of the dice, because they could be wrong. However, if a personal injury lawyer takes a case, it usually means that he or she believes the case is winnable. Whether the case involves a car accident, a workplace explosion or the errors of a doctor or other medical provider, finding an attorney who will take the case is a good sign.

State Bar Associations Have Rules About Contingency Fees

The bar associations of each state, including Texas, have detailed rules about how lawyers calculate contingency fees and the types of cases for which this type of fee is allowable. For example, most states do not allow attorneys to charge contingency fees in family law matters. Similarly, most states allow lawyers to change contingency fees in personal injury cases. If you have a legal matter that you think could be handled with a contingency fee, a Texas lawyer can advise you.