Disagreements over costs are the most common source of tension between personal injury attorneys and their clients. This is because clients often misinterpret contingency fee agreements, and attorneys let them. You can save yourself considerable headache by requesting clarity regarding fee arrangements, as well as other matters relating to cost, when you first agree to work with an attorney.
Understand Your Contingency Fee Arrangement
Many personal injury attorneys operate on what are known as contingency fee arrangements. Contingency fee arrangements are designed to help accident victims who have little to no money pay for an attorney. These arrangements allow plaintiffs to retain a qualified attorney for no money upfront. Instead, the client pays at the end of the case, when he or she receives a settlement. The amount the client owes—or the “contingency fee”—is typically 33 to 40% of the court award. If a case does not settle in the client’s favor, the attorney does not get paid.
Because lawyers do not get paid if the case is unsuccessful, personal injury lawyers are very peculiar about which cases they take on. They also want to ensure that they have the money to expend on witness testimony, depositions, investigations, and other essential resources to build a successful personal injury case. More often than not, the cost of said resources is tacked onto the client’s bill at the end of the case and is not included in the contingency fee. By the time both the fee and expenses are deducted from the settlement, the client takes home far less than what the attorney receives from the insurance company.
Lawyer fees are not the only expenses for which you will be responsible when you file a civil claim. It costs money to run a legal system, money the courts get from claimants and defendants alike. In addition to lawyer fees and the costs associated with building your case, your attorney will also likely charge you for filing fees, processing fees, fees for making copies of court records, fees the courts charge to research and provide a record, certification of any documents, reproduction or transmission of videos or recordings, and several other small costs that add up over time.
Get Fee and Expense Agreements in Writing
The best way to protect yourself—and for your lawyer to protect him or herself—in the event of a disagreement over fees associated with your case is to get a written agreement that details every possible expense and who is to pay for it. If unforeseen fees crop up during your case, your lawyer should inform you of the expense. Additionally, you and he or she should come to an agreement as to who should be responsible for that fee and make an addendum to your original contract.
Additionally, because lawyers have a tendency to run up costs without thinking too much about the expense to the client, you and your attorney should agree that every major expense should be run by and approved by you before the lawyer commits to it. This type of arrangement can give you a bit more say in how much you end up investing in your case.
Get Help Footing the Bill
You can avoid racking up outstanding legal fees by paying for many of the expenses yourself. If you do not have the capital to do so, talk to Capital Financing about qualifying for a pre-settlement cash advance. Contact our team today to see if you qualify and, if so, for how much.