How do Personal Injury Lawyers Make Money?

Fri, Aug 21, 2015

Personal Injury

17283526416_a5327bfdd5_bPersonal injury lawyers typically are paid their fees based on the award or settlement in the case. This means that they are paid only if there is a monetary award. This sounds a little risky for the attorney, doesn’t it? That’s why many personal injury lawyers also have parts of their practice devoted to other types of cases.

This type of fee is a contingency fee. Contingency fees must be based on reasonable fees. The term “reasonable” is a vague term, of course, but the Florida Bar sets forth rules for determining such fees. The fees are determined based on the type of case, costs of litigating, experience of the attorney, costs of third party vendors, length of the case, and more. Once the fee is determined to be reasonable, it shall be written down in a contract. Once written and signed it is usually determined to be reasonable. The Florida Bar prevents contingent fees to be charged for many types of cases, including criminal and divorce cases.

The word “reasonable” should suggest it might not be a bad idea to research costs for contingency fees for your type of personal injury case prior to signing a contract. This could be through internet research, case law, or interviews with multiple attorneys. However, rest assured that if a fee contract is found to be unreasonable, the Florida Bar could evaluate it.

Once a contingency fee is awarded, it must be documented properly in writing and with receipts. In addition, a clause in the contingency contract is required to say that any advanced fees or payments are required to be reimbursed in addition to the determined fee. You can assume a ballpark percentage for a contingency fee to be around one-third in a personal injury case, if the case settles prior to litigation. This percentage will of course vary depending on the case details. A consultation with a qualified personal injury attorney will tell you more about fees as they relate to your case.

There are numerous determinations of what is excessive and how to handle a contingency fee. This link to the Florida Bar website is a great resource for finding out more.

As you can see, a personal injury lawyer would not want to take a case they couldn’t win if their fee is based on contingency. You can rest assured that they will have some specific reasons for taking on your case since they are paid if they win. Therefore, it would be wise to ask them why they think you can win. This would be in addition to all the other questions you should ask that include:

  • The attorney’s track record for winning personal injury lawsuits
  • The attorney’s basic costs required for the case
  • The attorney’s schedule
  • How the attorney works, do they work directly with you or are you assigned a case manager

It would also be wise to check around for the attorney’s reputation in the legal world. This could be handled by internet research, recommendations from friends and family, and paying attention to awards in cases similar to yours. You want to be sure that you aren’t just responding to a slick ad with great marketing. Just because they sound good on TV, it doesn’t mean they are the right attorney for you.

Attorney Christopher D. Smith, Sr. is designated a Board Certified Consumer Bankruptcy Lawyer by the American Board of Certification.  SmithLaw is located in Lakewood Ranch, Florida.  Attorney Smith concentrates on bankruptcy, civil litigation, probate, estate planning, and elder exploitation cases in the Sarasota and Bradenton area.  Call 941-202-2222 to learn more.  SmithLaw offers free consultations in certain areas, including consumer bankruptcy, probate, and personal injury matters.

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