One of the top concerns an injury lawyer hears upon meeting with prospective clients is: How much will this cost me?
Most who have suffered a serious personal injury are hurting financially as well as physically – which is why they’re seeking compensation from the at-fault party in the first place.
The good news is that with personal injury litigation, you won’t need to pay upfront. In fact, you won’t pay any attorney fees at all unless you win.
In Florida, certain types of lawsuits – including personal injury – attorneys representing you agree to accept a percentage of the money recovered in successful litigation as payment. This agreement is called a contingency fee arrangement – because it is contingent on your winning.
What Can I Expect to Pay for Bringing a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
As your Fort Myers injury lawyer can explain in more detail as it pertains to your case, you may still be charged for expenses like filing fees to the court or the cost of hiring an expert witness. If you’re successful, these expenses too can be deducted from your share of the damages recovered. However if the case is not successful, you will still be responsible to cover these costs – unless your contingency fee contract specifically exempts you from them. These could include things like:
- Cost of obtaining police reports or medical records;
- Postage fees;
- Cost of hiring/facilitating the appearance of investigators, witnesses or experts.
Ethical rules on contingency fees, as noted by the Florida Bar Association, require a written contract at the outset of representation indicating what portion of the recovery your injury lawyer will receive in the event you win. Usually, it’s a fixed percentage of your damage recovery, though the percentages may be additional if the case ultimately requires a retrial or appeal to a higher court.
Although the exact percentage set will depend on the complexity of the case and the strength of the evidence, generally speaking contingency fees for an injury lawyer are set at somewhere between 33 percent and 40 percent.
So if you win $100,000 settlement, your attorney might collect somewhere between $33,000 to $40,000 in fees.
Because a Florida personal injury lawyer’s pay is contingent upon winning, it’s not uncommon for attorneys to be somewhat selective in the cases they accept. Alternatively, they may ask for a higher contingency fee percentage for more difficult cases.
Not all cases go to trial in the first place. In fact, most don’t. They are settled in pre-trial negotiation with attorneys representing the defendants, those from whom you are seeking compensation.
Depending on the type of case or the law firm, some injury attorneys will set their rates based on a sliding scale, meaning their cut of your compensation can change depending on when/how the case is resolved. For example, if your case is resolved in two weeks through negotiations with insurers, you would pay less than if the case takes two years to resolve and/or requires a trial. Not all law firms do this, and some for good reason. It’s important to make sure you and your injury lawyer are on the same page with regard to attorney fees and costs.
Advantages of Contingency Fee Arrangements
Perhaps the greatest advantage in a contingency fee arrangement is that you aren’t risking huge financial losses if your case isn’t won. Courts and lawmakers in most all jurisdictions agree this is necessary because no one should be denied the opportunity to hold tortfeasors accountable for the negligence just because they don’t have the money upfront – especially when a big part of the reason they don’t can’t pay upfront is because of the defendant’s carelessness.
Another benefit of contingency fee arrangements for plaintiffs is that it gives your lawyer significant incentive to build the best case possible.
To be clear: While we injury lawyer do have to make a living, for many of us, including our own injury lawyers, there is more to it. The truth is we do this because we believe in justice, in doing all we can to “make whole” those who have been grievously injured or suffered devastating losses because of someone else’s negligence.
If you are injured in Fort Myers, contact our injury attorneys at The Garvin Firm at 800.977.7017 for a free initial consultation.
Consumer Pamphlet: Attorney’s Fees, Florida Bar Association