Most personal injury lawyers in California are only paid when they win or successfully settle their client’s case. In other words, they don’t get paid unless their client gets paid.
Personal injury attorneys often agree to represent their clients without the client needing to pay legal fees while the case is proceeding. This means a personal injury client does not need to pay attorney’s fees until the matter is settled or won at trial.
Because personal injury lawyers only get paid if they successfully resolve the case, they take large risks. In exchange, they receive a percentage of the settlement or award recovered for their client.
The percentage paid as attorney’s fees varies but is usually between 33% to 40% of the total award of damages. Be sure to ask questions during your initial consultation and understand precisely how your California personal injury lawyer will be paid.
The Initial Consultation
Most California personal injury attorneys offer free initial consultations. During an initial consultation, you are not obligated to hire an attorney. Likewise, the attorney is under no obligation to represent you. You should never hire an attorney that you do not trust.
During your free consultation, the personal injury attorney will ask questions about your case to determine whether they think you have a valid claim. If the attorney agrees to represent you, they almost certainly believe your case is strong. They will not waste their time and resources on a case they do not feel they can win.
You should ask questions during the consultation to determine whether you feel confident that the attorney understands your case and has experience successfully representing clients with similar circumstances.
Be sure you ask about the statute of limitations for your claim. You should also ask as many questions as necessary to understand how the attorney will be paid and how their contingency fee agreement works.
How Do Contingency Fee Agreements Work?
Your attorney will not receive any fees in a contingency fee arrangement unless you are awarded compensation. The amount personal injury lawyers receive under contingency fee arrangements varies but is usually between 33% and 40% of the total award.
It is not uncommon for the fee arrangement to be 33% if the attorney settles your case and 40% if the case goes to trial. You should know that less than 10% of all personal injury cases go to trial. Be sure you read every word of the contingency fee contract and ask questions until you understand.
What Do I Owe If I Lose My Personal Injury Case?
The great news is that you typically owe nothing if you lose your personal injury case. When your attorney agreed to represent you, they agreed they would receive no attorney’s fees unless they successfully settled or won your case.
If you are paid nothing, you owe nothing.
Factors Affecting the Contingency Fee Percentage
When your lawyer agrees to handle your case on a contingency fee basis, they take a gamble. Despite no reimbursement guarantee, they may spend thousands of hours and exorbitant expenses on your case.
When your California personal injury attorney determines the amount of their contingency fee, they consider numerous factors, including:
- The amount of your claim: The larger your claim, the more your attorney may receive by winning your case. Your lawyer may agree to a lower contingency fee if your case is worth an extremely high amount.
- The complexity of your case: Complex cases usually require much time, money, and resources to settle or win at trial. If your case appears complex, your attorney will likely require a larger percentage as their fee.
- Expenses: Most personal injury lawyers agree to pay the expenses of a case upfront. This means they take a much greater risk. If they lose your case, they not only won’t be paid for their time but are also out the expenses they paid in bringing your case to trial. Check with your attorney to see if you’ll be responsible for reimbursing them for certain costs, like court fees.
- The strength of your claim: Even if you can receive a significant award, if your case is weak, it is a risk to the personal injury lawyer.
- The chance you will need to go to trial: Trials require a lot of work. If your attorney believes the case will go to trial, they will likely require a larger percentage as their fee.
It is essential that you discuss these factors with your attorney in the initial consultation. Do not sign a contingency fee agreement unless you fully understand how your attorney’s fees will be determined.
The Benefits of a Contingency Fee Agreement
A contingency fee arrangement has several advantages for most personal injury clients.
Some of the factors that make a contingency fee beneficial for accident victims include:
- Your attorney is motivated to get you the biggest possible settlement. A personal injury attorney only gets paid if they successfully settle or win their client’s case. Since they receive a percentage of the total award, your attorney wants to get you as much compensation as possible.
- A personal injury client may be unable to pay an experienced California attorney’s hourly fee. Because personal injury attorneys agree to handle your case for a percentage of the total settlement or award, you do not have to pay any fees in advance or while the case is ongoing.
- Under a contingency fee arrangement, clients risk none of their money. If a case is unsuccessful, the personal injury attorney loses the money they have paid for the legal expenses and the time spent working on it. However, the client typically does not lose any out-of-pocket money if the case is unsuccessful.
Contingency fee arrangements balance the interests of both the attorney and the client. The personal injury attorney takes all the risk by working on the case and paying the costs incurred in exchange for a percentage of the settlement or award.
Services California Personal Injury Attorneys Provide
Personal injury victims who hire an experienced lawyer are much more likely to successfully settle or win their case than an unrepresented accident victim. Personal injury law is very different from most other types of law. You should seek the counsel and guidance of an attorney experienced in personal injury cases.
Some of the valuable services an experienced California personal injury lawyer provides include:
- Analyzing the value of your case: You need to know the true value of your personal injury claim before negotiating a settlement or trying your case
- Investigating your case and gathering evidence to support your claim
- Determining the amount of your damages, including potential future medical expenses and lost wages
- Drafting and filing your suit
- Negotiating a settlement with the insurance companies and defending parties
- Conducting discovery in your case, including depositions, interrogatories, requests for the production of documents, and other necessary procedures for gathering evidence
- Drafting settlement agreements
- Preparing your case for trial
- Representing you at trial
- Filing an appeal, if necessary
An experienced California personal injury attorney provides these and many more essential services for their clients.
If you have been injured in a California accident, contact Petrov Personal Injury Lawyers today at (619) 344-0360 for a free case evaluation. We’ll fight to get you the compensation you deserve, and we only get paid when you do.