I have found that there is a general misconception by many people who call me as to what a contingency fee is in a personal injury case.
This article will attempt to take away the misconceptions and explain in plain language what a contingency fee is in relationship to a personal injury case.
In its most simple form, a contingency fee is an attorney fee that is derived by an attorney receiving a percentage of either the gross or net recovery of whatever the lawyer gets for you in your personal injury matter.
Most Personal Injury Lawyers take a percentage of the gross recovery of what they recover for you in a case. The gross amount = the amount of the settlement or judgment that is received for you before deductions for medical bills, cost, and expenses.
I have found that two general misconceptions exist among people who call me: (1) They think that they have to pay a percentage of what is recovered, plus an hourly fee; and (2) They think that it is unfair that a lawyer may get 33% of a case or possibly more depending upon the lawyer and the arrangement.
First off, in the State of California, a contingency fee is NOT FIXED BY LAW. In other words you can and should negotiate the fee with a lawyer in your Personal injury case. I have seen some lawyers charge a fee as high as 45% of what is recovered on a case. I have seen other lawyers go down to 25% of what is recovered on a case. Although the fee is negotiable most attorneys will not go down below a certain level because of many factors. There are enough lawyers out there so that you should be able to call around and get a good fee. Most personal injury lawyers charge 33 and 1/3% of the gross recovery in your case.
There are enough Personal Injury Lawyers in California, that you have a wide range of choices for an attorney. However, keep in mind that not all personal injury lawyers are created equally. If you choose a lawyer that will take your case for 25% and he only gets you let’s say $10,000.00 in your pocket, as opposed to choosing a lawyer that charges 40% but gets you $100,000.00 in your pocket, which one would you go with?
You have to pick a competent lawyer who knows what he is doing and who will take the case to trial if necessary. Watch out for settlement mills. I personally know some lawyers who have NEVER have taken a case to trial. If they cannot settle your case before trial, they will either drop your case or pawn you off. I am a trial lawyer and do take cases to trial. Again, do not be afraid to ask questions.
Let’s address the misconceptions.
Misconception (1): In most personal injury scenarios you only pay a percentage of what is recovered for you by the attorney in a contingency fee personal injury situation; not a percentage plus an hourly fee. If a lawyer tries to charge you both, look around for one that does not charge both. I personally only charge a percentage of what I recover for my clients on their Personal Injury Cases.
Misconception (2): It is unfair for a lawyer to get a percentage of your case; well you have two choices in this regard, you can retain a lawyer to take your case without having to pay any money out of your pocket up front, or you can pay a lawyer his ordinary hourly rate to do your case. By a lawyer taking your case on a contingency basis you are not going to have to come out of pocket for tens of thousands of dollars to get an attorney to take your case, and to continue to represent you. Most people chose to not have to pay out of their pocket up front on a personal injury case, and retain a lawyer on a contingency basis for their personal injury case. It’s better to pay no money up front than to have to pay tens of thousands of dollars. Then again the choice is yours.
With regard to misconception (2), if I were to charge my ordinary hourly rate in a typical personal injury case, the attorney’s fees could go as high as $100,000.00 or more if the case goes to trial. It would be stupid not to retain a lawyer on a contingency basis, especially for a small personal injury case, especially when there is no guarantee of any recovery on your part.
NO PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER CAN ETHICALLY GURAENTEE THE OUTCOME OF YOUR PERSONAL INJURY CASE! If you find one that says he can guarantee results, ask him what the upcoming winning lottery numbers are going to be, and then run out the door and go buy a lottery ticket. If you win the lottery than I would retain that guy!
In all seriousness you will find shysters that guarantee results just to get you to retain them. No lawyer knows ahead of time what a jury is going to do in any case, but we usually have a pretty good feel as to whether you have a good case. That is why we are willing to take your case on contingency with no money being paid by you up front!
If you do find a shyster that makes guarantees as to the outcome of your case, call them on it; ask them to put in writing! Then if they don’t provide the guaranteed results they put in writing, sue them for breach of contract! In all seriousness when you are injured you are not going to want to play games. I am telling you here and now, no ethical Personal Injury lawyer will guarantee results because we do not know what the ultimate outcome of your case will be.
As for me I do everything that I possibly can to get you the most money possible in your personal injury case because my fee is directly proportional to what I get you in your case! It’s a win-win situation. You will want a hard fighting aggressive lawyer who will fight for you!
I hope this article was helpful in explaining what a contingency fee is. If you have a personal injury matter in the State of California you can call me for a free consultation on your case at 818-584-8831 extension 1, or check out my personal injury website by clicking here.
By Norman Gregory Fernandez, Esq. , Copyright 2006