Nearly all personal injury attorneys handle auto accident cases on, what is known as, a “contingency fee” basis. This payment system allows the injured person to be represented by an attorney without the need to pay any fees up front. As such, determining the attorneys fees for an auto accident case ahead of time, is not really possible. As the client, you pay nothing to your attorney initially. If the lawsuit is successfully resolved, then your attorney will be entitled to a percentage of the money you are awarded, plus expenses.
Understanding the contingency fee agreement
Instead of a retainer agreement, where you pay an attorney up front for the work you expect them to do, a contingency fee agreement is created when the client agrees to pay the attorney a percentage of any award received, should the client win the case. The difference is, no fees are paid up front. Most states have their own rules that specify what percentage is appropriate for a personal injury contingency fee agreement.
When are contingency fee agreements typically used?
Contingency fee agreements are most commonly used in cases where a plaintiff is seeking money damages for an injury. Depending on the nature of the case and the amount of damages, attorneys may not always be willing to work on the case under a contingency fee arrangement. Also, certain legal claims have limits on recovery, in which case an attorney may not be willing to take the case on contingency. Typically, personal injury cases are handled on a contingency fee basis.
Why is a contingency fee system used in auto accident cases?
The benefits of the contingency fee arrangement are many, for the client. The purpose of this system is to give anyone who is injured a chance to be compensated for their losses, regardless of whether or not they can afford an attorney. A contingency fee arrangement allows the client to pay little or no upfront costs, and typically pay nothing if the case is not successful. If the case is won, either at settlement or trial, then the attorney receives an agreed upon percentage of the award as a fee.
What does a Contingency Fee Agreement Involve?
Once the fee agreement has been reached, the attorney will pay the upfront expenses associated with pursuing the lawsuit. These expenses often include filing fees, payment for depositions, and copies of medical records. In many cases, expert witnesses are required to testify, which is an additional expense the attorney will be required to pay.
If the attorney is ultimately successful in resolving the case, the written contingency contract will control how the funds are distributed to the client and the attorney. Some contingency fee agreements operate under a graduated percentage contract, with a higher percentage to be paid the further the case goes through litigation. Some contingency fee contracts require payment for expenses plus a percentage of the recovery.
If you have questions regarding attorney’s fees, or any other personal injury matters, call the Cottrell Law Office at (888) 433-4861.
He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.
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