If you were wondering how much money you need to hire a Los Angeles personal injury lawyer, the (slightly misleading) answer is “nothing.” Most personal injury lawyers take their fees out of the compensation you receive from your settlement or verdict at the end of the case. Continue reading to learn more.
The Initial Consultation
Almost no personal injury lawyer will charge you for an initial consultation. Additionally, initial consultations do not generate obligations on either side. You are free to decline to hire the lawyer, and the lawyer is free to refuse to represent you. Don’t hire a lawyer unless they inspire your trust.
At the initial consultation, the lawyer will ask you questions designed to determine the strength and value of your claim. Personal injury lawyers only take cases they believe in because they derive their income from winning strong claims, not losing weak claims. If the attorney agrees to handle your claim, you can be sure they believe it is reasonably strong. The more the lawyer believes in your claim, the harder they will fight to win.
How Do Contingency Fees Work?
In a contingency fee arrangement, you and the lawyer agree on a specific percentage that your lawyer will take from your awarded compensation. Amounts vary, but the average fee is around
33 to 40 percent of your compensation.
The fee might be expressed conditionally, such as “33 percent if we settle the case, but 40 percent if we go to trial.” Keep in mind that less than 10% of all personal injury claims actually go to trial. Make sure to read the fine print in your fee agreement with the lawyer before you sign it.
What Happens If You Lose Your Personal Injury Case?
If you lose your claim, meaning that you receive zero compensation, any percentage of zero is still zero. Consequently, if you fail to win compensation, your attorney’s fees will total $0.00.
Factors That Determine the Amount of the Contingency Fee
Personal injury lawyers take the following factors into account when agreeing on the amount of their contingency fee:
- Case expenses: Most personal injury lawyers take a risk by paying case expenses as they arise because you will not reimburse them if they lose your claim. When the risk goes up, the price goes up. For example, if you need expert witnesses, your lawyer might demand a higher contingency fee.
- The amount of your claim: The larger your claim, the more your lawyer stands to gain by winning it. Therefore your lawyer might agree to a lower contingency fee for a larger claim. After all, 20% of a million dollars is a lot more than 30% of $100,000.
- The complexity of your case: Time is money, and complex cases require a lot of time. Because of this, your lawyer might raise the price of their representation for a particularly time-consuming case.
- The strength of your claim: A weak claim is high-risk even when it is high value. A strong claim is low-risk even when it is low value.
- Whether your case goes to trial: A trial will cost your lawyer a lot of work, for which they might seek reimbursement by raising the amount of their contingency fee.
During your initial consultation, you will discuss these and other factors that affect the contingency fee.
Advantages of the Contingency Fee System
The contingency fee system offers several advantages, including:
- It allows you to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer in Los Angeles even if you don’t have any money.
- There is no conflict of interest between you and your lawyer. The more you make, the more your lawyer makes, and vice versa. This leaves your lawyer with no rational motivation to do anything other than strive for maximum compensation.
- It eliminates the risk of paying high legal fees for a losing claim.
Under a contingency fee system, the strength of your claim matters most, not the thickness of your wallet.
Personal Injury Case Expenses
You will also need to pay case expenses, although most personal injury lawyers won’t charge you for them unless they win your claim.
These expenses might include:
- General investigation expenses (e.g., travel expenses)
- Copies of your medical records and other documents
- Court costs
- Preparation of trial exhibits
- Expert research, reporting, and testimony fees
- Physician’s reports
- Video deposition costs
- Court reporter costs (for depositions)
Many other expenses might come into play, depending on the nature of your case.
How Do Los Angeles Personal Injury Lawyers Earn Their Fees?
The assistance of a skilled lawyer is critical in many personal injury claims. In fact, hiring a personal injury lawyer will multiply the value of your claim by 3.5 times the amount that an unrepresented claimant is likely to receive.
Following is a list of some of the services that a lawyer can provide you:
- Investigating your claim and gathering admissible evidence in support of it
- Determining the strength and value of your claim: You cannot win the true value of your claim without knowing that value
- Calculating your damages: This can be difficult if you need to claim estimated future damages for a long-term injury
- Negotiating a settlement: Insurance adjusters are expert negotiators, but so are personal injury lawyers
- Filing a lawsuit: Filing a lawsuit offers certain strategic advantages, but it doesn’t necessarily mean there will be a trial
- Handling depositions, interrogatories, and other evidence-gathering procedures
- Drafting a settlement agreement if you settle your claim
- Appealing an adverse verdict if you go to trial and lose
- Executing documents to finalize your settlement, verdict, or judgment
The preceding list only scratches the surface of what a personal injury lawyer can do for you. Many of the benefits of a lawyer are intangible—maintaining objectivity during stressful times for the sake of good decision-making, for example.
Disbursement of Funds At the Conclusion of a Personal Injury Case
Once the defendant agrees to a settlement—or a court renders a verdict—the defendant will issue a check or transfer the money to your lawyer’s escrow account. Your lawyer will then subtract any necessary deductions and pay them to the appropriate parties.
These deductions might include:
- Your lawyer’s contingency fee
- Case expenses, which reimburse your lawyer for their own out-of-pocket expenses
- The amount of any medical lien that the hospital may have taken on your awarded compensation to ensure payment
- Any other applicable deductions, including reimbursement to your health insurance company for any amounts it paid you (so that you don’t receive double compensation from your health insurance company and the defendant’s liability insurance company)
Your lawyer will transfer the remainder of the funds to you. Your tax burden should be small or non-existent unless you win punitive damages.
Schedule a Free Consultation With a Los Angeles Personal Injury Lawyer To Learn More
You might be able to handle a small or straightforward claim on your own. The larger or more complex your claim, however, the more you need a lawyer because defendants fight hard to pay as little as possible. A Los Angeles personal injury lawyer will not only help you win but also maximize the amount you recover.
Our personal injury attorneys at M&Y Personal Injury Lawyers are skilled and aggressive trial lawyers. We fight to get you compensation for your injuries and damages. Contact or call our law firm to schedule a free consultation at (877) 300-4535.