Personal injury litigation is one of the few areas of the law where even the poor have equal access to justice. The reason for this is the contingent fee agreement.
With a contigent fee agreement a client pays the attorney a percentage of the total amount of any recovery in their claim, whether by settlement, jury verdict or some other alternative dispute resolution procedure. The “contingent” aspect of the fee means that if there is no recovery, there is no attorney fee.
The contingent fee must be distinguished from expenses, which ordinarily remain an obligation of the client. In many cases the attorney will advance expenses during the time the case is pending and will deduct the expenses from the client’s share of any recovery at the conclusion of the case.
There are a number of advantages to the client in this type of fee arrangement, the most obvious of which is the absence of risk in owing an attorney fee when there has been no recovery. Another advantage is that the client feels more secure knowing that the attorney is sitting in the same boat–if the client goes down so does the attorney. The fact that an attorney is willing to handle a client’s case on a contingent basis tells the client that the attorney has a high degree of confidence in the case.
A final advantage of the contingent fee agreement is that it motivates the attorney to maximize the client’s recovery. In other types of litigation where clients pay the attorney by the hour for their time, it makes little economic difference to the attorney whether the client has a successful outcome. In contingent fee cases the attorney’s own recovery is tied to his/her results, so it is important he/she put in the time and effort necessary to bring about the greatest recovery.
The percentage to be charged on a contingent fee case, to a large extent, depends on the type of case. In automobile accident litigation a contingent fee of 1/3 of the recovery is common. Medical malpractice cases, product liability cases and other more complex personal injury litigation often are handled on a higher percentage basis, because they frequently consume substantially greater amounts of attorney time and resources. Attorneys frequently advance many thousands of dollars in expenses, including expert witness fees, in the more complex personal injury litigation. It is not unusual in some of these cases for expert witness fees to exceed $20,000.00 to $30,000.00.
Workers’ compensation and Social Security Disability attorney fees are generally regulated by the agencies administering the law and often are somewhat less than in other areas of personal injury litigation. Depending on the type of case, some attorneys may charge a lower percentage on a contingent fee if the case is settled before suit is filed, more if the case is concluded after trial has begun or more if an appeal is necessary. There are some advantages and some disadvantages associated with differing percentages within the same case, because the different percentages may affect how the attorney handles the case. For instance, with different percentages it may be to the attorney’s advantage to settle the case later in the proceedings, rather than earlier, or to take the case to trial rather than settle it.
At our Law Firm many of our cases are handled on a contingent fee basis. Regardless of the particular contingent fee arrangement utilized, it is important that the client understand the way it works and its advantages. We can readily provide you with a quote as to the fee which would apply in your case, and we welcome your inquiries. Please feel free to email us at our main office in Texas. In the alternative, call the Law office of your choice.