How many times have you heard Dallas personal injury lawyers say “No fees unless you collect.” Or, “We get paid only if we win your case.” These phrases are all describing the same thing. And, that is the “Contingency Fee.“
What is a Contingency Fee?
A contingency fee is exactly what is says. The word “contingent” means “conditioned upon.” In other words, the attorneys fees are conditioned upon a certain event or occurrence.
Generally speaking, a personal injury lawyer will collect a fee contingent upon there being some sort of collection or recovery in your case. When you hire a personal injury lawyer for injuries you sustained in a car accident, the lawyer will work on your case and try to recover some money for your injuries.
Once the lawyer collects the money, then the lawyer will also collect their fee from the amount collected. Conversely, if there is no collection or recovery in your case, then you owe no fee to the attorney.
How Much are these Fees?
The amount of a contingency fee can vary from lawyer to lawyer. The fee is usually based on a percentage of the gross recovery. If the lawyer has a contingency fee of 1/3, or 33.3%, then the lawyer’s fee is usually calculated as a percentage of the total recovery. If the total settlement is $9,000.00, and the contingency fee is 1/3, then the attorneys fees will be $3,000.00.
The percentage can vary. Most personal injury lawyers have higher percentages depending on when the case settles. For example, the fee may start out at 1/3, but may go up to a higher percentage if a lawsuit is filed. And the percentage may even go higher if the case goes to trial or if there is an appeal.
All fee contracts between a lawyer and a client must be in writing and signed by both the lawyer and the client. The contract must specify the fees being charged by the attorney. So, be sure to read and understand the attorneys fee percentages in your contract before you sign it. Never sign a contingency fee contract unless you understand and agree to all the terms.
How Are Case Expenses Handled?
Most contingency contracts provide that case expenses are usually collected separate from the attorney fees. For example, if a lawyer pays a $100 fee for obtaining a client’s medical records, then the lawyer will be entitled to reimbursement for this expense in addition to the fee percentage.
Taking the example of a $9,000.00 settlement, the attorney would collect $3,000.00 for the attorneys fees and an additional $100.00 for the expense of the medical records, for a total of $3,100.00.
What is considered an “expense” is something that must be particularly described in the contract. Reimbursement for “out-of-pocket” expenses are very common, such as medical records fees, court filing fees, etc.
Where a client must be careful is when an attorney charges for other general expenses. Expenses such as stationary (file folders, envelopes, paper) copies, faxes, etc. I’ve even seen attorneys charge an “investigation fee” for their own, in-house investigator. This is where the client should be wary since these types of expenses are not readily proved by an invoice or receipt. These are charged at the discretion of the attorney.
Are these Fees Negotiable?
Generally speaking, everything is negotiable. The better question is whether attorneys are willing to negotiate their fees.
It really depends on the case. Some lawyers might be willing to accept a lower percentage on a case with greater settlement potential. At the same time, those cases usually require more work, which means negotiating the fees may not be an option.
Whether or not a lawyer is willing to negotiate the fees is certainly something you can discuss with the attorney before you sign the contingency fee contact.
Contingency Fees at Robert C. Slim Law Firm.
Robert C. Slim is a personal injury lawyer in Dallas who has been handling cases under contingency fees since 1994. We understand that, under such an arrangement, the lawyer and client are essentially partners in a mission to get a fair and just recovery for the client’s claims.
With that in mind, we generally charge contingency fees based on percentages that are similar to other personal injury attorneys in the Dallas area. Except we have one big difference: our “Lower-Fee Guarantee”. We will not take a higher fee than the client’s net recovery no matter what our fee percentage is. This is true even if we have to reduce our fee upon final settlement of the case. That way the client walks away with a higher dollar amount that the attorneys fees.
There are a few attorneys who may informally follow this practice. We, however, go one step further and actually put it in writing in our contract. Now you can be sure that the we are looking out for your best interests in your case.
Call or message us now for your free consultation about your personal injury case and be sure to ask about our “Lower-Fee Guarantee.”