I recently received a question about how a personal injury lawyer gets paid for his or her work in an automobile accident or other personal injury negligence case, and below is part of my response.
Although I cannot speak for all lawyers, it is safe to tell you that most Florida attorneys will propose the following contingency fee structure in automobile accident cases:
1) 33% of the total settlement if the case settles without the need of filing suit (litigation); and
2) 40% of the total settlement if suit is filed, and the defendant answers the complaint.
These percentages are not arbitrary, but based on the Florida Supreme Court’s finding of “reasonable” in the context of legal services for a personal injury claim. Please keep in mind that a personal injury trial attorney does incur a lot of financial risk when representing an injured victim, and this fee structure takes into consideration the risk that these costs may not be recovered. For example, I have taken cases to trial in which I have advanced tens of thousands of dollars for costs such as court reporters, experts, etc.
The contingency fee system is good for the consumer, as it allows an injury victim to hire a highly experienced trial attorney with absolutely no up-front expenses to the client. Payment is only made at the time a case settles, or after a successful jury verdict. Be aware: You will likely pay the same percentage to an inexperienced attorney as you would to an attorney that is highly experienced with extensive trial experience. We strongly encourage you to ask about our litigation and trial experience!
Finally, for any client that finds us through the Internet, our contingency fee will stay at 33%, even if your case goes into litigation. This can result in substantially more money in your pocket!