“How much does a lawyer cost?” It’s a common question that people wonder about before they reach out to a personal injury attorney about a claim. After all, in an overwhelming and expensive situation, you don’t want it to grow even more expensive.
Lawyers almost always charge for their representation. However, in personal injury claims, the cost is often less than people expect. Below, we cover how much it costs to hire an attorney and how contingency fees work at Herbert Trial Law.
What Does an Attorney Charge in a Personal Injury Case?
Under the rules that cover attorneys in Texas, a lawyer cannot charge an unconscionable or illegal fee to any client. Still, the law offers a lot of leeway for attorneys as they determine how much they charge for their legal fees.
As you research attorneys, it’s common to find that each firm has its own policies regarding how they charge clients.
There are two main factors to consider as you calculate the attorney fees for a particular firm.
- Legal Fees: This compensates your attorney for their time and effort on your claim. Typically, personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee.
- Charges: These expenses reimburse the hard cost our firm incurs throughout your legal case. Common examples include filing fees, hiring an expert witness, and court reporter fees.
Structures for Legal Fees
When a personal injury firm structures its fees for representation, there are a few different options available. In some cases, a firm offers a client different options, depending on the type of services rendered. Here are a few examples of common legal fee structures.
When an attorney charges hourly fees, they track their time spent on your case. Then, the lawyer multiples this by their hourly rate to determine the total. For instance, if a lawyer charges $200 per hour and spends three hours on a case, the bill totals $600.
Typically, attorneys utilize this structure when there’s no way to predict the amount of work a case requires. One example is when one person sues another individual for a breach of contract.
In the case of personal injury firms, they generally do not charge on an hourly basis.
If the amount of work required is more predictable, your lawyer might charge a flat fee. For instance, when a lawyer helps a client form a business, they might charge a flat fee for everything that needs filing.
Occasionally, personal injury attorneys utilize this fee structure. However, it is not common.
When you wonder “how much does a lawyer cost?” part of why it’s unpredictable is because you might not see a charge at all. For many personal injury firms, the typical fee structure is a contingency fee.
This means the fee is contingent on your lawyer winning your case or settling your claim. In other words, you pay nothing unless you receive a settlement.
There are a few unique aspects of contingency fees.
- Depends on the Win: In order to receive a fee, your lawyer must reach a settlement in your favor or win your case at trial. If you receive no compensation, neither does your attorney.
- No Upfront Expenses: Our firm calculates fees at the end of the case. That means you never have to worry about legal expenses until then.
- Depends on the Amount Received: A contingency fee is a percentage of the total compensation the attorney achieves on your behalf. For a personal injury claim, that means it’s a percentage of your settlement or paid damages.
If you are the victim of someone else’s negligence, this fee structure avoids the need to pay your attorney out of pocket. Additionally, it gives your attorney an incentive to maximize your settlement. The more they earn for you in a car accident claim or slip and fall case, the more they earn.
How Does a Contingency Fee Work?
The contingency fee varies widely with the percentage. Typically, this percentage falls between 25% and 40% of the compensation your attorney recovers for you. Often, you discuss the particulars of your fee at your initial consultation.
Under the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, your attorney must provide a written agreement for the contingency fee.
This agreement will cover several aspects of your fee.
First, the agreement explains the amount of the contingency fee. In Texas, lawyers have the option to do stepped percentages so long as the agreement explains them. For example, a fee for a settlement out of court might be 30% while a case that goes to trial might grow to 35%.
Next, the agreement explains the associated expenses deducted from your settlement or award. These costs are the expenses that your lawyer covers on your behalf in the midst of your case. For instance, if your attorney hires a court reporter for a deposition, the costs come out of the compensation you receive at the end.
However, if your attorney does not settle your claim or win your case, they are responsible for the costs.
The calculation of attorney fees is about more than the agreed-upon percentage. When it applies also matters.
The fee agreement explains how your attorney calculates the contingency fee. More specifically, it describes whether they deduct the additional costs before or after they calculate the contingency fee. In some cases, the difference is substantial.
Consider this example. Your total settlement is $50,000 with a contingency fee of 33% and costs at $8,000. There are a few different ways a firm can handle this.
- Gross Award Calculation: If they deduct the costs at the end, you receive $25,500. After they calculate the fee, it leaves you with a total of $33,500. However, you still have to deduct the expenses, bringing the total down to $25,500.
- Net Award Calculation: This is when you deduct the costs first, receiving $28,140. We arrive at this number calculating the percentage out of $42,000.
When your claim or case ends, your lawyer provides you with a statement that describes every cost deducted as well as how they calculated the legal fee. However, you have an opportunity to discuss it with them beforehand at your initial consultation.
How Much Does a Lawyer Cost? Don’t Be Afraid to Ask!
Wondering “how much does a lawyer cost?” should never stop you from holding negligent people accountable. When someone’s negligence harms you, you have rights and legal options. Schedule a free consultation with a personal injury attorney and be ready to ask your own questions.
When an attorney provides their contingency fee agreement, go over it carefully. If you have questions about terms, don’t be afraid to ask about them. At the end of your case, review your statement once more to ensure it matches up with the fee agreement.
To learn more about how much an attorney costs, contact our firm to schedule a consultation today.