Attorney’s fees come in three variations. You may agree to hire a lawyer for a fixed or ‘flat’ fee. Under this arrangement, the lawyer agrees to accept a specific amount to handle a case for you. Criminal defense cases are sometimes handled on this basis. A second type of arrangement is one that compensates the lawyer on an hourly basis for labor performed on a case. The third model is what is known as a “contingency” fee arrangement. Although there are no statistics on this, it is likely that most personal injury and car accident cases are handled on this basis.
A contingent fee is one that is not due, or paid, unless the lawyer secures a financial recovery for the client.
“No costs unless we win” is a common slogan. Under this arrangement, a percentage of the recovery is applied to attorney’s fees. The percentage is one that you and your lawyer agree to. A common agreement call for an attorney to retain 1/3 of any recovery prior to the initiation of litigation, and 40% of any recovery obtained after a lawsuit is filed. We’ve actually seen cases handled by other firms where 50% of the recovery is applied to attorney’s fees.
I offer Maryland personal injury clients a reduced attorney fee program under which the percentages are further limited.
With this program, 30% of any presuit recovery, and just 35% of recovery obtained after a lawsuit is filed is applied on account of attorney’s fees. The extra money ends up in the client’s hands. By way of illustration, image a car accident claim that proceeds to trial, and the jury awards 25,000 to the injured person. Under the common arrangement, the attorney’s fee would be 10,000 [40% of 25,000]. Under my program, the fee would be limited to $8750, leaving an extra 1,250 in the client’s pocket. You should always discuss fee understandings with a lawyer you are considering hiring. In many instances where personal injuries are involved, contingency fees just make sense. The injured person, who may be out of work due to injures, with mounting medical bills, may simply not have the resources to pay a lawyer several hundred dollars an hour to handle their claim. It’s a significant benefit to have a lawyer handle the claim on a cost deferred method. Moreover, the mechanics of the arrangement make sense, in that the injured person’s goals and the lawyer’s goals are identical. The more the client gets, the more the lawyer gets. Finally, the lawyer assumes a substantial risk in this type of pact. Not every case is winner, and where there is no recovery, the lawyer has worked for free.