When it comes to finding representation in a personal injury case, there are many misconceptions that are worth addressing. Perhaps one of the biggest issues for people unfamiliar with these types of cases though, is how exactly payment is determined. After all, court cases cost money, and that money needs to come from somewhere. Luckily though, most San Diego personal injury lawyers establish a contingency fee with their clients before taking on a case, which helps to make it considerably more affordable. If you’re interested in pursuing a personal injury case of your own, then it might be worthwhile to review what a contingency fee is, as well as what’s included in the costs associated with your case.
What is a Contingency Fee?
First and foremost, a contingency fee is the means by which San Diego personal injury lawyers get payment for their services. Since the exact details of a contingency fee can vary from lawyer to lawyer, it’s important to establish this in one of your first meetings with your potential representation. Once you’ve come to an agreeable figure, it will form one of the components of the contract you sign.
Since the specific number varies, both between lawyers and between state regulations, it can be difficult to give a precise estimate on how much you can expect to pay as a contingency fee. In general though, most states allow for lawyers to claim up to one third of the settlement as a percentage fee. Of course, this percentage fee can also vary depending on how far you already are in your case.
What is Included in the Fee?
Although the percentage fee is designed to help protect the client from incurring too many costs in pursuit of their settlement, it doesn’t necessarily mean that pursuing a case is entirely free. There are many costs on the lawyer’s end that need to be paid for ahead of time, and depending on the agreement with a client, they could end up paying for this before a settlement is awarded.
In the same meeting where you discuss the lawyer’s percentage fee, you’ll also likely discuss what costs will be paid upfront by the lawyer and which costs will be taken care of by you. As with most situations, the specifics will depend on you and your client, but typical costs can include things like court filings, paying for access to police reports and medical records, hiring expert witnesses, and making copies of important documents.
Of course, you should also have a discussion with your lawyer ahead of time as to how these costs will be resolved in the event that you aren’t awarded any type of settlement.
How is the Payment Resolved?
In the event that you do manage to win a settlement, that final check will be sent directly to your legal representation. In doing so, this allows the lawyer to directly take out their contingency fee, before passing on the remainder of the check to you. This also allows you to focus more on your own affairs, rather than having to worry about paying attorney fees that you might not have otherwise considered. Depending on your contract, this will also be the point in which any additional expenses are also removed, allowing you and your lawyer to finally conclude your business.
Things to Consider
Since the contingency fee helps clients pursue cases that they might not otherwise be able to afford, it’s important that you find a lawyer who can balance your needs against their fee demands. When seeking representation, make sure that you’re clear and direct with your expectations, as well as what type of expenses you’re comfortable with handling for the duration of the case. If you and your lawyer are able to come to a clear understanding before filing your case, you can ensure that you don’t have additional complications later on.