HOW DO PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEYS WORK?
All personal injury attorneys work on what is called a contingency fee basis. What this means is, the fee is contingent on there being a recovery. If there is no recovery, there is no fee.
To hire other types of attorneys you would need to pay a retainer agreement, that is, an amount of money up front. Example being, f you hired a criminal or family law attorney, they would want a $5,000 or $10,000 retainer. As they work and bill hours, they deduct their bill from this retainer.
HOW MUCH DO PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEYS CHARGE?
Personal injury attorneys do not require a retainer. We do not bill by the hour, do not send you a monthly statement. We have to wait as long as you have to wait for the case to resolve before taking a fee. When we do take a fee it is a percentage of the gross recovery. Although the percentage is not set by law (in California the percentages in medical malpractice cases are set by law) it is common to see a 1/3, or 33.3% fee. Again, this is a fee that is negotiable and should be something you discuss with the personal injury attorney you ultimately choose to hire.
The beauty of this structure is that it gives the injured party access to representation without having to come out of pocket to hire a personal injury attorney. A personal injury attorney also fronts all costs associated with your claim. These cases can get very expensive, more money that most people can come up with to prove their claims. Thus, not only does the injured party get proper representation, but they also get the benefit of that attorney fronting his/her own money to establish your case and pursue the proper amount.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO START A PERSONAL INJURY LAWSUIT?
It is $435 to file a personal injury lawsuit in California Superior Court, $100-$200 to serve it, $500-$800 to take a deposition. These are just the initial costs. If you have to hire personal injury experts then it can get very expensive. The contingency fee agreement structure is best suited for an injured person to get qualified attorney representation and have their cases handled properly without having to go through financial hardship to do so.
ARE THE ATTORNEY FEES THAT I HAVE TO PAY PART OF THE RECOVERY FROM THE OTHER PERSON?
In short answer, No, attorney fees are not part of a personal injury recovery in California. Thus, if you prevail at trial you cannot move the court for a motion for fees. You can recover some of your costs, but fees are to be borne by the plaintiff, paid for out of the recovery. An injured person must give up a portion of their recovery to cover the attorney fee. I think this is reason why many are hesitant to hire an attorney, because they don’t want to have to give up a portion of their recovery.
The reality is, it is very hard for the everyday individual to get a fair result from the insurance company and 67% of what an attorney will get you is better than 100% of what you get on your own. For example, I just hung up the telephone with someone who I had to tell I cannot help him. Why? He had verbally agreed, via recorded telephone conversation, to a settlement. He then required surgery. He cannot go back and claim this as part of his recovery now that it is already agreed to. The insurance company could/should have known about the future medicals and got him to settle anyways. An attorney would have never let this happen. This is yet just another example of how the insurance company does not have your best interests in mind and will save money at the individual’s expense.
If paying a percentage of your recovery is your concern in deciding whether or not to get an attorney, in my experience the injured person will “take home” more with an attorney than they will without.