In 2023, it’s estimated that around 50,693 personal injury lawyers, businesses, and firms were established throughout the U.S. This industry is attractive and profitable because lawyers provide a valuable service to injured individuals in need of compensation.

If you ever get into an accident, you may wonder “How much do personal injury attorneys charge?”. Is it worth it to pay for a lawyer’s services, or can you handle the claim on your own?

These questions make sense. After all, you’re already operating from a financial loss, and you don’t want to spend even more money unless it’s necessary. Below, we’ll go over exactly how the typical personal injury payment process works and why it’s a good investment after an accident with substantial losses.

Contingency Fee Calculation Explained

There are many different payment arrangements you could make with an attorney. When it comes to personal injury situations like car accidents, the person seeking counsel is usually already suffering from a financial loss. In these scenarios, it’s often difficult for the individual to pay even more money for proper representation.

For that reason, the typical attorney fees for personal injury cases are based on a contingency fee payment arrangement.

The person seeking a lawyer will go to an initial consultation where they’ll discuss what happened. If the attorney thinks they have a claim, then the two will discuss the potential payment arrangement. The person hiring the lawyer will agree to pay a specific percentage of their overall settlement check once it arrives in exchange for representation.

Typical Percentage Rates for Lawyers

So, what percentage do injury lawyers take in the average case?

The average contingency fee personal injury lawyers charge ranges from 10 to 40% of the settlement award. These typical lawyers’ fees may seem hefty, but your lawyer will do a lot of leg work before you ultimately get your settlement check. Without their help, you would likely only receive a fraction of the award you’ll get with the right legal counsel.

The personal injury lawyer fee that you are charged will be unique to your situation. Some attorneys charge a flat rate percentage for all cases. These firms might, for example, always charge 20% of your settlement check regardless of the facts surrounding your claim.

Sliding Scale Fee Structure

Other law firms that work on a contingency fee basis use a sliding-scale fee structure. This type of payment structure is much more flexible, and clients often prefer it.

This structure provides you with the right to negotiate with the lawyer to determine what percentage is appropriate in your case. The right attorney will be willing to work with you and charge what’s reasonable based on the caseload, the situation's complexity, and the likelihood of success.

If you have a simple car crash claim, for instance, then your lawyer might only charge you 15% to collect evidence, build up your claim, file your paperwork, and negotiate with the other party. If you have a very complex case like a wrongful death situation or a complex claim against a major company with a strong legal team, then your lawyer will likely want to charge a greater fee. This larger charge makes sense because your lawyer will have a lot more work to do in this type of case.

Additional Legal Expenses

Additional legal expenses may pop up that aren’t included in the contingency fee payment arrangement. For that reason, it’s important to discuss with your lawyer what exactly will be covered in your contract and what expenses you may have to pay on your own. These outside additional legal expenses could include things like court filing fees, certified copy fees, the expenses associated with postage, and more. For instance, your lawyer may incur costs while attempting to gather evidence. They may have to pay an investigator, pay a medical witness to testify on your behalf or pay the costs associated with your specific medical assessments. These legal expenses will either be deducted from your settlement check outside of your contingency fee or you’ll pay them out-of-pocket as your case goes along.

Financial Responsibility in Case of Loss

In order to understand why a contingency fee structure is often preferred by lawyers and clients, you need to understand how personal injury laws and financial responsibility works in accident cases.

California and Georgia are both at-fault accident states. Under personal injury laws in both of these states, individuals assume financial responsibility in the event of loss when:

  • The party had a legal duty to provide for the care and safety of the injured party.
  • The first party failed to uphold their duty of care.
  • This negligence caused the accident.
  • The accident led to specific financial losses.

Immediately after the accident, the injured victim will initially bear the financial burden of the losses. They’ll wind up paying their medical bills, potentially covering property damage, and suffering as a result of a loss of income or other accident-induced losses.

If a legal claim exists, then the injured party has the right to file a compensation claim. This claim enforces the rights of the injured and transfers financial responsibility to the legally appropriate party — the person who caused the accident.

Distribution Process for Settlement Checks

As the injured party goes through the accident injury claims process, they will continue to incur costs and expenses. It’s only after their legal claim is resolved successfully that they’ll finally gain access to the financial compensation they need.

This injured victim compensation is typically paid out in two ways — either through a structured settlement distribution or in one lump-sum payment.

Before you get your chunk of the check, some expenses will automatically be distributed from your check. Medical liens, for instance, will automatically get paid out of your settlement. Your attorney's fees will also get paid to your attorney before you receive your check. Additional fees may also be paid out.

A lump sum payout means you’ll get the remaining funds from your settlement in one payment. A structured settlement pays out your settlement award over a period of time through regular monthly payments. You have the right to decide how you want to receive your settlement but don’t forget that you are also responsible for paying taxes on your award. Make sure to talk to your lawyer about potential taxes and how they could impact your settlement award before making your decision.

Considerations for Switching Attorneys

Attorney fees in personal injury cases range and vary based on multiple factors. One of the biggest factors that influences your legal representation costs will be the attorney or firm you choose to work with. Every attorney has the right to charge as much as they’d like for their services, so it’s up to you to judge how much you’re willing to pay and what legal representation is right for you.

Alternative Fee Arrangements

Paying a lawyer’s percentage of your settlement after you receive your check is only one type of fee arrangement you can set up. Different attorneys may work on different payment schedules.

Some lawyers will take on your case for a flat or fixed fee. They may charge more based on whether your case goes to trial or the complexities of it. Other lawyers may work on an hourly basis, which means you’ll only pay your attorney based on the actual amount of time they spend working on your case.

what percentage do injury lawyers take‍

Each different payment schedule has its own unique benefits and disadvantages. One of the best aspects of a contingency fee arrangement is that you won’t have to pay out of pocket until you get your settlement check. Paying a lawyer percentage in personal injury claims also ensures that you won’t have to pay more than you actually receive.

Pursuing Reimbursement of Attorney Fees

If you agree to work upon contingency fees with your attorney, then some things need to be worked out in your negotiation process. For instance, your payment arrangement may not cover costs like:

  • court costs and expenses;
  • filing fees;
  • expert witness fees;
  • postage.

On top of that, your whole payment arrangement will hinge on your lawsuit being successful. If you do lose your case, then you won’t be able to pay your attorney out of your settlement check. It’s important to consider this possibility before signing any agreement with your attorney. You’ll need to determine who will bear the costs of a loss. Either your attorney will take on the expenses, you’ll reimburse the lawyer or the two of you will agree upfront to split the costs.

Unfortunately, you likely won’t be able to get the other party to pay for your legal expenses in a lawsuit.

Are You Ready to Get in Touch With a Personal Injury Attorney?

The average lawyers’ fees you’ll get charged after an accident will vary based on the lawyer you hire, the payment arrangement you agree to, and the complexities of your case. In general, the personal injury defense lawyer cost you’ll incur is worth the investment. Without an attorney, you’re much more likely to accept a settlement award that’s far less than what you deserve. You may not consider all the losses associated with your accident or fail to consider your long-term losses.

You won’t fall victim to these common mistakes with an attorney by your side. Even better, with a contingent fee agreement, you won’t have to pay out of pocket until you get your settlement check.

Are you ready to get started on your journey toward justice after your recent personal injury accident? Schedule a meeting with our team now to learn more about how we can help.

March 10, 2024

Ray Kermani
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