Your Guide to Costs and Attorney Fees for Personal Injury Cases
Did you know that the average compensation in a personal injury lawsuit is $52,900? If someone else's negligence caused your injury, you might be in for a big payday.
Yet, you can't forget about attorney fees for personal injury cases. You'll want to factor the cost of a lawyer in when deciding if your case is worth it.
But exactly how much does a personal injury attorney cost? We're answering this question and more in this guide. Keep reading to learn more about attorney fees and how to keep your personal injury case costs down.
Types of Attorney Fees
Attorneys charge differently depending on a few factors. These factors include the type of case and how long your lawyer expects the case to last. In general, though, there are three types of attorney fees:
1. Hourly Rates
Like many professionals, lawyers often charge by the hour. The average US lawyer charges $300 per hour. In Alabama, attorneys usually charge a bit less at up to $292 per hour.
For personal injury cases specifically, the average hourly rate in Alabama is $243 per hour. This rate is about the same as what a business, labor, or estate attorney would charge in Alabama.
However, personal injury lawyers don't usually charge by the hour. The only exception is if they work out a modified contingency fee with their client. We'll discuss more on modified contingency fees below.
2. Flat Fee
Lawyers can also charge a flat fee for their services. This type of arrangement is common in criminal cases, estate planning, and will drafting.
Flat fees can be great for clients because you'll know exactly how much representation will cost you upfront. This type of fee arrangement can also prevent dishonest lawyers from dragging their feet in a case, driving up your bill.
Personal injury lawyers, however, rarely ever charge flat fees. Instead, contingency fees are more common in these types of cases.
3. Contingency Fee
A contingency fee is just what it sounds like. It's a fee you pay to your attorney that's contingent on the result of your case. Attorneys only use these fees when they expect the case to result in a recovery.
As we mentioned, personal injury attorneys typically charge contingency fees. That means you won't have to pay upfront for your attorney's services. You pay a fraction of your settlement or award after you receive it. This agreement can be very beneficial to both the client and the lawyer representing the case.
One more thing: personal injury lawyers may charge modified contingency fees. This fee structure is most common in personal injury cases with a low likelihood of recovery. Modified contingency fees equal a flat contingency fee plus an hourly rate.
The flat fee, in this case, will be lower than what you'd pay on a non-modified contingency fee. The attorney also usually charges a reduced hourly fee from their typical rate.
Typical Fees for Personal Injury Cases
What Percentage Do Most Personal Injury Lawyers Take?
The exact amount of your settlement you have to pay depends on the lawyer. Tort lawyers in Alabama typically take 33%–40% of your award. However, ask your attorney during your initial consultation because this fee can vary.
For example, many lawyers charge a higher contingency fee for cases that go to trial. The typical percentage of your award you must pay out here is around 40%. That means you would pay $400 on a $1000 recovery.
If your case settles before trial, you will pay less. In Alabama, a personal injury attorney usually charges 1/3 of your settlement. That means if you win a $1000 settlement, you would have to pay $333 of that to our attorney.
You Don't Have to Pay Upfront Fees with a Contingency Fee Agreement
The best thing about contingency is you don't have to pay anything upfront. But what happens if you lose? You won't owe your attorney any money as long as you agree to pay a contingency fee.
Injury Attorney Costs vs. Injury Attorney Fees
Now, if you know anything about lawyers, you may be wondering: what about the attorney's expenses? Fees cover the actual services provided by the lawyer. Anything that is extra and outside of the personal injury lawyer's services is considered a cost. Lawyers incur many of the following costs during a personal injury case:
- Medical record fees
- Travel costs
- Court filing fees
- Costs for serving subpoenas
- Fees for expert witnesses
- Mediation costs
- Legal software subscriptions
- Shipping and postage
These costs will also come out of your settlement or recovery. In other words, you'll pay them out of your award amount if you win. If you lose your case, you won't have to reimburse your attorney for these costs.
Timing Affects Your Share of the Award
It's important to ask your lawyer about the timing of the contingency fee payment during your initial consultation. Why? Because when your attorney takes their fee determines your ultimate share of the award.
More specifically, ask whether the attorney will take the contingency fee before you pay attorney expenses or after. Here's why that's important.
Say you won a $100,000 award in your personal injury case. Your attorney charges a 33% contingency fee because the case didn't go to trial. They also incurred $20,000 worth of expenses.
If your attorney takes the contingency fee before you pay their expenses, your share of the award will be lower. If your attorney takes the contingency fee after you pay costs, your share will be higher.
Let's do the math here. In the first instance, the attorney takes $33,000 of your settlement, leaving you with around $66,000 left. Then, they take an additional $20,000 for expenses, leaving you with a little less than $47,000.
In the second instance, the attorney subtracts their expenses from your award. Now, there's only $80,000 left. Your attorney then subtracts their 33% contingency fee, leaving you with a little over $53,000.
As you can see, paying the contingency after expenses is a better deal for you. You'll end up with a higher share of your award than if you paid the contingency fee before you paid your attorney's expenses.
How to Keep Your Personal Injury Case Costs Down
Time is money when it comes to personal injury cases. After all, you can't control the contingency fee you have to pay. But you can control how much in expenses your attorney acquires.
In some cases, you may have some control over the contingency fee. This is especially true if you and your attorney agree on a modified contingency fee. In that case, you can negotiate the hourly rate.
Otherwise, the only way to keep your injury attorney fees down is to decrease the time it takes to win your case. Here are a few ways to do just that:
Lawsuits are won based on evidence. And any reasonable attorney must gather all of that evidence before representing you. Obtaining medical records and other protected legal documents takes time and often costs money.
When you gather all of that evidence for your attorney, they will incur fewer expenses. A personal injury lawyer is also more likely to charge a lower contingency fee if you seem prepared and helpful.
Hire an Experienced Attorney
Hiring a young or inexperienced lawyer may be tempting because they charge a lower contingency fee. Yet, this isn't actually a good strategy. Young, inexperienced lawyers charge less because they just aren't as good.
If you work with an experienced lawyer, your case is more likely to win. That means you'll have a higher likelihood of winning an award. And if your lawyer is really good, the size of your award may be more significant than it would've been otherwise, too.
For example, Wettermark Keith has a successful track record of winning our clients massive award amounts. We won one of our clients $34.5 million, the largest award ever earned by a railroad worker in history.
How to Increase Your Award Amount
Act As Soon As Possible
After a personal injury takes place, it should go without saying that you have a lot on your mind. The last thing you're thinking about is collecting records, evaluating your budget, and finding legal representation for your case. However, it's essential that you work on those things as soon as possible.
Every state has a law called a "statute of limitations." This law basically just sets a limit for how much time you have to file a lawsuit. In Alabama, you have 2 years from the date of your accident to file a lawsuit for a personal injury case.
So what happens when claims are not filed within the 2-year period? Usually, your case will be time-barred. This unfortunately means that you won't be able to recover anything from the party responsible for your injuries. That is why it is so critical to act fast to maximize your personal injury compensation!
Ask For Punitive Damages
Another way to end up with more money in your pocket after a lawsuit win is to optimize your award amount by asking for punitive damages.
You can win many different types of damages in an Alabama personal injury suit. One of these is known as punitive damages.
Punitive damages aren't required in all cases. Attorneys can request for, and judges can order defendants to pay punitive damages in some cases, though. Usually, this happens when a defendant deliberately injures someone due to carelessness.
If your attorney can prove this, you can receive up to $1.5 million on top of your settlement or award.
What Is A Good Settlement Offer?
Wettermark Keith Has the Personal Injury Lawyer You Need For Your Case
In Alabama, attorney fees for personal injury cases are typically 33%–40% of your award amount plus the attorney's expenses. If you win your case, you pay the amount from your award. If you lose, you pay nothing.
Looking for an experienced personal injury and car wreck lawyer near you? Schedule a free consultation with Wettermark Keith right now. You literally have nothing to lose.
A contingency fee is a fee given to an attorney that is depending on the result of the case, and it is widely employed in personal injury claims.
HERE'S WHAT TO DO NEXT
If you or a loved one have been injured and think you might have a case, call us now for a free consultation.