Most lawyers charge their clients by the hour. This fee structure sometimes results in problems because of the inherent conflict of interest. The slower your lawyer works, the more money they can charge you for the same final product.
By contrast, almost all personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis. The contingency fee arrangement puts you and your lawyer on the same side. The more money you make, the more money they make.
How Can a Skilled Personal Injury Lawyer Help You Win Your Claim?
An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you in a myriad of ways, including:
- Advising you against mistakes that might damage your claim
- Investigating your claim and gathering admissible evidence to support it;
- Negotiating with the opposing party for an amicable settlement;
- Representing you in court, should that become necessary; and
- Drafting legal documents such as lawsuit complaints, settlement agreements, and correspondence with the opposing party.
A good personal injury lawyer can win you so much more compensation that you come out far ahead of where you would have been if you had represented yourself, even after deducting your legal fees.
What Is a Contingency Fee?
A contingency fee is an agreed-upon percentage of whatever amount of compensation your lawyer wins for you, whether at the settlement table or in court. That amount goes to your lawyer as your legal fee.
Since the opposing party pays compensation, it is essentially the opposing party who pays your legal fees. This payment system incentivizes your attorney to obtain as much compensation for you as possible.
Do You Pay Anything Upfront?
Typically not. The idea is that the quality of your claim should matter, not the size of your bank account. Most personal injury lawyers will represent a client with a strong claim even if the client doesn’t have a dime in their pockets. This system gives less affluent people equal access to the Texas civil compensation system.
Is the Initial Consultation Free?
Most personal injury lawyers do not charge a fee for an initial consultation. Charging a consultation fee would keep potential clients away, and it would therefore prevent the lawyer from hearing about potentially strong claims.
The consultation doesn’t have to be in the lawyer’s office. It can be over the phone, by email, or even at the hospital. You are not obligated to hire the lawyer just because you have an initial consultation with them.
You might need to pay some amounts other than legal fees—court fees, expert witness fees (for a truck accident reconstruction or a brain injury claim, for example), investigation fees, and others. Typically, your lawyer will pay these fees as they come due and deduct them from your final settlement.
How Do You Get Paid?
The usual way that a victorious personal injury claimant receives their money works like this:
- The party responsible for payment, usually an insurance company, pay your lawyer.
- Your lawyer places the funds into a client escrow account,
- Your lawyer deducts any appropriate amounts in medical liens, case expenses, and their legal fee,
- Your lawyer then forwards the remainder of the money to you.
Under most circumstances, the IRS will tax you nothing or very little. One exception is if you receive punitive damages.
What Happens If You Win, But the Defendant Still Doesn’t Pay?
A defendant will not normally agree to a settlement they know they cannot afford to pay. In general, it is an insurance company that pays, and policy limits are clear. A court might award you more than the defendant can afford to pay or award you more than insurance policy limits. If you have any trouble receiving payment, you have the following legal options:
- You can treat the settlement agreement as a contract if you reach a private settlement. You can then sue the defendant for the settlement amount by asserting a contract claim.
- If you win in court and the defendant refuses to pay, you can skip the contract claim and ask the court to seize the defendant’s assets.
You will also be entitled to interest from the date the money was due until you receive it.
What If I Speak With a Lawyer Who Wants to Charge Me By the Hour?
A personal injury lawyer who charges by the hour is a rarity. You should become suspicious as soon as the lawyer tells you they charge hourly. If they win their cases consistently, they could make more money on a contingency fee than on an hourly basis. Stay away from personal injury lawyers who try to charge you hourly.
Contact a Lawyer Today for a Free Consultation
Since the contingency fee emphasizes the quality of your claim rather than your ability to pay your lawyer, you can schedule a consultation with a Fort Worth injury lawyer regardless of your ability to pay.
At the consultation, the lawyer will be interested in asking you questions to evaluate the quality of your claim. If they believe your claim is strong, they might offer to represent you—on a contingency basis, of course.