Personal injury attorneys typically work on a contingency agreement. This type of agreement is not usually used in criminal cases or in family law cases. It is, essentially, an arrangement that makes the civil courts more accessible to people who might not be able to afford to pay fees to an attorney up front and that makes it less likely that frivolous lawsuits are going to be pursued. The workings are quite simple, but the implications of this type of an agreement can be somewhat complex.
The Basics of Contingency Fees
Under a contingency agreement, the client only pays their attorney in the event that they win a jury award or a settlement as a result of having filed a claim. The principal advantages of this are twofold. First, this type of arrangement removes the financial incentive for an attorney to take a claim that they don’t believe will win. In other areas of law, attorneys are oftentimes paid hourly and their services aren’t necessarily the types that involve going in front of a jury. This type of arrangement, however, could be extremely difficult for people pursuing a lawsuit, as they may already be in difficult financial straits and may not be able to access the court system at all, if it were not for contingency agreements.
The second advantage in contingency agreements is that an attorney has no real reason to pursue frivolous claims. This frees up the court system to handle legitimate claims.
Using the Agreement
First and foremost, you need to establish how much of a percentage of your jury award or settlement the attorney will take. This will usually be around 30%, sometimes higher. Some attorneys will write their own fees into your lawsuit, ensuring that you actually do get the money you need and that they get paid at the same time.
It’s important to remember that a contingency agreement does not mean that you get free legal services. You are paying for the legal services; it’s simply that the attorney is taking a chance on your claim, agreeing to do all of the work that goes into preparing it and arguing it in front of a jury, if necessary, because they believe your claim will win.
When you go for a free consultation with an attorney who works on contingency, remember that it still may take some time before they can determine whether or not your claim is a good one and if they want to take it.