The cost of hiring a personal injury lawyer varies from case to case, depending on several factors. State law doesn’t dictate how much an attorney may charge for legal services. A Maryland law firm is free to charge you any reasonable fee in one of a few different ways:
- Hourly rate. A lawyer representing you in a divorce, child custody, or criminal proceeding, for example, doesn’t know how much time or work your case will require. You’ll probably be charged an hourly rate for the time your attorney devotes to the case.
- Flat fee. When the amount of work needed for your case is predictable, your lawyer might charge you a flat fee. Setting up corporations or filing government agency applications are examples of flat-fee work.
- Contingency fee. A personal injury lawyer is most likely to charge you a contingency fee, which is a percentage of the award or settlement you receive as a result of the attorney’s work on your case.
Personal Injury Cases
A personal injury lawyer will generally offer you a free initial consultation. This is an opportunity for you to explain your situation and choose the firm you want to represent you. It also lets the attorney evaluate your case and decide if the firm will take it. Examples of personal injury cases include:
- Premises liability
- Product liability
- Slip and falls
- Car/truck/motorcycle accidents
- Paratransit mishaps
If you and the lawyer agree the firm will take your case, you’ll be asked to sign a fee agreement stating the percentage of your award to be deducted for attorney fees. The percentage the firm charges you will be based on:
- The fee normally charged in your area
- The amount of time/work that will go into the case
- The attorney’s success in similar cases
- Time limitations imposed by the court or circumstances of the case
- Whether your case is settled or goes to trial
You should read the agreement carefully, ask questions, and be sure you understand it before signing. Understanding everything about your fee agreement is essential to a good working relationship with your lawyer.
What Your Contingency Fee Includes
It’s important to understand what your contingency fee covers. In most cases, it pays for:
- Preparation and filing of motions and pleadings
- Record requests
- Collection and preparation of evidence, including depositions
- Legal advice on how to avoid mistakes and what you can do to help ensure a victory
- Correspondence and negotiation with the at-fault party and the insurance company
- Communication and updates from your lawyer and/or paralegals and assistants
- Representation in court if your case goes to trial, though most personal injury cases are settled out of court
What Your Contingency Fee Does Not Include
In addition to attorney fees, there may be other costs involved in preparing and presenting your case properly to get you the award you deserve:
- Court filing fees
- Court reporter fees
- Expert witness fees
- Investigator or accident reconstruction specialist fees
The law firm might absorb these costs for you and deduct them, in addition to your contingency fee, once your case is settled or won in court. Your attorney should also explain how these costs are necessary to your legal strategy.
Advantages of a Contingency Fee
A contingency fee has several advantages for victims of personal injury:
- No money in advance. You don’t pay a retainer up front. Your lawyer begins work on your case immediately, collecting vital evidence and meeting filing deadlines.
- No payment during the course of your case. You don’t have to make any attorney fee payments while your case is ongoing.
- No fees unless/until you win. Your fee agreement will state that you pay attorney fees only if/when you win or settle your case. You know your lawyer is motivated to fight for you because the firm’s fee depends on a victory. You’re also likely to get a significantly larger award with an attorney than without one.
Once your case is won or settled, your award will be forwarded to the law firm. Your lawyer will deduct your contingency fee percentage, plus other costs, and give you a fee statement explaining all calculations of your final award, which will then be forwarded to you.
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