I need to hire a personal injury attorney. How do I pay their attorney’s fees?
Typically personal injury and malpractice cases are taken on what’s called a “contingency fee” basis. This means that you don’t pay your attorney up front or by the hour, rather the fee is taken out of an award or settlement as a percentage.
Here’s an example: your attorney charges you a 33% attorney’s fee to handle your case. If you are awarded $10,000.00, your attorney would take $3,333.33 as a fee.
In some cases, such as cases against your car or homeowner’s insurance company, your attorney is automatically entitled to attorney’s fees.
Before hiring any attorney you should ask them to explain how a fee will be paid. The Florida Bar has rules on how much an attorney should charge in certain types of cases. Also, any lawyer that asks you to sign a contingency fee contract must give you the “Statement of Client’s Rights” that the Florida Bar has published. It’s a good idea to read through this before meeting with any attorneys to know what to expect.
Will I need to pay my attorney’s costs up front?
It depends on your attorney. Some attorneys ask for a “cost deposit” or “cost retainer” from their clients before beginning work, while some attorneys pay the costs themselves and then get that money back out of the award or settlement. You should ask an attorney to explain how they plan to pay for any costs, as well as what the attorney considers to be costs, before hiring them.
Many attorneys also take their costs out of an award after attorney’s fees have been taken out. To use the example above: your attorney charges you a 33% attorney’s fee to handle your case. If you are awarded $10,000.00, your attorney would take $3,333.33 as a fee. If your attorney has $100.00 in costs, that will be deducted from the $6,666.67 left over after the attorney’s fees are taken out.
When hiring an attorney, always read any agreements carefully. If you don’t understand how the attorney’s fee structure works ask them to explain it to you. Remember: there is no requirement that your attorney charge you a certain fee, so if you think it’s too high ask the attorney to explain why they feel their fee is appropriate.