In general, personal injury lawyers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey work on a contingency basis and get paid if/when there is financial recovery in the case. Contingency rates vary and can be between 25%-40% of the total amount of financial recovery. After the lawyer obtains their fee, costs of litigation will be deducted. Also, some states like New Jersey have laws which regulate personal injury lawyer fees.
If there is no recovery, personal injury lawyers don’t get paid. Injury and accident lawyers generally don’t work on retainer or ask clients to front any litigation costs, such as:
- investigation costs,
- obtaining medical records,
- court reporter fees,
- court filing fees, and
- expert fees.
It is important to note that every lawyer-client fee agreement will be different. The specifics will be spelled out in the agreement. It’s virtually unheard of for a personal injury to ask a client to advance litigation costs or expert fees, or ask for a retainer. However, there have been instances where a lawyer who doesn’t focus on personal injury law asks an accident client to front some costs. Therefore, it’s crucial to review and understand a fee agreement before signing it. Generally, most reputable personal injury lawyers will indicate in their fee agreements that the client owes nothing unless and until there is a recovery.
Are Personal Injury Lawyer Fees Too High?
Some individuals argue that personal injury lawyer fees are too high. They can certainly seem that way. However, there is a reason personal injury fee agreements are the way they are-the lawyer or law firm fronts all the costs and assumes all the risks which can be quite high. Some cases can cost thousands of dollars to bring, and that’s just for the initial investigation. Later, if the case goes to trial, a lawyer may have to front another $5,000 or $50,000 for trial costs, depending on the complexity of the case. Generally, product injury cases and medical malpractice cases are costly to prosecute because of expert fees. In a complex case, expert fees can easily reach $50,000.
Here’s an example which shows how personal injury fees work. In a work accident and injury case, a lawyer spends $5,000 or $10,000 to investigate the accident and hire the necessary experts; that’s just to get the case started. Trial costs add another $20,000, the majority of which are for expert fees to testify at trial. Then, for whatever reason, the plaintiff loses at trial due to a legal issue. Here, the lawyer assumed the risk and therefore eats the $25,000 or $30,000 spent litigating the case. The client walks away without bearing any of those costs.
It’s important to note that these various costs are merely out of pocket costs, literally what the lawyer pays from the firm’s own bank account. These costs do not include the dozens, if not hundreds, of hours spent investigating the facts, reviewing documents, researching laws/cases, preparing legal documents, etc.
At an average hourly rate of $300 or $350 per hour, a lawyer who spends 100 hours on a case easily racks up $35,000 in the lawyer fees alone. However, these are fees that are never “charged” to the client the way they would if the client retained the lawyer in the traditional sense. For example, in a contract dispute, the parties would hire their lawyers on retainer and then pay their lawyers periodically throughout the case, at the given lawyer’s hourly rate. Initial retainers in contract disputes, criminal matters, etc., range from $2,500 to $50,000.
Personal injury cases are different because the client never pays anything up front or even during the course of the case. Again, the lawyer bears all the risk. The contingent fee system allows people, who otherwise don’t have access to these kinds of funds, to be able to hire the best lawyers possible for their cases.
Free Initial Legal Consultations with Our Experienced Personal Injury Lawyers
The personal injury lawyers at the Philadelphia, PA and NJ firm of Laffey, Bucci & Kent (LBK) do not ask any of their clients to pre-pay litigation expenses or a retainer, because this isn’t fair. They recognize that their clients are facing tremendous life crises and huge financial stress, and so should not be charged anything before they can have a top-flight, highly rated personal injury attorney represent their interests. LBK fronts all of the costs of litigation and lawsuit expenses. If there’s no financial recovery, then LBK doesn’t get paid. It’s as simple as that.
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in an accident in Pennsylvania, Delaware, or New Jersey, such as an on the job work injury, or you have suffered as a victim of crime, feel free to contact the us. For more information, visit our personal injury law library.
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Last updated: June 10, 2015