30 Dec 2020

By Kyle Brown

In Personal Injury

Personal Injuries In Arizona

A personal injury is any injury to your physical or emotional well-being that results from the negligence or misconduct of another party. A personal injury may be caused by negligence or through accidental acts of wrongdoing.

Some examples of personal injuries include:

  • Car accidents
  • Commercial truck accidents
  • Motorcycle accidents
  • Dog Bites
  • Wrongful death cases
  • Slip and fall accidents
  • Pedestrian accidents
  • Bicycle accidents

How Are Injury Attorneys Paid?

If you have a personal injury case, you may be wondering how your attorney will be paid. Payment is made according to a fee agreement. When a person becomes a client of a personal injury attorney, they sign an agreement where they agree to pay the attorney a certain percentage, if the attorney wins the case. This is called a contingency fee agreement. A contingency fee means that the fee depends on the outcome.

For the majority of personal injury cases, an attorney will charge a contingency fee. Personal injury lawyers make money by settling personal injury cases out of court or by winning the cases in court.

How To Calculate The Contingency Fee

If your lawyer is successful in your case, they will take a percentage of the final settlement or final judgment awarded at trial. This percentage varies by state, by the type of personal injury case, and also by individual lawyers.

Typically, the contingency fee amount ranges from 30-40% of the total settlement or judgment award. For example:

  • You have a personal injury case caused by a car accident
  • You have signed a contingency fee agreement for 30% with your lawyer
  • Your case settles for $10,000
  • Your attorney would collect $3,000 in fees
  • Your attorney may also collect any additional expenses due (see below for a discussion on expenses)
  • Your attorney would then issue you a check for the remaining amount (after fees and expenses have been deducted)

If there is a settlement or judgment award at trial, it is common practice for any check to be sent to the attorney. The attorney then contacts the client, deducts the agreed-upon fee percentage and expenses, and issues payment to the client.

Contingency fees may initially seem high, however, when you hire an attorney on this type of fee agreement, the attorney is taking on considerable risk. Through the course of a personal injury matter, some cases will settle, some will go to trial, and some cases may then be appealed. While some cases may be resolved fairly quickly, others may take months or years to complete.

At the beginning of a case, an attorney has little idea about how much time a case will take or whether it will settle or go to trial. In other words, the lawyer risks putting in a lot of time and work with no guarantee of actually getting paid. While this fee agreement creates a great deal of risk for the attorney, it is beneficial to the client, because you don’t have to pay any out-of-pocket costs before a settlement or judgment award at trial.

Do Personal Injury Lawyers Really Mean, “You Don’t Pay Unless We Win?”

Yes, if you have a signed contingency fee agreement and no money is recovered (from a settlement or judgment award at trial) you do not owe the lawyer’s fees.

How To Protect Yourself In Your Fee Agreement

A client should always discuss their fee agreement with their attorney at the beginning of their case and should always get a written copy of that fee agreement. Here are three things to watch for when discussing fees with your personal injury attorney:

1. The low contingency fee offers– Some attorneys may charge a lower contingency fee to get you to sign with them, but this may be because they are less experienced, or they don’t have the financial resources to fund your case to its conclusion. This is important because the client isn’t paying anything upfront, so the attorney has to pay for all costs until a settlement or judgment award at trial. You want to make sure that you sign with a reputable law firm that can afford to carry your case.

2. The risk of an hourly rate agreement– Most personal injury attorneys do not charge an hourly fee for their time, because this would require the client to have available cash on hand. In an hourly rate agreement, the client would have to put down a deposit (retainer) and the attorney would bill (on an hourly basis) the time spent on behalf of the client. Once the entire deposit is expended, the client would then be obligated to pay for all future work done on the client’s behalf until the completion of the case.

3. Ask about expenses– You should also be familiar with any expenses that your attorney may deduct from a potential settlement or judgment award. Remember, fees are charges paid for the lawyer’s time; expenses are out-of-pocket charges that a lawyer pays in furtherance of your case that they expect will be reimbursed. Some examples of expenses include:

  • Court costs, including filing and deposition fees
  • Fees for expert witnesses, such as doctors or investigators
  • Legal research costs
  • Trial exhibit preparation
  • Copying, fax, postage, and other office expenses
  • Travel costs
  • Medical and police reports

During your initial consultation, be sure to inquire about all related fees and expenses. Generally, the attorney fee percentage is calculated based on the total settlement or judgment award at trial. After the attorney fee percentage is paid, the expenses are then deducted out, with the remainder being due to the client. Each law firm may operate differently, and some attorneys may even charge for expenses as they become due. You will want to make sure that you fully understand the contingency fee agreement and any potential expenses prior to signing your fee agreement.

For the reasons discussed above, the contingency fee arrangement remains the most attractive fee arrangement for personal injury cases, because it balances the interests of both the client and the attorney.

Contact Us

If you have suffered a personal injury in Arizona, don’t hesitate to seek legal help. In Arizona, the statute of limitations requires you to act quickly. An attorney at Brown & Hobkirk, PLLC can assess your case and clarify your legal options during your free consultation.

If you choose to work with us, we will aggressively pursue the compensation that you deserve. We work on a contingency fee basis and will thoroughly explain the expenses and the fee agreement to you. You will only pay us if we win your case. Our personal injury attorneys are devoted to helping personal injury victims through the entire legal process.

Call us today or fill out our online contact page. We have numerous conveniently located offices in Scottsdale, Phoenix, Chandler, and Tucson. Turn to a legal team that has the experience, commitment, and determination to get you the results you want, while still treating you with kindness and compassion. Your life, your family, and your future will be a priority to us. When you hire Brown & Hobkirk, PLLC you will see what a difference personalized legal services can make.

Kyle Brown

Kyle primarily focuses on representing clients in serious personal injury claims and wrongful death cases. He also assists clients with estate planning, estate administration, divorce, family law and other related legal matters. Click to read more.