If you’ve been injured in an accident through no fault of your own but because of the actions or negligence of someone else, you may have considered hiring a Westminster personal injury attorney but worry about the costs. Everyone has heard about the high cost of an attorney’s billable hours, not to mention pricey retainers. You may have decided that using an attorney to represent you in your case would be too costly to consider.
But what you might not know is that most personal injury attorneys handle payment in a different way than criminal lawyers and family law attorneys. Instead of expensive retainers and hourly fees, most personal injury attorneys offer a free evaluation and work on a contingency fee, costing you nothing upfront.
What is a Contingency Fee and How Does it Work?
The vast majority of personal injury attorneys take on clients in a contingency fee payment method for service. This means the client pays nothing up front and the attorney only takes the case if he/she thinks they have a good chance of winning through a settlement or in courtroom litigation. The attorney only takes a percentage-based fee if the client receives compensation for their damages. In essence, whether or not the attorney gets paid at all is contingent upon you winning your case in court or through an out-of-court settlement from the insurance company of the liable party.
About 98% of personal injury cases settle out of court. The percentage amount that the attorney gets from the settlement is something the client and attorney discuss ahead of time so the client has a complete understanding of the process and the percentage before signing an agreement.
Understanding Contingency Fees and Percentages in Colorado Personal Injury Cases
In most personal injury cases, an attorney’s percentage fee depends on the complexity of the case. If the case is likely to settle out of court with little contention, the attorney will typically charge a lower percentage than if the case is a lawsuit with litigation in the courtroom. Most lawyers charge a percentage of about 30% for investigating the case and negotiating with the insurance company for a settlement. If the case moves forward into a court case, the percentage may increase to 40%. If you win a settlement of $100,000, your legal team’s fee at 30% would be $30,000, leaving you with $70,000. Keep in mind that while most lawyers enter the field of law to help people, they also wish to make a profit in their business. By working on a contingency fee basis, your attorney is uniquely motivated to maximize your chances of gaining the largest possible settlement or court award.
In most cases, a good portion of an attorney’s fees goes toward reimbursing the legal team for the recourses used to investigate the case before the remainder pays the attorney or team of attorneys, paralegals, and other professionals assigned to your case.
Choosing the Right Lawyer for Your Case
It’s important to fully understand your lawyer’s contingency fee payment method and what you’re likely to pay if you gain a settlement or win a courtroom case. Before choosing an attorney it’s helpful to do the following:
- Find a seasoned attorney with many years of experience or specializing in your type of injury case
- Consult with a lawyer recommended by a friend or family member
- Ask for references and recommendations and read reviews
- Ask about the background, community reputation, and local resources of the law firm
- Ask if the lawyer you initially consult with will personally handle your case and if the consulting attorney plans to hand the case to an associate, ask for references, recommendations, and reviews for that particular attorney
- Make sure the lawyer plans to keep in close contact with updates on your case and that they’ll contact you through your preferred medium, whether it’s through phone calls, emails, or texts
In some cases, a lawyer you consult with may decline to take on your case if they think the amount of compensation you’ll recover for your damages is too small for them to take their percentage. In that case, ask the lawyer for billable hours to consult on your case as you pursue compensation on your own.