It's standard procedure in personal injury cases that your lawyer will work for you on a contingency fee basis. A contingency fee means that injured victims don’t have to pay the lawyer unless the case settles or unless there is a jury verdict in the client’s favor. This means you do not have to pay any money in advance of a final decision. There are no hourly rates.
Car accident and personal injury lawyers understand that injured victims and their families need to focus on getting well. Often, an injury means they can’t work and thus can’t earn an income. A contingency fee allows you to assert your rights without worry that you can afford the legal fees.
The Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Department reported that in 2014, the number of vehicle accidents in Florida was 344, 170. In many of these cases, the victims hire lawyers to represent them.
Contingency fee basics
There are a few standard requirements that injury victims should understand.
- The contingency fee should be put in writing. The lawyer will sign and have you sign, a written document. With a written document, it’s clear what happens when the damages are ultimately paid.
- The amount of the contingency fee. The percentage the Florida car accident lawyer gets may vary depending on when the case settles. Most contingency fee cases are based on a 1/3 percentage. This means if the case settles for $120,000, the lawyer’s fee is $40,000. Some lawyers charge a different percentage depending on whether the case settles or if the case goes to trial. Trials require a lot more work, so some lawyers charge a higher percentage if they need to try the case.
- For example, a lawyer may agree to a contingency fee of 1/3 (33.3%) if the case settles. Trials may justify a 40% fee.
- The percentage may also be different, lower, if the plaintiff is a minor child.
- The percentage may be different if the wrongful death of a family tragically occurred
- A settlement before filing a complaint may mean a lower fee
- There’s no fee if the case is not successful. You don’t owe your lawyer a fee if the case is decided against you or withdrawn.
- The client has the right to decide whether to accept or reject a settlement offer. The lawyer cannot settle your case without your permission.
What happens once the case is settled or there is a verdict?
- The settlement check or verdict check is generally paid to the lawyer. The insurance company will usually prepare the check for damages and make it payable to the lawyer. The lawyer then deposits the check. He will then prepare a schedule of distribution (an accounting). The accounting is the math that indicates how much you get, how much the lawyer gets, and how much other people may get. It also includes deductions for any costs.
- For example, if a doctor agreed to wait to get paid until the case was resolved, then the doctor is paid from the amount of the settlement check.
- The lawyer is entitled to advanced costs. Lawyers are entitled to be paid for the following (once the insurance company pays the damages):
- Any court filing fees
- Fees to experts
- Any fees they advanced to pay people to videotape depositions
- Other costs such as payment for police reports and medical records