Getting legal help can be expensive. So if you have been hurt and have no money for a lawyer, but have a strong claim against another person for damages, here is what you can do.
Contingency Fee Agreements
The contingency fee agreement has become standard procedure in the personal injury law field. If you have never heard the term before, familiarize yourself with it. These agreements make it possible for the average person to hire an attorney without the necessity of paying for legal services up front.
A contingency fee agreement is structured such that if your attorney does not either win your case in court or settle your case, you don’t have to pay the attorney’s fee. If your attorney wins, he or she will take an agreed percentage of your settlement or verdict amount as his or her fee. This agreed upon percentage is part of the representation agreement that you will sign with your lawyer.
How Much Does the Attorney Take?
The amount that an attorney will take in a contingency fee agreement varies from one attorney to the next. Many take 1/3 of your recovery; some take more if the case goes to trial. This is an area that you can negotiate with your attorney. You want to make sure that you are comfortable with the amount that your lawyer is charging. But also be mindful, that taking a case to trial is a huge undertaking. It can take hundreds of hours of prep time. Be fair to yourself and be fair to your lawyer in negotiating this amount.
If you lose, you do not have to pay your lawyer an attorney’s fee. This is one of the real benefits to this type of agreement. If a lawyer is willing to handle your personal injury claim on a contingency basis, it is usually a good indication that the lawyer feels that you have a strong enough case that a good outcome is likely. A lawyer is less likely to take a contingency case if there are significant issues of liability or damages. Or, if such issues exist, the lawyer may ask for a higher percentage of your recovery.
Problems from the client’s perspective, occur either when the case is settled quickly or for more than expected. In those cases, the client may feel cheated. From the attorney’s perspective, the attorney may feel frustrated if a case goes on for longer than it should or if the case is resolved for less money than it should have. Attorneys know the risks and often balance their caseload accordingly. Clients also need to be aware of these risks and balances in order to appreciate the outcome. Your lawyer is taking a risk each time he or she takes on a contingency fee case.
Know How Costs Are Handled
Regardless of whether you win or lose, you will most likely have to pay costs. Costs can include such things as copying costs, filing fees to cover court filings, deposition costs, expert witness costs and jury fees. The closer you get to trial before resolution of your case, the higher your costs will most likely be.
Most jurisdictions require that the client pay these costs regardless of the outcome of the case. Lawyers differ regarding how these costs are handled during their handling of your case. Many will wait until the case is resolved and subtract these costs from your settlement or verdict award. Other attorneys require that you pay these costs as they accrue. It is best to be clear regarding how your lawyer handles these costs so that you may be prepared.
Contingency Fee Cases Are Limited
Contingency fee agreements are not available for every kind of case. They are usually not allowed for business law matters for example. They are most often used for personal injury cases and product liability cases. They may also be used for debt collection in some jurisdictions and in some cases and in some limited areas of employment law where back wages may be at issue.
A Written Contract is Usually Required
Most jurisdictions require that a contingency fee agreement be in writing, that is be signed by all parties, and that all parties have a copy of the agreement after signing. In addition, most jurisdictions require that the document outline both the fee agreed upon and the manner in which costs, and disbursements are to be handled.