How much will a personal injury lawyer charge me for their services?
In other words in order for an injury lawyer to actually get paid, the client will be walking away from the case with money via settlement or verdict.
Here in New York the accident lawyer’s fee is almost always one third (1/3) of the sum recovered, or 33.33%. The most notable exception to the 1/3 fee is in a medical malpractice case where there is a sliding scale, which is not covered here.
A recent change in New York personal injury law has created two separate options for how the 1/3 contingency fee is calculated, both of which we will go over, but the important thing to remember is that the personal injury attorney’s fee will be 1/3 (33.33%) regardless of which option you choose. This will always be consistent.
Payment Option 1: Percentage of Net Recovery
Under the first option the case expenses are taken off of the top, meaning they are subtracted from the full personal injury settlement amount. The 1/3 contingency fee is taken from what remains. This option can also be described as 1/3 of the net recovery or 1/3 of the profit of the case.
In this scenario the client retains some risk because if the case is not successful the attorney will have the right to charge the client for the expenses, which are usually paid out of pocket by the attorney. So this means that if the case is lost, then the attorney has the right to send a bill for whatever money was spent to move the case forward.
In reality this “risk” is not a very significant one as (1) the vast majority of accepted cases are settled; and (2) most firms would never send a bill to a client after they’ve lost their case. That would really be kicking someone while they are down (but the attorney does the right to do so under this option).
In return for taking this risk the client will see a small savings at the end of the case. The fee is calculated after the expenses are taken off of the top so the accident attorney shares in paying the expenses in this scenario. It amounts to a savings of 1/3 of the expenses, meaning that if the expenses were $1,500.00 on your case, you would get $500.00 more at the end under Option 1.
Payment Option 2: Percentage of Total Recovery
The second option changes the equation a little bit. The 1/3 fee is taken from the total recovery instead the net recovery. This means that the injury attorney’s fee is 1/3 of the full settlement amount. And from the remainder the client is responsible to repay the attorney for the case expenses.
Under this option there is no risk that the client will receive a bill for the case expenses if you lose.
The trade-off is that the client will see a little bit less money if you win. Here, as the expenses are paid out of your portion of the settlement proceeds the attorney doesn’t share in the ultimate cost. So you are losing out on the 1/3 contribution towards expenses that you would get under Option 1. As described above, if the expenses on your case were $1,500.00, you would see $500.00 less under Option 2.
How Expenses are Covered
The expenses in a case are generally advanced by the personal injury lawyer handling the case. In order to move the case forward money must be spent to investigate the incident, hire investigators and/or an engineer, gather medical records, file a lawsuit, serve the defendants, pay court filing fees, take depositions, create demonstrative evidence and prepare the case for trial. All of these expenses must be ultimately repaid at the conclusion of the case. It is essentially a zero-interest loan.
The average expenses in personal injury case varies depending on the type of case and how far it was pushed. Obviously the expenses on a simple car accident case that was settled within 6 months will be much less than the expenses on a complex construction site accident case that has been fully litigated for 4 years.
Examples of Personal Injury Lawyer Fees
These are only examples and every case is completely different.