Considering that traffic accidents in the United States are estimated to cost over $871 billion each year, slip and fall accidents $70 billion and workplace accidents generally over $250 billion, it may come as no surprise that financial considerations are consistently a top concern for clients in need of personal injury services. The disruption to victims’ physical health, personal property, and ability to go to work are all highly impactful on an individual level. And certainly, all these unique cases add up to shockingly vast numbers when tallied together.
One of the first questions we hear from potential clients is “how much does a lawyer cost?” Many people worry that they cannot afford a lawyer, particularly after they are already being presented with the high costs of healthcare, car repairs, and other bills that immediately follow personal injury accidents. Luckily however, among the plethora of legal fee payment structures that exist, Thompson Law utilizes the contingency fee payment method. Especially helpful in times of crisis, this arrangement allows for legal fees to be deferred to the end of a settlement or case (and are only owed if the outcome is successful), and it makes legal services accessible to many more people in need of specialized personal injury advice. Read on to learn more about the ins and outs of legal payment practice, and to see what may be the best fit for you and your family.
Legal Fee Structures
Different fee structures exist in the legal world largely so that law firms can align their payment processes to fit the financial practices of the clients they serve. Extremely wealthy large corporations with near-limitless resources may utilize a retainer structure for their legal counsel, as it provides immediate and streamlined access to services on an ongoing basis and allows concurrent receipt of funds to the law firm accordingly. Alternately, private individuals with a small, one-time legal matter may seek out an attorney who structures his or her billing on an hourly or flat fee basis, as this allows for clients’ budgeting and cost control of these more predictable or mundane issues.
Attorneys are required by the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct to disclose detailed information about the calculations of their fees to their clients. Regardless of the path you take, these rules ensure that you can be well informed. Lawyers’ proper communication of their fee structure is part of their legal ethics, a concept sometimes also referred to as professional responsibility, for which they take an oath prior to practicing law. A summary of the most common types of legal fees follows:
Retainer – In this process, an attorney may request a prepayment before beginning work on your case. The lawyer then bills against the retainer fee over the progression of the case. The initial fee typically is determined based on the expected complexity of the case. As work progresses, you may be required to keep contributing to the retainer to maintain a positive balance with your attorney. The more complicated the case, the higher the initial retainer and long-term costs may be. Upon resolution of the case, any remainder in your retainer account is refunded to you.
Hourly Rates – This billing method is used frequently and consistently by lawyers throughout the world. Logs are kept of the time spent working on your case, and your lawyer’s documentation of the time will determine your final bill. Billable hours typically include time spent working on document preparation, research, representation in court, case-file review, and other necessary administrative tasks associated with resolving your legal matter. Hourly rates depend on such factors like experience, education level, location, and specific overhead costs. More prestigious firms and more specialized lawyers typically charge higher hourly rates for their time and services.
Flat Fees – This payment plan is most often used in simple and well-defined cases. Examples of such services might include drafting of wills, filing for bankruptcy, uncontested divorces, immigration, patents, and trademarks. A written estimate or agreement at the point of contract in these cases is valuable, as extraneous complications can result in tacked-on overages to your anticipated flat rate.
Consultancy Fees – Fixed consultation fees are extremely common for the period when a firm is reviewing your case to determine whether they can assist you.
Payment for Personal Injury Services: The Contingency Fee
Contingency fee payment structure is the most common in personal injury law. Cases like car, truck, and bus accidents; workplace accidents like slip and fall or crush injuries; wrongful death or other damage caused by error and negligence often require immediate legal counsel and assistance. This help is needed at a time when victims are already dealing with a lot of pain and amassing bills from the accident.
A contingency fee payment plan allows you to pay your attorney a certain percentage of the total amount won only after your case is successfully resolved. Often referred to in advertised communications as “No Fee if No Recovery,” this payment plan helps you avoid any out-of-pocket or large, upfront legal expenses that you would have incurred during the claim process. Many clients specifically choose this beneficial fee agreement so that they are not adding legal bills on top of other expenses while they are hurt and out of work.
The fee percentage is generally based on the anticipated amount of work the attorney will put into your case. Fee percentages also vary from attorney to attorney, but in personal injury law they are typically 33-40%. The set percentage is communicated at the initiation of the attorney-client relationship, and it is locked in when you enter into a contractual agreement for the attorney’s services. Some firms may advertise lower attorneys’ fees, but watch out as they often recoup the difference by surprising clients at the end of the case with a number of “additional” fees. It is strongly encouraged to ask detailed questions about any additional or “hidden” fees up front before signing an agreement. Thompson Law prides itself on a very straightforward and fair fee structure that enables our clients to know exactly how fees will be assessed at the end of their case.
At the conclusion of your settlement or litigation, disbursement of the funds occurs. This is where it is important to understand fees vs. costs, the payout clauses of your contract, and the details of the payment structure to which you agreed. For example, if your claim goes to court, fees typically increase. A fairly standard increase is about 5% more than for a settlement process only. Additional costs may be due to special legal filings, time in hearings and depositions, involvement of expert witnesses, and general preparation of the strongest case possible.
Fees: The wages paid to your attorney for their time and services.
Costs: Additional expenses that are required to move a client’s case forward to satisfactory resolution.
With reputable law firms like Thompson Law, your case will never move forward in a manner that accrues these increases in fees and costs without your consent. Thompson Law and other similarly ethical firms take pride in completely sharing in your case’s success. We do not make a dime unless and until you do. For further details on our offerings and policies, please feel free to reach out. Our legal team is always available to answer your questions and help you.
Financial Resources Personal Injury Lawyers Offer
Understanding that the days and months after a serious personal injury accident can be expensive and tumultuous, trustworthy attorneys offer additional financial resources to their clients. Apart from operating their own law firms on contingency, there are some steps that they can take to help with the other bills and fees that result from your accident. A few examples include:
- Issue a Letter of Protection – communicating with your insurance and health providers that your claim is being handled by an attorney can help defer payments to these institutions until after disbursement.
- Payment Plan Advice – if any of your providers do require immediate payments or compensation prior to your settlement, Thompson Law can help guide you in your conversations to set up manageable payment plans.
- Assistance Understanding the Limits and Coverages of Your Insurance Policies – personal injury lawyers have extensive experience with all types of insurance plans and arrangements. Your attorney can provide important clarity about the specifics of pertinent insurance policies, and advise your best approach in navigating your options for demand.
- Settlement Disbursement Process – Thompson Law offers a seamless disbursement experience with a settlement statement itemizing all expenses related to your case. This is given to you when you receive your funds after everything is done.
Importance of Understanding Legal Fees
It is extremely important to completely understand the payment structure that your personal injury attorney is offering, including any additional fees or costs, before entering into any agreement for services. Once you are under contract, you have agreed to the terms and conditions that you signed into effect. If you are unclear or have any questions about the details of payment in amount, processing, or other rules and restrictions, please always ask for explanation. Attorneys have an ethical obligation to explain their pricing; but before signing up for legal services, you are your own number one advocate. Take care of yourself and your rights by ensuring you are clear and comfortable in the arrangement you choose.
Questions? Call 844-308-8180
Contact Thompson Law for More Information
If you have been injured in an automobile, workplace, or other type of accident and think you are eligible for a personal injury lawsuit, reach out to Thompson Law’s accident lawyers in San Antonio, Dallas, or Fort Worth right away. Our legal team is standing by 24/7/365 to take your call, answer your questions, and get to work on your case. You may be asking yourself: Can I talk to an attorney for free? When you call Thompson Law toll free at 1-800-LION-LAW, you’ll receive a free legal consultation and pay $0 in legal fees unless we win for you. And if you’re asking: How much does it cost to ask a lawyer a question? The answer is “nothing” when you call Thompson Law at (214) 444-4444 in Dallas, (817) 444-4444 in Fort Worth, or toll free at 1-800-LION-LAW. And if we cannot help you, we’ll try to find an attorney that is able to help.