If you plan on filing a personal injury claim, it's pertinent to hire a personal injury attorney instead of going at it alone. Without an attorney, your chances of winning the case or getting the other party to settle will significantly diminish. Most personal injury attorneys charge a contingency fee, which is usually one-third of the total compensation that you are awarded. The terms and conditions of the contingency fee plan are negotiable. Here are 3 things you should discuss with the attorney.
Whether There Will Be a Different Payment Scheme for One-Time Payouts or Structured Settlements
In the event that you win the case, you have the ability to negotiate how the payments will be made. You usually have two options to choose from: a one-time payment or multiple payments paid out through a structured settlement. Both payments plans have their own unique benefits. A one-time payment plan will give you access to all of your funds with no restrictions whereas a structured settlement will usually prevent you from spending all your money in one go.
Discuss how the contingency fee will be paid out if you choose each payment plan. In most cases, if you choose a one-time payment, the total payment will be subtracted immediately. However, if you choose a structured settlement, you might be responsible for paying the entire contingency fee even if you don't have access to all of the funds. Discuss whether different payment schemes are offered and how the fee will be deducted.
Whether the Contingency Fee Will Cover Costs of Filing the Case, Expert Testimonies, and More
Defining what the contingency fee includes is also of utmost importance. While some personal injury attorneys might charge a bit more, their fee might include a wide range of services. At the very least, the contingency fee will include the hours that the personal injury attorney put into the case. You also want to consider whether the fee includes the cost of filing all of the legal documents, the hourly rates of any expert witnesses that were consulted with, and any other miscellaneous expenses that were incurred, since these are usually a separate cost to the attorney fees.
Make sure that the contingency fee contract clearly specifies what is included and what will come out of your own pockets after the case has been settled.
Whether a Tiered System Is Offered Based on Length of Case, Amount of Compensation Awarded, and More
The percentage requested by the personal injury attorney for their contingency fee is not set in stone. Many attorneys offer some flexibility to the percentage that they'll charge based on the amount of work that they put in or will need to put in. For example, some personal injury attorneys might be willing to take a reduced percentage in the event that the case is settled before a certain time. This means that you'll get to pocket more of the settlement.
Other factors to consider is the amount of compensation that you might be awarded. Some personal injury attorneys might charge a higher percentage if the compensation awarded falls below a certain amount. Otherwise, taking the case might not be profitable or worth it to them. On the other hand, they might also be willing to take a reduced percentage in the event that you are awarded much more compensation than expected.
Understanding how the contingency fee plan works and whether there are any terms and clauses that you can customize and change can make a huge difference to your case. Before you decide to sign with a personal injury attorney, confirm that you fully understand how you will be charged should you either win or lose the case. Negotiate and discuss all terms first before diving into the case.