Although personal injury contracts — also called “retainer agreement” or “contingent fee agreements” are not standardized forms, there are certain items that you can generally expect to see in them.
What Does the Typical Personal Injury Attorney Charge?
First, the average rate that an injury attorney charges for representing a personal injury client is 1/3rd of the total recovery, plus costs, but nothing up front. What that means is that your personal injury lawyer takes no fee, unless there is some payout by the insurance company.
This is a good deal for clients in the sense that it costs them nothing to bring a personal injury case; but not such a good deal in that, once a recovery is obtained, the 1/3rd fee is a substantial bite out of the settlement. Nonetheless, attorneys will rarely charge less than a 1/3rd fee for the typical personal injury case, although there are some exceptions to this rule.
Who Covers the Injury Attorney’s Expenses?
Additionally, you should be advised that the expenses your attorney pays in prosecuting your case do come out of your 2/3rds of the recovery at the end of the case. So you are generally left with your 2/3rds less your attorney’s expenses.
This means that, from a financial standpoint, sometimes it is better to settle your case than try it, because, if the case settles before your attorney has to file suit, then your costs will be minimal — mostly the cost of obtaining medical records and any postage — about $150 – $200 or so.
Once your attorney files suit, however, your costs go up significantly. Filing fees alone can be $200 or more. Then the complaint must be served, and that costs a fee as well. Then depositions, expert witness testimony, etc. For a full-blown trial of a minor car accident case, the costs can easily be in the $5,000+ range.
It is important to remember, then, that you owe your attorney the costs he expends on your case, and the longer it takes to reach an agreement with the insurance company, the higher the costs, and the less that you may take home at the end of the day, once you repay your attorneys’ costs.
Who Pays Your Medical Bills?
Another provision in many personal injury retainer agreements regards your medical bills. These clauses generally reinforce the concept that your medical bills are your responsibility, and not your attorney’s. In bringing any accident case, the hope is, of course, that your settlement will more than cover your medical bills. But if they do not, your medical bills fall on your shoulders.
No More Settling the Case Without Your Attorney
Additionally, once you sign the retainer agreement with your attorney, you are no longer free to settle the case without him, just as he is not free to settle the case without you. Most personal injury contracts require that each of you obtain the consent of the other before settling the case.
This is because, it can happen, that an unscrupulous insurance adjuster will call you and tell you that you can make more money on your case if you settle without getting an attorney, tempting some injured parties to attempt to “cut out” their attorney.
Don’t Be Intimidated
If you have been injured in an accident, you can get a free consultation with an experienced attorney, who will go through the ins-and-outs of the personal injury contract with you and explain any clause or provision that you may not understand.