When looking for a personal injury attorney to represent you in your case you likely have found that most attorneys who practice in this area of law use contingency fees as a method of payment. A contingency fee agreement is a very common method of payment for personal injury attorneys to use. In a contingency fee agreement, an attorney agrees to represent a client in return for a percentage of any recovery the client receives. Typically, this means that the client pays nothing up front. The attorney advances all fees and costs and only collects compensation for the work the attorney has done if the client wins his or her case.
Contingency fee agreements have pros and cons. The client is able to recruit a talented and experienced attorney to take on their case. Without this arrangement, the client would be responsible for paying for all fees and costs up front or as the case progressed. This would severely limit the ability of those without substantial means to seek redress for their injuries. The contingency fee agreement was designed to give everyone equal access to the court system. In exchange for a percentage of the recovery, an attorney can represent a client not knowing if they will win the case or not. This is a risk on the part of the attorney, because if for whatever reason the case is unsuccessful, they get nothing for the work they have done.
Every state allows for contingency fee agreements in personal injury cases. In Maryland, contingency fee agreements are permitted under Rule 1.5(c) of the Maryland Lawyer's Rules of Professional Conduct. The Rule states:
Rule 1.5(c): A fee may be contingent on the outcome of the matter for which the service is rendered, except in a matter in which a contingent fee is prohibited by paragraph (d) or other law. A contingent fee agreement shall be in a writing signed by the client and shall state the method by which the fee is to be determined, including the percentage or percentages that shall accrue to the lawyer in the event of settlement, trial or appeal; litigation and other expenses to be deducted from the recovery; and whether such expenses are to be deducted before or after the contingent fee is calculated. The agreement must clearly notify the client of any expenses for which the client will be responsible whether or not the client is the prevailing party. Upon conclusion of a contingent fee matter, the lawyer shall provide the client with a written statement stating the outcome of the matter, and, if there is a recovery, showing the remittance to the client and the method of its determination.
Thus in Maryland, contingency fee agreements need to be in writing and signed by the client. It must state how the contingency fee will be calculated including what percentage fee that will be charged at the different stages of litigation. It is common for lawyers to charge at least one-third of the recovery. The fee may increase based on the complexity and risk associated with the case. For example, if the parties reach a settlement early on, then the attorney may charge a lower contingency fee. If the case makes it all the way to trial then the attorney may charge a higher percentage.
The agreement must include what costs will be deducted and if the costs will be deducted before or after the contingency fee is calculated. Costs include litigation expenses such as: depositions, filing fees, postage, medical records, and hiring expert witnesses. The agreement must also clearly notify the client of any expenses that he or she will be responsible for whether or not the outcome of the case is successful.
At the conclusion of the case, Rule 1.5(c) requires that the attorney provide a written statement detailing the outcome of the case, the recovery (if any) the client received, and how that recovery was calculated.
At Gilman & Bedigian, we charge you nothing up front. We receive nothing unless and until your case has reached a successful resolution. If you are considering filing a personal injury case please do not hesitate to call our office today.