Many people who consider hiring a personal injury attorney after an accident may worry about how they will pay for legal services. The good news is that in most cases, they don't have to pay anything upfront. With a contingent fee agreement, the client usually does not have to pay the lawyer a penny unless they win the case. This is a way to make sure the average citizen (regardless of financial means) has full access to our legal system.
Contingent Fees for Personal Injury Attorneys
Contingency fee agreements are relatively common in personal injury cases. In a contingency fee agreement, the attorney agrees to represent the client in return for a percentage of the damages recovered for the client. This usually means that the client pays nothing up front, with the attorney advancing all fees and costs. If the attorney wins the case on behalf of their client, only then does the attorney collect a percentage of the compensation for the work the attorney has done.
For most plaintiffs, a contingency fee agreement has many benefits. A client who was injured in an accident is able to get the benefit of a professional attorney with years of experience in the field of personal injury law. Without a contingency fee agreement, the client may have to settle for the cheapest lawyer they can afford, or may not even be able to afford a lawyer at all to file a claim on their behalf.
Another benefit of this system is that it may help the client to be sure that their lawyer is really interested in their success. If an attorney was not working hard for their client, then they risk not getting paid. Although every lawyer is required to advocate on behalf of their client and do all they can to help them succeed, it may be reassuring for the client to know that the attorney only gets paid if their client wins.
Reasonable Limits on Contingency Percentages
There are limits to what a lawyer may charge for a contingency fee case. This is intended to make sure the client gets a majority of the damages recovered on their behalf. Every state and jurisdiction allow for contingency fee agreements in personal injury cases. In Washington D.C., contingency fee agreements are regulated by the Rules of Professional Conduct. Rule 1.5(c) states that a lawyer's fee in a civil matter may be contingent on the outcome of the matter for which the service is rendered.
Additionally, a contingent fee agreement shall be in writing and shall state the method by which the fee is to be determined, including the percentages involved in the event of settlement, trial, or appeal. The agreement should include other expenses to be deducted from the recovery, whether the expenses are to be deducted before or after the contingent fee is calculated, and whether the client will be liable for expenses regardless of the outcome of the matter.
A contingent fee agreement should be consistent with the best interests of the client. The Rules provide that if there is doubt whether a contingent fee is consistent with the client's best interests, the lawyer should explain any existing payment alternatives and their implications.
Upon conclusion of the case, 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.
Finding a D.C. Personal Injury Attorney to Take Your Case
Before you decide to hire a personal injury attorney, make sure you understand exactly what the contingency agreement means for you and your case. At Gilman & Bedigian, we charge you nothing up front. If you have any questions about the contingency agreement or any questions at all during the process of your personal injury claim, we will make sure you have a full understanding of what you can expect from our attorney-client relationship. We receive nothing 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 for a free consultation.