Nobody can tell you in advance exactly how much money your lawyer will make from a car accident settlement. Personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, meaning they calculate their fees based on a percentage of the amount you win. That means you can afford to hire a top-tier personal injury lawyer even if you’re dead broke. 

The Initial Consultation: Where It All Begins

Almost any personal injury lawyer will offer potential clients an initial case consultation free of charge. Free consultations are worth it for the lawyer because they might run into a valuable claim that way. It’s like fishing; you never know what might bite. It works for you, too, because you don’t need any money to talk to a lawyer and get some preliminary legal advice.

At the initial consultation, the lawyer will ask you questions and listen to your story. Their goal is to determine whether your claim is worth pursuing. That, in turn, depends on two factors: (i) how much your claim is worth and (ii) how likely you are to win. This information is, of course, just as valuable to you as it is to the lawyer. At the conclusion of the consultation, the lawyer may offer to represent you.

How the Contingency Fee System Works

In many ways, a personal injury lawyer sees the world the way an entrepreneur does. In fact, you could say that a personal injury lawyer is a legal entrepreneur. Under the contingency fee system, your lawyer calculates the amount of your legal fees as a percentage of the total amount you win. “Winning” means receiving monetary damages either as a result of a courtroom verdict (less likely) or an out-of-court settlement (more likely).

The applicable percentage is typically somewhere between 33 and 40 percent. If it is 33 ⅓%, and you win $270,000, then $90,000 of that amount goes to your lawyer as a contingency fee. That might sound like a lot, but the amount you get to take home could still add up to a lot more than the amount you would have taken home if you had decided to represent yourself.

What Happens if You Lose

“Losing” a case means walking away without a dime. The opposing party might refuse to settle, for example, and you might decide your claim isn’t worth taking to court. Alternatively, you might lose at trial. 

Either way, the contingency fee applies to losing as well as winning. No matter what percentage you agreed to give your lawyer, any percentage of zero is still zero. If you lose your case, your legal fees will be precisely $0.00. 

Case Expenses: Where Your Lawyer Could End Up in the Hole

“Case expenses” are out-of-pocket amounts provided to third parties as expenses arising from your claim. They might include, for example:

  • Document fees (for medical records, for example);
  • Court fees;
  • Expert witness fees;
  • Investigation expenses; and
  • Travel expenses related to your representation.

Most lawyers will handle your case expenses upfront, so you don’t need to pay them unless you win. If you win, however, your lawyer will take these expenses out of your recovery, just as they do legal fees. 

Factors That Influence the Amount of Your Contingency Fee

Your lawyer will take many factors into consideration when determining how much to charge you as a contingency fee, including:

The Strength of Your Claim

How likely are you to win your claim? Even a 100% contingency fee won’t do your lawyer any good if they lose your claim. Of course, a personal injury lawyer is not likely to take a weak claim. Read more about why wont an attorney take your case.

Nevertheless, even among strong claims, some claims are stronger than others. It is the strongest claims that justify the lowest contingency fee because a strong claim minimizes your lawyer’s risk. 

The Probable Value of Your Claim 

As an example, 40% of $100,000 is $40,000. As another example, 35% of $1 million is $350,000. Which case would you take? The higher the value of your claim, the lower the contingency fee your lawyer is likely to settle for.

The Amount of Your Likely Case Expenses 

The higher your case expenses, the more your lawyer stands to lose if you don’t win any compensation. Therefore the higher your case expenses, the higher your contingency fee is likely to be.

Whether Your Case Is Likely To Go to Trial

Most of the time, you are hoping for a settlement. Nevertheless, you might have to take your claim to trial – and trials are a lot of work. The more likely your case is to go to trial, the more your lawyer is going to want to charge you as a contingency fee. On the other hand, they might offer you a conditional deal – for example, 33% if the case settles, but 40% if it goes to trial.

The Complexity of Your Case

Medical malpractice claims and product liability claims tend to be scientifically complex. If your case is complex for any reason, that complexity adds to the time it is likely to resolve it. Since time is money, that means upward pressure on the amount of the contingency fee.

Do You Need a Texas Personal Injury Lawyer?

Realistically, you might not need a lawyer to handle a small claim such as a fender bender. The more your case is worth, however, the harder it will be to win. Defendants and insurance companies might readily agree to pay a small claim. But they will fight hard to avoid paying a large claim. Hiring an experienced Texas personal injury lawyer has the potential to multiply the amount of compensation you win.

There is one aspect of the contingency fee system you would do well to remember. You have to win for either of you to make any money. And the more money you make, the more money your lawyer makes. That puts you and your lawyer on the same side.

Contact a Houston Car Accident Lawyer to Help You With Your Claim

For more information, contact the Houston personal injury law firm of Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers by calling (713) 500-5000

Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers

3120 Southwest Freeway, Suite 350
Houston, TX 77098
United States

Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers – East Fwy

11811 East Fwy, Suite 630-06
Houston, TX 77029
United States

Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers – South Loop

2600 S Loop W, Suite 293
Houston, TX 77054
United States