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I've Suffered a Serious Injury, But I Can't Afford a Lawyer

by Mark S. Schuver, Shareholder

Many people suffer serious personal injuries and damages due to the fault of another party, but fail to seek compensation because they can’t afford the high price of a personal injury attorney. Attorneys often charge hourly rates of $300, $400, $500 per hour, or more! Unless you’re Bill Gates, you may not be able to afford to hire an attorney to pursue your rights.

However, there is a solution. In certain types of cases where your personal injuries entitle you to receive money damages, you may be able to hire an attorney on a “contingency fee” basis. In a contingent fee arrangement, the lawyer agrees to accept a fixed percentage of the amount that the attorney recovers for you in the case. You do not typically pay the attorney for their time. If you lose and receive nothing, then the attorney also loses and receives nothing for their legal services. If you win, then the attorney receives a percentage of the recovery.

Here is an example: You’ve been injured in an auto accident, but can’t afford to pay an attorney his hourly rate. In a simple personal injury claim, a common contingent fee is one-third (33 1/3%) of the total recovery. In other words, if you receive $100,000, then the attorney will be paid $33,333.33, and you will receive the remaining $66,666.67, subject to any other deductions that may apply to your case.

There are many advantages to a contingent fee agreement. Even in the simplest personal injury or worker’s compensation cases, your attorney may be required to spend many long hours working on the case. If you were charged an hourly fee, you would typically receive a monthly bill for those services, and you would be required to pay that bill promptly, before you have received any financial recovery in the case. Based on the hourly rates that attorneys typically charge for their services, a single monthly bill could easily run into the thousands of dollars. A contingent fee arrangement avoids those large legal bills while you are waiting to receive a recovery.

Another advantage to a contingent fee arrangement is that the attorney shares in the risk of the loss. If you lose and receive nothing, then the attorney also loses and receives nothing for his/her services.

Perhaps the most important, and often overlooked, advantage to a contingent fee agreement is that it provides an incentive for the attorney to maximize the amount of money that he/she recovers for you. Since the attorney receives a percentage of the total recovery, the more money that they win for you, the more money the attorney will be paid. A contingent fee is often a good way to ensure that your attorney will be highly motivated to work hard to get as much for you as they can.

Contingent fee agreements are not possible in every case. They are most common in personal injury and worker’s compensation cases, such as product liability cases, auto and truck accident cases, slip and falls, and other types of personal injury claims. They are also common in certain types of employment cases, such as retaliatory and wrongful discharge cases, discrimination cases, whistleblowing, etc. Contingent fee arrangements may also be available in other types of cases where there is a potential to recover significant money damages. On the other hand, the law prohibits contingent fee agreements in certain types of cases, such as family law matters.

Mark Schuver and the Litigation Team at Mathis, Marifian & Richter, Ltd., often accept cases on a contingent fee basis. Mark Schuver is a shareholder with MM&R who has 30+ years of experience in personal injury, employment law, product liability, auto and truck accident cases and other types of civil litigation. If you would like to speak to Mark about your claim and a contingent fee arrangement, you should call him to set up a free consultation.

Professional Services Disclaimer: Please note that the information presented here is as an educational service, and while it contains information about legal issues, it is not legal advice. No warranty is made regarding the applicability of the information presented to a particular client situation, and the information set forth is not a substitute for original legal research, analysis and drafting for a particular client situation.

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