When you hire most lawyers you have to have a large retainer in hand. You have to pay a high hourly rate, and there’s no way for you to know how many hours your case will ultimately take but you can know how do personal injury lawyers get paid?
Personal injury lawyers get paid very differently.
For starters, you won’t need a retainer. The lawyer decides to take the case based on their personal interest in the case, the strength of the case, and the likely financial gain for all parties.
That’s why a lawyer probably won’t take your personal injury claim if it’s a routine $5000 claim that is likely to get resolved without much comment or difficulty from the insurance company. Many minor car accidents fall into this category.
If you and the lawyer decide you want to work together, you’ll sign a retainer agreement. This will include the lawyer’s fee schedule.
Personal injury lawyers work on contingency, so the agreement will outline the percentage of the final award that your lawyer will be able to take. It should also inform you that you will have to pay for witnesses and investigation costs out of that award, and that’s in addition to lawyer’s fees.
The Alberta Law Society doesn’t cap those fees. According to the ethical guidelines that bind us all, “the fee structure can be based on factors such as the likelihood of success, the nature and complexity of the matter, the expense and risk of pursuing the claim, and the amount of the expected recovery.”
The market does help determine percentages. Right now in Alberta, it’s common to see anything from 30% to 45%.
That sounds high, but you’re still going to come out ahead.
First, there’s your likelihood of getting paid at all. According to a Lawyers.com study, only 67% of the people who represent themselves in personal injury claims get paid, compared to 81% of the people who get lawyers.
Amounts are significantly higher as well. The average payout for victims without representation was just $17,600. The average payout for victims with representation is $77,600.
These numbers might seem low. Remember, headlines usually lead in with awards for extremely severe accidents. If asked to trade places, most people would prefer being less injured to having life-altering injuries and higher personal injury payouts.
Even after you pay your lawyer’s fees, you come out ahead in this equation. If you win a $77,600 payout and your lawyer takes 45%, the highest likely amount, you’re still walking away with $34,920. That’s a lot more than $17,600.
Since the actual amount you win will be based in part on your actual medical bills the amount you ultimately take home should be more than enough to cover the costs. And once you get a check you shouldn’t have to pay anyone: your lawyer takes care of paying claims on your personal injury money before returning the final amount to you.
So if you have $20,000 worth of medical bills, the lawyer will pay those, then return the $24000 check to you. You’re free of medical debt and have a little money to cover the weeks you were out of work, healing in the hospital.
This is just an example of course. Your award amount may be higher or lower because your specific losses may be different.
You should also be careful about making the contingency fee the only criteria for hiring a lawyer. A lower contingency fee could mean a greener lawyer who is less capable of getting you the outcome you deserve. Look at how well the lawyer answers your questions, how comfortable you are with the lawyer, and what the lawyer’s overall track record looks like.
Want to get the process started with us? Call (403) 272-8787 to schedule a consultation today.