Are you worried that if you hire an injury lawyer, between the medical bills and the lawyer’s fee, there will be nothing left? If so, you are in good company. The short answer is to ask the lawyer up front in the meeting how they see the case working out, including what portion would go to you. If your medical care is already done when you have this conversation, then the lawyer should be able to make a very accurate estimate.
In Athens, Georgia, attorneys handling injury cases charge their clients on a “contingency fee basis.” In other words, the lawyer earns a direct percentage of the settlement he or she succeeds in negotiating.
33.33% is the typical pre-suit charge, and it normally rises to 40% if a lawsuit has to be filed. That increase occurs when the suit is filed, not just when it reaches trial, which can occur up to two years later in some counties.
Here is an example: if you received a settlement of $10,000, then your lawyer would receive 33.33% of that amount before litigation ($3,333.33). If you settled instead for $100,000, then your lawyer would collect $33,333.33, etc.
Although the lawyer’s fee might seem like a large sum, keep in mind that it is nearly impossible to negotiate a settlement above $10,000 without hiring a lawyer. Once you find the right lawyer, paying for legal advice is a sound investment.
It is also important to remember that you are responsible for paying other case expenses in addition to the lawyer’s share. If the case is settled without going into litigation, the main expense is usually a medical fee for producing your records and typically stays below $500. In an actual lawsuit, however, your case can become expensive very quickly, due to fees for court reporters, expert witnesses, filing your case, and exhibiting evidence. To prevent unpleasant surprises when you are presented the bill, I highly suggest that you arrange for your lawyer to notify you when expenses reach a particular level.
You always need to read your contract carefully and ask any questions you have as early as possible since many TV lawyers in Clarke County take advantage of their clients by charging a higher percentage of the settlement, adding “investigator fees” to the client’s bill, and charging for mileage and interest. If your lawyer wants to charge you 40% pre-suit on a non-medical malpractice case, run!
BIG WARNING: If the lawyer does not give you a copy of the contract when you hire or when you ask for it, FIRE THEM ASAP.
Finally, I want to remind you that the lawyer’s fee is always based on the settlement’s gross amount. After this agreed-upon percentage is collected, the client uses the remaining amount to pay for medical bills, health insurance reimbursement, and other expenses.