A personal injury lawyer does not cost you anything directly. Unlike other lawyers, personal injury attorneys don’t charge by the hour or demand a flat fee. Instead, the personal injury firm only requires you to agree to grant them a percentage of any financial recovery they get for you.
What Percentage of a Financial Recovery Does a Personal Injury Lawyer Receive?
The percentage that a personal injury lawyer receives will vary from law firm to law firm and even case to case. Though you should always consider a law firm's contingency fee percentage, you may prioritize choosing the most qualified law firm.
The contingency fee is only one of several factors you should weigh when seeking a personal injury lawyer in Chicago, and you should not make it an essential factor.
Does Every Personal Injury Law Firm Offer a Contingency Fee?
Virtually every law firm uses contingency fees for personal injury cases, though there are exceptions to every rule.
You should know that:
- Personal injury firms must legally charge a reasonable fee, which protects clients from granting more money than they should to their attorneys.
- Firms determine what is reasonable based on several factors, including their investment in the case.
- If a law firm does not offer a contingency fee, many other firms will offer a contingency fee.
Feel free to ask a prospective law firm what its contingency fee is and why it charges the contingency fee that it does. You can ask these questions during your free consultation, a standard offering from personal injury firms.
Factors That May Increase a Lawyer’s Percentage Fee
Several factors may determine where a law firm sets its contingency fee.
A law firm that charges a fee near the high end of the typical contingency-fee scale may do so because:
- The firm has an impressive record of securing settlements and verdicts for clients
- The law firm expects to invest significant time and resources into the case
- The time that the client has provided for the lawyer to complete the case (if the client approaches the firm just before the statute of limitations expires, the law firm may have to resolve the case urgently and may require a higher fee)
- The law firm expects to take the case to trial
The client must review and sign the contingency fee agreement before or after the law firm begins representing the client. This agreement will include an explanation of how the law firm determines what the fair contingency fee is.
The agreement may also contain clauses that affect the value of the fee. For example, the contract may state that the law firm will receive more of the client's financial recovery if a case goes to trial. This will make sense, as trials add additional time and expenses that a law firm will deserve compensation for.
Why Do Personal Injury Lawyers Use This Contingency Fee Structure?
Personal injury lawyers use contingency fees because:
Personal Injury Clients Often Experience Financial Hardships
Many clients who hire personal injury lawyers can not afford to pay upfront or out-of-pocket for legal help. Some of these clients struggled even before they suffered the injuries or illnesses that led them to hire a lawyer.
The contingency-fee structure protects clients financially because:
- The client pays no upfront compensation
- The client does not pay the law firm out of their own pocket (under any circumstances)
- The law firm covers the cost of completing the case
This arrangement places the entire financial weight of a lawsuit or insurance claim on the law firm, not the client.
The Law Firm’s Resources Allow It to Cover Case-Related Expenses
Law firms can offer contingency fees because they have the necessary resources to complete any case.
These resources include:
- Support staff
- Financial resources to hire experts, pay for exhibits and other case-related services, and cover filing fees
- A network of experts who the law firm uses for cases like yours
Resources are one reason why personal injury clients often seek established firms. Firms with years of service and a strong reputation may have the resources necessary to build a strong case, regardless of cost. So long as a large firm commits to client service, its size can strengthen your case.
However, even smaller law firms can present strong cases on your behalf. Smaller firms may also offer unique advantages, such as the opportunity to work directly with the firm’s partners.
The Wider Range of Clients the Law Firm Can Represent When Using a Contingency Fee
When law firms offer to pay for the upfront cost of a case, they can represent virtually anyone. This includes clients who could not afford a lawyer were it not for contingency fees.
A law firm can offer its services to the greatest possible number of clients by offering a contingency fee.
Who Should Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer?
You may benefit from hiring a personal injury lawyer if:
- You lost a loved one in circumstances that qualify as a wrongful death
- You suffered injuries or illness because of someone’s negligence
An attorney can also help if a loved one has suffered severe injuries, such as paralysis, and cannot hire an attorney alone.
When Are Deaths, Injuries, and Illnesses the Result of Negligence?
You can generally pursue a lawsuit or insurance claim if someone’s negligence caused injury, illness, or a loved one’s death. Negligence happens when someone does not take reasonable precautions to protect others from harm.
Circumstances that often involve negligence and lead to lawsuits include:
- Car accidents
- Truck accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Boating accidents
- Rideshare accidents
- Scooter accidents
- Train accidents
- Plane accidents
- Slip and fall accidents
- Trip and fall accidents
- Dog attacks
- Physical assaults that occur because of negligent security
There are countless circumstances in which someone's unreasonable behavior (including overt actions and failures to act) can cause another person harm. If you face the aftermath of such circumstances, an attorney can help.
What a Personal Injury Lawyer Does for Their Client
A personal injury lawyer takes full responsibility for their client’s insurance claim or lawsuit. Your lawyer’s duties will include:
Defending Your Rights (and Your Eligibility for a Financial Recovery)
A personal injury attorney protects their client by:
- Dealing with insurers whose financial goals often go against the needs of claimants
- Helping the client craft any statements they must provide to insurers
- Managing all other case-related communications, ensuring the insurance company does not have the opportunity to use a client’s words to reduce a settlement
- Advising their client to refer anyone who contacts them about their case to the law firm
- Reviewing all settlement offers to ensure a client never accepts less than they need and deserve
Lawyers protect their clients financially, but they also protect them from a psychological and emotional standpoint, shielding the client from the stress of the case. Dealing with insurance adjusters and requests for information can be taxing, and injury victims do not have to face this process alone.
Obtaining All Useful Evidence
Personal injury lawyers work quickly to obtain case-related evidence. Certain evidence, including witness accounts and video footage, is especially time-sensitive. The quicker a lawyer secures all helpful evidence, the sooner they may establish liability and calculate damages.
Working with Qualified Experts
Personal injury attorneys often work with experts to:
- Reconstruct motor vehicle accidents
- Testify about who is liable for the client’s damages
- Testify about the cost of the client’s damages
- Project future damages
Experts can lend credibility to a case and perform services that the attorney cannot perform themselves (such as digital collision reconstruction). Your attorney may work with multiple experts in building your case, and the law firm will cover those experts’ fees.
Documenting and Calculating Your Damages
Your attorney will seek documentation for every damage you're seeking money for.
Documentation may include:
- Proof that you have missed work and lost income
- Images of your injuries (which may include X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans)
- Medical bills
- Bills for vehicle repairs, temporary transportation, and other accident-related property expenses
- Expert testimony about your pain and suffering
- Any other available documentation of your damages
The cost of a case often hinges on the severity of the victim’s injuries. Your attorney will calculate the precise value of your damages, including any damages you have yet to overcome completely.
Fighting for a Settlement
Your lawyer will represent you in settlement negotiations. They will present evidence of liability, documentation of your damages, and the calculation of your case value, then demand that liable parties pay the money you deserve.
Each attorney may have a strategy for negotiating a settlement. Every attorney should share the same goal, though, to get every penny the client is entitled to.
Taking Your Case to Court if Necessary
Though most civil cases end with a settlement, some go to court. A trial is generally only necessary if liable parties will not offer a fair settlement.
Reviewing their case results, you can gauge whether a law firm will take your case to trial. If a firm has secured many judgments (also known as verdicts) for its clients, it indicates that it will take cases to court when necessary.
Recoverable Damages Personal Injury Lawyers Seek Fair Compensation For
Injured and sick individuals often suffer many of the same kinds of damages. However, certain damages are more familiar with certain case types. For instance, motor vehicle accident victims often face the cost of repairing vehicles, while these damages do not apply to slip-and-fall accident victims.
Some of the common damages that personal injury lawyers encounter are:
- Medical expenses: Clients often need compensation to cover ambulance rides, hospitalization, emergency care, doctor appointments, medications, medical imaging, rehabilitation, and other medical services.
- Professional damages: Those who cannot work due to injury or illness often lose income, lose earning power, cannot earn bonuses or promotions, and lose progress toward their career ambitions.
- Pain and suffering: Recoverable forms of pain and suffering include depression, anxiety, injury-related pain, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), lost quality of life, sleep problems, suicidality, and other physical, psychological, and emotional problems.
Those needing help with psychological and emotional symptoms may get compensation for the treatment. You likely have damages in addition to these, and your lawyer will evaluate each of your damages.
Recoverable Damages in Wrongful Death Cases
Personal injury lawyers also represent those whose loved ones have tragically passed away.
Recoverable damages in wrongful death cases often include:
- The surviving loved ones’ pain and suffering
- The decedent’s pain and suffering
- Funeral costs
- Lost companionship
- Lost parental guidance
- Loss of the decedent’s household services
- Loss of the decedent’s income
Surviving loved ones also, in many cases, face the cost of medical treatment their loved one received before passing away.
Hire Your Personal Injury Lawyer as Soon as Possible
Personal injury lawyers generally face deadlines for filing wrongful death and personal injury cases. Give your lawyer the time they need to prepare and file your case. Find an attorney as soon as possible and let them go to work for you.