One of the first questions asked by most personal injury victims is how much a lawyer will cost them. Most personal injury lawyers charge for their services through either contingency fees or hourly fees. There is no legal rule that requires lawyers to charge for personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis, but it is the most common method used in accident injury cases. Most people prefer this system, because after suffering an injury, they usually cannot afford to pay hourly attorneys fees. It gives those with limited means a way to access the justice system.
It also provides added incentive for the law firm, because they share the risk of loss. If you win your case, your attorney’s fees are deducted from the money awarded to you. If there is no compensation awarded, whether as the result of a settlement or a court judgment, the attorney receives no payment, and you will not be required to pay the attorney for his or her legal services.
How Does a Contingency Fee Agreement Work?
Contingency fee agreements are commonly used in personal injury cases. Attorneys who handle lawsuits on a contingency fee basis often offer a free initial consultation. However, before you meet with an attorney for the first time, you should ask if he or she will charge for the consultation. During this consultation, the attorney will evaluate your case to determine your eligibility for compensation. This consultation is also your opportunity to ask questions and make sure that the attorney is best suited for your legal needs.
Under a contingency fee agreement, the attorney receives a portion of the total settlement. The recovery amount determines the amount of the fee. In Nevada, an agreement between the attorney and client governs attorneys fees.
A contingent retainer agreement in Nevada has to be written and signed. The fee agreement sets forth the percentage of the attorney fee. It also clarifies how expenses are handled. They may be deducted before or after the contingency fee is calculated. The agreement must also state whether the client is responsible for expenses, regardless of the outcome of the case. On average, contingency attorney’s fees vary from 33.5 percent to 40 percent, depending on the case and the experience of the attorney.
After the trial is concluded, or after the parties settle, the contingency fee is paid out of the damages received.
What if the Attorney Charges an Hourly Rate?
Hourly rates are rare in personal injury cases; however, in some cases, lawyers prefer an hourly fee structure. Some legal claims have limits on damages, in which case an attorney may not wish to accept a case on a contingency fee basis. However, if a personal injury attorney charges on an hourly basis, he or she is required to charge a reasonable rate.
The Nevada Rules of Professional Conduct set forth the key factors in determining whether an attorney’s fee is reasonable. The hourly rate must indicate the time and effort involved, the complexity of the legal issues, and the skills necessary to handle the case. It should also reflect the reasonable and customary charges in the area where the services are rendered, the amount of damages sought, and the experience and reputation of the lawyer.
You should consider the positive and negative aspects of both types of fee agreements. You may wish to speak with other lawyers to learn about their fees and try to determine approximately how many hours of work the attorney expects to put in on your case. Also, consider whether you are financially able to pay an hourly rate.
What Are Costs?
Many people confuse costs and fees. In legal matters, costs refer to the expenses paid by the lawyer’s office in the course of pursuing a personal injury lawsuit. They are expenses necessary for your case to proceed through the legal system. They are separate from the fees paid to your attorney; there are many costs associated with a personal injury lawsuit. For example, there are fees for filing and serving a lawsuit. As the case proceeds, the attorney often must pay to copy mountains of medical records, hire experts, and conduct depositions. Common costs in a personal injury case include the following:
- Court costs
- Expert witness fees
- Administrative expenses
- Deposition costs
- Costs of investigation and information gathering
The amount of money that you’re eligible to recover may be less than you anticipated. It will depend on the expenses you have incurred and the percentage you have agreed to pay to your attorney. Before signing a fee agreement, ask whether you will have to pay some of these costs upfront, on an ongoing basis, or if your lawyer will deduct them from your monetary award.
In some cases, settlements may be subject to liens filed by medical providers. If that is the case, your attorney will have to pay the lien before distributing the proceeds to the victim. These are some of the financial issues that you should discuss with your attorney.
Get Your Fee Agreement in Writing
Most lawyers understand the need to put any fee agreement in writing. This protects both you and your lawyer in case there is a misunderstanding or dispute about fees and expenses. The agreement should be signed and dated. Before signing an agreement, you should read it carefully. If the attorney uses a standard form, make sure it addresses any special arrangements you may have made. The agreement should also discuss costs. Make sure you understand everything in the agreement, ask any questions you may have, and keep a copy for your records.
There are strict time limits for filing lawsuits in Nevada. Therefore, if you or someone you love has sustained an injury, you need to speak with a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. For further information, schedule an appointment with a personal injury attorney who offers free consultations.