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How Do Personal Injury Lawyers Get Paid?

Many accident victims worry about how they will be able to afford a lawyer after a serious injury. Paying for care and medical treatment by itself can be quite expensive, especially if you have to miss work after your accident — or worse, are no longer able to perform your job duties at all. That’s not to mention that there may be other incidental expenses associated with your injury: hiring caregivers, paying for household services, and so forth.

Adding the expense of a lawyer to all of these costs can be intimidating, to say the least. Fortunately, a good personal accident lawyer will be able to help you find ways to alleviate some of the financial stress of an accident, starting with the way they structure their fees. Understanding how personal injury accident lawyers get paid is a key step in the process of finding a qualified attorney. 

At FVF, we think all victims deserve to be educated about their legal options, regardless of whether they have engaged us to represent them. As part of our commitment to that value, we’ve created this guide to personal injury payments so you can find the best lawyer for your case.

Different Types of Attorney Fee Structures

There are several ways attorneys may structure fees for clients. Typically, fee structure depends on the type of attorney you’re hiring and the type of case you have. How attorneys present their fees can provide some insight into whether they think your case will settle in your favor, among other things. It can also tell you something about the firm’s reputation as a whole. 

In general, however, these are the most common ways lawyers structure fees:

  • Contingency. This is the standard for plaintiffs in personal injury cases, and this is how FVF Law structures its fees. In a contingency fee agreement, your lawyer agrees to accept payment contingent on the success of your case. Essentially, this means that they only get paid if the case resolves in your favor, and that they agree to delay payment for their fees until you receive your settlement. Furthermore, the lawyer will be paid a pre-agreed percentage of the total recovery, so there will not be any surprises at the end for inflated attorney fee bills. The specific percentage can vary depending on the specifics of your case. 
  • Retainer. Under this payment structure, the client pays the lawyer a lump sum of money before the attorney begins work on their case. The lawyer withdraws fees from this payment until the retainer has ended. Most personal injury lawyers do not work under a retainer arrangement, and FVF Law will never ask for any money up front.
  • Per hour. When an attorney charges per hour, they will provide an hourly rate and charge the client for whatever time they spend on the case. This payment structure is not recommended for most victims in personal injury cases. A lawyer who presents a per-hour fee for your case either may believe you are not likely to obtain a settlement or may be untrustworthy, unskilled, or both. FVF Law does not charge an hourly rate.

Look for a Lawyer Who Takes Payments on a Contingency Basis

The bottom line is that when trying to find a personal accident lawyer, you should look for one who will agree to represent you under a contingency fee agreement. This payment structure is in your best interest financially, as it means you do not have to worry about paying your lawyer unless you receive a recovery — and that you’ll be able to defer payments to your lawyer until your settlement payment arrives.

Hiring a lawyer on contingency also incentivizes the attorney to devote the time and effort necessary to create a strong legal strategy for your case. It also serves as a vote of confidence in your case for compensation: lawyers who accept payment on contingency typically only take on cases they feel are likely to resolve in their client’s favor. When you hire a personal accident lawyer on a contingency basis, it indicates that your lawyer believes you have a strong case — strong enough that they are willing to stake their own earnings on it.

Your Lawyer Should Not Charge for Initial Consultations

If you are currently looking for an accident attorney, you should be wary of any lawyer who wants to charge you for an initial consultation. Reputable lawyers will offer a free case consultation so you can both decide if the relationship is a good fit before you sign a contract.

Whether or not a lawyer charges a fee for consultation can be indicative of their skills and/or available resources to handle your case effectively. An attorney who is willing to advise you without charging a consultation fee demonstrates a measure of confidence in their abilities — in other words, they don’t need to insist on payment up front because they are worried that clients won’t hire them. A free consultation policy also illustrates that a firm has adequate resources available to devote the necessary time to your case. A lawyer who requests payment up front likely has little experience handling personal injury cases, and should be scrutinized for their qualifications to handle your case.

There May Be Additional Costs Associated with Your Case

If you have engaged your lawyer on a contingency basis, your attorney will deduct the fee for their services from your settlement or award. However, there may be other costs associated with your case as well. These are typically deducted from your settlement along with your lawyer’s fees, but they do not go directly to your lawyer. 

Instead they’re used to cover costs the law firm advanced on your behalf in order to properly handle your case. For example, if it becomes necessary to hire an expert to prove a part of your case, such as likely future medical costs or a life care plan, your lawyer should advance those costs on your behalf and recover them upon a successful resolution of your case. Your lawyer should discuss these larger costs with you during the case so you understand how that money is being spent. In addition, you may be required to pay medical costs, such as hospital bills, out of your recovery. An experienced personal injury lawyer will know how to negotiate these bills to save you money on those expenses. When speaking with your attorney for the first time, you’ll want to discuss these kinds of costs and how they are handled.

We hope this information will be useful to you as you decide how to proceed with your case. For more detailed advice, please contact us today to schedule your free consultation with one of our expert personal injury accident lawyers. We’ll help you understand your options — financial and otherwise — and offer guidance on how to move forward.



Fogelman & Von Flatern is a personal injury law firm that believes it matters why we practice law: to make sure good people in unfair circumstances who want reasonable options are taken seriously, especially by their attorney. We value transparency, compassion, and justice, and we strive to embody that in our practice. At FVF, you can trust that you've got the best people on your case, for the right reasons.

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