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Personal Injury Attorney Fees

If you have been injured in a car accident where you were not at fault, you might consider hiring a lawyer. Personal injury attorneys work to make sure their clients get fair and reasonable insurance settlements.

Lawyer's fees can be confusing. Understanding a few of the fees that you might face will help you budget and also avoid confusion when it comes time to make your payments.

Types of Fees

To avoid any surprises when paying your lawyer's fees, find out how they work as soon as possible. The American Bar Association recommends that personal injury lawyers explain their fees in writing as soon as possible after taking on your case. In some states, the bar requires attorneys to do so before taking your case.

Three common types of personal injury attorney fees are the following.

  • Contingency.
  • Retainer.
  • Hourly.


The majority of personal injury attorneys accept cases on a contingency fee basis.

With a contingency fee plan, if you win your case, your attorney takes a percentage of the settlement amount from the auto insurance company.

This amount varies by state and individual attorney, but it often ranges from 33% to 40% of the settlement amount. The contingency fee should be consistent with the amount of work that the personal injury lawyer needs to put into the case.

Although you only pay the contingency fee if your attorney wins the case, you are still liable for additional fees. (See “Typical Expenses in a Personal Injury Case" below.)

During your initial consultation with a personal injury attorney, be sure to inquire about all related fees and potential expenses.


A retainer agreement is the written financial agreement between client and attorney that lays out the fee required to retain the services of the attorney. This fee is paid upfront.

In addition to contingency, court, and case filing fees, inquire about retainer fees during your initial consultation.

The details of retainer agreements vary, but an agreement will typically contain the following information:

  • Attorney-provided services.
  • Corresponding client actions.
  • Explanation of fees and expenses.
  • Payment schedule.
  • Process of dissolving the professional relationship if it is inharmonious.


Hourly fees can quickly add up. Before you agree to pay an attorney on an hourly basis, ask for an estimate of the total time the attorney expects to spend on the case.

NOTE: A personal injury lawyer who works quickly and charges a higher hourly rate may end up charging you less overall than a lawyer who charges less per hour but takes longer.

Typical Expenses in a Personal Injury Case

There are many expenses that come up as your lawsuit proceeds. You'll pay the fees as they arise, or the lawyer will take the fees out of your share of the settlement.

These are some of the fees that can occur during the suit.

  • Expert witness fees.
  • Postage.
  • Filing fees.
  • The cost to hire investigators.
  • Obtaining and preparing medical records and police reports.
  • Exhibits for trials.

Tips for Negotiating Personal Injury Fees

Hiring a personal injury lawyer can be expensive, but you can try to lower the costs. See the following strategies for negotiating lower fees.

  • Compile your own documents and ask the lawyer to lower the contingency percent. He may be willing to lower your fees if a substantial amount of work is completed before he starts.
  • Ask to pay a lower contingency fee if your case is settled out of court, since your attorney needs to do far less work for a settlement than when preparing for a trial.
  • Ask to pay a lower contingency fee if your settlement is below a certain amount of money, such as $10,000 or $20,000.
  • Ask the lawyer to work hourly until you reach a certain limit and then switch to a contingency plan.
  • Pay on an hourly basis to start and switch to a contingency plan if the offer for compensation from your car insurance company is too low.
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