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Contingent Fees in Injury Cases

What is called the “poor man’s keys to the courthouse”? The contingent fee system. In other countries, attorneys are paid directly by the client/litigant in the form of hourly compensation. In contrast, in the United States, in personal injury actions, a client is allowed to pursue a case where the attorney will only be paid if there is a recovery. Under this system, people who might otherwise be unable to pursue a rightful claim can do so without fear that they will face a large bill at the conclusion of the case. The first part of the contingent fee system to understand is the percentage of the recovery. This is usually 33.3% of the gross award/settlement. The client pays on a contingent fee basis, rather than an hourly basis. One of the system’s benefits is that the client can call the attorney without worrying that the bill will increase.

The second component of the contingent fee system is the way the expenses are paid. As I have stated in several previous blogs, any properly prepared civil case will incur some expenses. These expenses are expert witness fees (such as doctors, engineers, and accident reconstructionists, among others), and also court costs (such as the costs of transcripts of depositions). The Supreme Judicial Court recently added a provision to the contingent fee agreement which explicitly allows for an arrangement between client and lawyer in which the client is not responsible for out-of-pocket costs and expenses even in the event of no recovery. At Feinberg & Alban PC, this has always been our policy. In the very few instances where there is not a recovery for the client, we will not ask for these out-of-pocket expenses. Regardless of who is representing you, you would be wise to select this provision.

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