Do You  Have To Pay Them Their Fees And Costs?

Do I ever have to pay my Injury Lawyer out of my pocket? Does it take the take money to start my Injury case? How much do I pay? When do I pay? What are my financial responsibilities if I hire an Injury lawyer for my case? So, the cool thing is this came up, with a lady who has a car crash case and is very nervous about hiring a lawyer and she had a million questions for me. Even though my contract is straightforward, she wanted to double and triple check, to make sure that I wasn’t going to send her an expensive bill.

Here’s the good news, I never sent anybody a bill. And I’ve been doing this about 25 years, and I have never asked the client to send me a check for anything. My point is there are two kinds of things that a lawyer is owed when he or she works on your case.

What Is An Attorney Fee?

It compensates the lawyer for the work they've done. Now, the type of fee most lawyers work in a standard way where they get a retainer. So, like a divorce lawyer or other lawyers you know, like a traffic court lawyer, criminal lawyer, divorce lawyer, contract lawyer, and most lawyers work on a contingency.

A contingency work means on a retainer they tell you, “Give me ten thousand dollars my hourly rate is 300 an hour. I'm going to work on your case and bill against the ten thousand.” And you know as it gets lower, you might have to give more money for the retainer if you owe money and you won't give more retainer money. You give me permission to withdraw as your lawyer.

That is not how injury cases work. Injury Lawyers and Worker’s Comp Lawyers work on what is called a contingency fee. Contingency fee just means they only get paid if they win.

So, the only time an injury lawyer is ever going to get paid on their case is if there's money in the case. There are exceptions if you fire a lawyer, I guess if it's in the lawyer's contract he can go to court and ask the court to pay you and make you pay him a reasonable hourly rate. I'll be honest, I've never actually heard of that happening, but I guess a lawyer could try it even though nobody does it.

The other thing is if you fire a lawyer, the lawyer contacts your new lawyer or contacts the insurance company says, “We're fired but we're maintaining a claim on the case because we worked on it and we deserve to be paid for it.” But even then, the money comes out of the settlement not out of your pocket. The idea is with as far as attorney’s fees, the only time I've ever heard of a lawyer taking an Injury case and I think there was only one of these was when it was a firm I worked at early in my career before I started my own firm. I worked at a bunch of firms for about seven or eight years, like three different places before I started my own law firm. And in one situation, there was a family with a medical malpractice case, a tough case and they wanted somebody to come in and take it to trial.

Their old attorney got into a fight with the lawyer, so he withdrew the court and did not want a grant a continuance and the case were set for trial. They wanted to pay a lawyer an hourly rate or a lump sum of money to try the case and I think they ended up finding somebody who went to trial form and lost but it might be just that that lawyer wanted the fee. I think he probably charged him ten or twenty thousand dollars to take the case to trial and he might have had a deal where he got a percentage of it. Though that's usually not how it works, the only time I've ever heard of anybody charging somebody up front for attorney's fees.

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Paying A Settlement

Secondly, you might end up having to pay a lawyer out of a settlement. A settlement is the case costs where attorney’s fees pay the lawyer for the work that they did on your case. Costs are completely different in case costs, that's like a police report is $5-10. Medical records can be $50-$100 or more per provider to get you the medical records. Filing a lawsuit is $400-$ 500. Serving the dependences, anywhere between $60-100 per defendant depending on how you have to serve them.

So, usually Injury lawyers advance case costs, that means the lawyer goes into his bank account and pays for all the costs in order to push the case forward. Then, at the end of the case, the lawyer gets paid back out of what they win for you. Just like you pay them attorney’s fees you got to pay him back the money that they advance for you, by ordering your medical records, paying for depositions, paying for the lawsuit.

Advance Case Costs

Now, when it comes to case costs if you come to a lawyer late. In the game where the lawyer doesn't have a full opportunity to investigate, a lawyer may ask you to give them money for case costs. Because you're coming to them at the at the last minute and they haven't even known they may not know whether you even have a valid case. So, the lawyer might be like, “Look, I'll spend time to look at it and evaluate it and if it's good, I'll proceed. But we need to find, send money on the case and I don't want to spend my own money on the case.” An advanced case costs for you without having any chance to investigate, maybe the lawyer doesn't want to spend a thousand dollars on a lawsuit and serving defendants in the case without having any knowledge of it.

But that the amount that they do know about the case is good enough, that makes them want to take a risk right. There are situations where a lawyer might ask you to pay them case costs up front, but this is what I'm going to tell you. The vast majority of cases, the lawyer advances the case costs and gets paid out at whatever they get you settlement or verdict. The Reader's Digest version of this is almost virtually, all the time an Injury lawyer is going to wait to get paid and only gets paid if they win your case. This means a settlement you accept or a verdict or decision at arbitration or trial.

Then to case costs, most of the time, the lawyer advances the case costs and if you lose the case, I've never gone after anyone and asked them to pay case cost back on a case that went south. 

Hire A Lawyer Whom You Can Trust

Even in situations where early in my career, a guy literally just blew me off, didn't show up for trial, so I spent like a week preparing for a jury trial, prepped them over the telephone. He swore up and down, he wanted to go to trial day and, on the trial, he was no-show afternoon. His mom said he was home, I guess he lived in the basement or something like that and he couldn't come to the phone because he didn't feel well. Well, as intentional you know, he didn't want to take the settlement money and he swore up and down. He wanted to come to trial and then he blew it off so even then, I didn't ask for case costs back or anything. I have heard of some lawyers where “Why don't lawyers put that in their contract?” So, in my contract, it says contingency fee. For attorney's fees, you know, no fee unless we win. But what about case costs? Well, my contract says you owe me case costs because I must have it in there. I can't put in there that I will just pay the case costs, that's why I say the lawyer advances case costs and legally as well as technically, you're on the hook for them.

But like I said, that's another reason why to hire a lawyer who you trust because I don't do it.  I have heard of lawyers asking for case costs if they lose a trial or if they lose a trial because the client lied or hid something or did something to really hurt the case and wouldn't take the lawyer's advice.

I've also heard of situations like that where there's a good offer on the case and the client won't take the offer. I think lawyers do that, they'll sometimes say, “Well, I want my case costs.” Look, the truth is most people don't have five or ten thousand dollars sitting around in a bank account where they can just write you a check. Usually, lawyers have to wait for the money until the case resolves or they write it off.  They write it off as a business loss, but that's how it works even though it's not in the contract that you don't have to pay the lawyer back. We can't put that in there, because otherwise we lose our right to collect the money at the end of the case.

Injury lawyers like me give a free consultation. I'm available to give you a free consultation where you tell me what happened, and I'll ask you some questions and I’ll be able to tell you whether you have a case and what the next steps are. If you have any question, give me a call 312 500 4500.

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