How Much Will an Attorney Cost in Your Personal Injury or Car Accident Lawsuit?

I recently talked with an accountant who works for a large hair products company. He said they recently were victims of counterfeit manufacturers making shampoo and conditioner that looked just like their company’s products. They hired a big law firm to pursue getting it stopped and recovering their lost profits from the counterfeit sales. He said it cost them millions of dollars in attorney fees.

The kicker? They were never able to collect anything from the counterfeiters or the retailers that were selling the merchandise. Obviously, it would have been better for his company if they had hired the law firm on a contingency fee basis.

After hearing his story, I told him a story I heard about a defense attorney who was more concerned with running up his billing that getting the case resolved. Here’s the story I told him:

A defense attorney, who bills hourly, loses a big jury trial. He woefully tells his law partner about all the hundreds and hundreds of hours he spent on the case. All the depositions, motions, brief writing, court hearings, not to mention the sleepless and stressful nights, and the long working weekends away from his family.

His partner replies, “Did we get paid every month on the case for our hourly billing?” “Of course,” the attorney answers. “Well,” the partner smiles, “that’s still a win in my book.”

Back to the initial question: How much will Oklahoma City personal injury attorneys cost me to pursue my personal injury case?”

When you have experienced a personal injury or have been in a car accident that has resulted in loss and/or suffering, you will often need the assistance of an attorney. An attorney can help in filing a claim against the responsible party or in defending you if someone is claiming you are responsible. You may also need legal representation in your dealings with police, the courts and insurance companies.

If you need an attorney, the first thing you probably want to know is how much it is going to cost. The good news is that if you have a claim against another party as a result of a personal injury or car accident, your consultation with us will not cost you a penny.

If we agree to take your case, we will enter a “contingency agreement” with you. “Contingency” means “conditional.” You will only pay us if we win a judgment or award or settlement on your behalf. In that case, our fee is a pre-agreed percentage of the award or settlement.

A contingency arrangement has several advantages. For one thing, many people simply could not afford to hire an attorney any other way. Large corporations and insurance companies usually have “in-house” attorneys (employees of the company) on salary, and they may also hire outside attorneys, who are usually paid on an hourly basis. Big companies can afford to pay attorney fees that way. They can also afford to pay a law firm even if they end up losing.

A contingency agreement makes it possible for an individual, even someone with limited financial means, to obtain the legal representation they need and are entitled to. It allows individuals to stand up to multimillion (and sometimes) billion dollar companies.

Also, when attorneys operate on contingency, it results in frivolous and weak claims being weeded out. Since we only earn our fee when you have a positive outcome, we examine the details of your situation carefully and give you an honest appraisal of your chances of success. If we do not believe your claim will stand up, we will refer you to another attorney so you can get a second opinion. It would be foolhardy, at best, for personal injury attorneys to pursue frivolous lawsuits. The time and money to bring a lawsuit adds up quickly.

Another advantage of contingency arrangements is that it makes you and your attorney partners, giving your attorney a strong financial incentive to work diligently to obtain the best possible outcome.

If we agree to take your case, in addition to our contingency agreement, we will have to agree how to cover the expenses of your case. Expenses include such mundane items as filing fees, copy costs and travel to more potentially expensive items, such as taking depositions and hiring investigators and expert witnesses. We generally advance the litigation costs. So, if a case goes to trial, we’re risking the time and out of pocket case expenses (often in excess of $10,000).

What percentage does an attorney receive in a successful contingency case? Contingency fees usually range from 25% to 45%. Contingency percentages are often set up on a sliding scale, for example:

• A lower percentage if a lawsuit is not necessary — in other words, if a settlement is negotiated with the responsible party or the party’s insurance company before it becomes necessary to file a legal claim.

• A higher percentage if it becomes necessary to file a lawsuit.

• A higher percentage still if it becomes necessary to try your lawsuit in a courtroom, which significantly increases the time and expenses.

Isn’t 25% to 45% of your judgment or settlement a lot? Yes, it is. However, in a contingency agreement, the attorney absorbs significant risk. Even if your attorney believes you have a good claim, he or she must convince a judge and/or jury of the same. A lawsuit can take months, sometimes even years to pursue, and if the lawsuit ultimately fails, the law office has not earned a penny for all of the labor incurred by the attorneys and paralegals. If the law office has agreed to advance case expenses, those expenditures further increase the law office’s risk.

Despite a client’s best intentions, an attorney rarely has all the facts when he or she agrees to take a case on contingency. It may not be until after investigation and discovery that an attorney learns that your claim is not as strong as it appeared at first.

When you have an illness, the fees charged by doctors and hospitals and other medical providers can be quite high. Imagine if your doctor and other providers agreed to only receive payment if you are completely healed. Those are the conditions under which a contingency attorney operates.

In Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Bar Association has guidelines governing lawyers’ fees, which are detailed here: Lawyers and Legal Fees. If you have any questions about the fees or your car accident case, contact an Oklahoma City car accident lawyer of Hasbrook & Hasbrook for a free consultation.