While personal injury verdicts make headlines, almost nothing is ever said about their settlements. Which begs the question, how much of my injury settlement does my lawyer get? Most personal injury lawyers in Georgia often work on contingency and get between 33% and 40% of the settlement amount.
As a result, personal injury settlements are not as high as their verdicts. Since most personal injury cases are resolved through settlement, you should know what to expect. This guide will help you understand the amount your attorney is likely to deduct from your settlement money.
Get to know some of the common lawyer fee structures and how they can affect your settlement.
Commonly Used Personal Injury Fee Structures
On average, 95 percent of civil cases reach a settlement at some point, rather than going to trial. Once settled, your Georgia personal injury lawyer expects to be paid. To this end, most law firms use similar fee structures—collecting a predetermined percentage-based fee.
In other cases, the cost to hire an Atlanta personal injury attorney may include a retainer and an hourly fee. Such cases include the ones that involve overseeing the creation of a living trust or will, as well as the ones that require a legal defense.
These are some of the fee structures you are likely to encounter when you seek legal representation in a personal injury settlement case:
Contingency Fee Structure
In this percentage-based fee structure, your attorney will collect a percentage (usually 33% to 40%) of the compensation money at the end of the case. The fact that you are not required to pay anything upfront makes contingency cases a high-risk endeavor by the lawyer.
If you find the fee to be high, you can try to negotiate with your attorney for a reduced contingency percentage. For instance, your lawyer may be willing to accept a lower percentage, if you have already investigated your case and have the relevant documents to support the claim.
The “Sliding-Scale Option
This is still a contingency fee structure, but one that takes into account the far your case has gone before settlement. For example, a lawyer may charge 25% of the settlement amount if the case was settled after a simple negotiation with the insurance adjuster.
Similarly, the percentage will be as high as 40% if the case goes to trial. In yet other cases, the sliding-scale contingency fee is based on the complexity of the case. In this regard, your attorney will charge you a higher percentage for the particularly complicated personal injury claim cases
Alternative Legal Fee Arrangements
Some Atlanta personal injury lawyers use alternative fee arrangements to bill for their services, including:
- Hourly Fees – The lawyer will charge you a per-hour rate, which varies from one law firm to another. Just to be safe, ask your attorney the much time your case is likely to take from the beginning to the end
- Fixed/ Flat Fees – The attorney charges you a specific amount of money. This fee structure is often used for routine legal matters such as uncontested divorce or a simple will
- Retainer Fee – lawyers who charge hourly fees may also require you to put a down payment for their services—referred to as a retainer fee. Thereafter, legal fees for the case will be subtracted from the retainer until the amount is used up.
Additional Costs and Expenses in a Personal Injury Case
Throughout the case, your lawyer will also cover routine expenses and costs as they arise. This amount is then deducted from your share of the settlement money at the end of the case. Additional expenses and costs you may come across during a personal injury case include:
- Expert witness charges
- Postage costs
- Copying costs for the required documents, such as police reports and medical records
- Court filing fees
- Deposition-related costs
- Payments made to investigators
- Trial exhibits
Such costs and expenses have been known to add up to thousands of dollars. The amount is normally between 45% and 60% of the settlement, or even more. Assuming that your personal injury case settles for $50,000, expect to pay your attorney about $10,000 for costs and expenses.
The contingency percent is then deducted from the balance of $40,000. So, How much do lawyers take from settlements in Georgia? In the above case, your lawyer will first deduct $10,000 to cover costs and expenses.
They will then deduct their contingency fee of 33% from your balance, leaving you with $26,800.
Note: Some Georgia personal injury lawyers may deduct their contingency fee first and then subtract the costs and expenses later. By doing so, they end up deducting more money from your settlement than they should.
To avoid this, ensure that your fee agreement stipulates that the costs and expenses will be deducted before the contingency fee.
Who Covers the Costs if You Lose the Case?
Your agreement with a personal injury attorney should be clear on who will foot the costs if your claim is denied. It should also be clear what is to be done if the awarded settlement is less than the lawyer’s fees and costs.
These are some of the options that could apply in such an eventuality:
- The lawyer consents to split the costs with you
- The lawyer consents not to charge you anything if you don’t get any settlement
- You agree to reimburse the attorney for the expenses and costs they incurred
Can I Get the Other Party to Cover My Lawyer Fees?
Whether you win or lose a personal injury claim case, you pay for your lawyer—it does not matter the state you are in. The only time you can get the other party to pay your attorney fees in the US is when:
- A statute specifically requires the losing party to lawyer fees
- The court imposes lawyer’s fees on the other party in the interest of fairness and justice
- There is a contract term that calls for the payment of attorney fees
It is highly advisable to have a personal injury lawyer present throughout your settlement negotiations. As a matter of fact, 9 out of every 10 cases handled by a personal injury attorney were settled.
The experience and perspective of your Atlanta personal injury attorney can make a huge difference in your case. However, legal representation in such matters does not come cheap. As you have learned throughout this guide, lawyers can deduct up to 40% of your settlement money.
Get in touch with our proven personal injury attorneys to learn more about lawyer fees and mount a winning case.