Attorneys are paid for their legal services through an hourly fee, flat rate, or contingency fee basis. A contingency fee arrangement means you do not pay attorneys’ fees unless the lawyer recovers money for your personal injury case.
Why Do Personal Injury Lawyers Use a Contingency Fee Agreement?
Personal injury lawyers accept most personal injury cases on a contingency basis.
A contingent fee basis allows injured victims to hire a law firm regardless of their financial situation. Therefore, they can still have legal representation if they cannot afford to pay a lawyer because of the financial strain caused by an accident or other personal injury.
Lawyers who work on a contingency fee basis do not receive any attorneys’ fees unless they win the case. Their fee is directly tied to the amount of money they recover for your injury claim. Therefore, they diligently work to maximize the value of your personal injury case, which benefits you.
Florida’s Rules for Contingency Fee Arrangements
Rule 1.5 of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct states that lawyers cannot collect unreasonable amounts for attorneys’ fees. Factors to consider when determining whether a fee is reasonable include:
- The difficulty of the case, the time required, and the skills necessary to perform the legal service properly
- The type of case and the parties involved in the case
- The average fees charged by other law firms in the area
- The results obtained and the amount involved
- The length and nature of the attorney-client relationship
- The lawyer’s reputation, experience, and abilities
- Whether the case settles before going to trial
In addition to following the ABA’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct, lawyers must also follow the rules for contingency fees in the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct. Those rules include:
- Contingency fee agreements must be in writing
- The lawyer must ensure that the client has read and signed the Client’s Rights agreement
- The agreement must state the specific percentages charged by the lawyer
- The percentage of the contingency fee is subject to negotiation by the client and the attorney
- The contingency agreement must state the client will not owe any attorneys’ fees if the client cancels the agreement within three business days
An attorney may charge a contingency fee for any type of personal injury case. However, contingency fees are not permitted in criminal law cases. In addition, family law attorneys may not charge a contingency fee if the fee is contingent upon the client obtaining a divorce or a specific amount for alimony, child support, or property settlement.
How Much Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Charge for a Contingency Fee?
Florida limits the amount a personal injury attorney can charge for a contingency fee. The percentage is based on the amount recovered and when the case is resolved.
For example, if your lawyer settles your case before the other party demands an arbitrator or files a response to a lawsuit, the maximum contingency fee is:
- 33 1/3% of the first $1 million recovered
- 30% of the next $1 million recovered
- 20% of any amount over $2 million recovered
However, the percentage of the contingency fee increases when the case is not resolved before litigation proceeds. The percentage increases as the case progresses because the lawyer spends more time working on the case.
Medical malpractice cases have a different set of rules. The Florida Constitution sets the maximum percentage for contingency fees in medical malpractice cases.
A lawyer can charge up to 30% of the first $250,000 in damages recovered for a medical malpractice claim. The contingency fee for amounts exceeding $250,000 is 10% of the amount recovered.
What Services Are Included in a Contingency Fee Agreement?
All terms of the attorney-client relationship should be included in the retainer agreement. However, each personal injury case is unique. The steps a lawyer must take while pursuing a claim are based on the facts and circumstances of the case.
That said, examples of steps a personal injury lawyer takes to pursue compensation for a client include:
- Conduct an independent investigation into the cause of the client’s injuries
- Identify all parties who contributed to the cause of the client’s injuries
- Gather evidence proving causation and fault to establish liability for damages
- Identify all insurance coverage and file and monitor insurance claims
- Document the client’s damages to calculate the value of the claim
- Work with expert witnesses, as necessary
- Prepare a settlement demand letter
- Negotiate with the at-fault party and insurance provider
- Advise the client on the merits of accepting a settlement offer
- Prepare and review all documents for settlement
- Monitor deadlines for filing lawsuits
- File a lawsuit and represent the client at trial, if necessary
A reputable legal team keeps you informed of the progress of your case. In addition, they should be available to answer questions and concerns throughout the process. They can handle all legal aspects of your claim while you focus on recovering from your injuries.
Schedule a Free Consultation With Our St. Petersburg Personal Injury Lawyers
We want to help you recover the money you deserve for damages caused by an accident or other personal injury. Contact our law office in St. Petersburg to schedule your free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney.