If you’ve been injured in an accident, an Arizona personal injury attorney can help. This legal expert is skilled in negotiation and will fight to ensure you receive the payout you deserve.
Whether your injury was physical, emotional, or psychological, you need the right representation on your side. Yet, it’s natural to wonder about the cost.
How does a personal injury attorney get paid in Arizona? Read on to understand the answer in detail.
What Is a Personal Injury Attorney?
Before we dive into how the pay structure works, let’s briefly discuss what a personal injury attorney does. In short, this is the person you call if you’ve been injured due to the negligence of another party.
Personal injuries can range from accidents, such as slips and falls, to intentional malice or assault. You can also become injured due to a defective product or machinery, as well as medical malpractice.
These injuries can cause both physical and mental trauma, which can leave a lasting effect on you and your loved ones. In some cases, your injuries could prevent you from working or result in costly medical bills, both of which can create a financial strain.
Your insurance company may offer to help you recoup some of those damages. However, rarely do those payments cover the full extent of your needs. A personal injury lawyer knows how to communicate with your insurance adjuster on your behalf.
They will work to prove that the other party was negligent, so you can receive the maximum amount you’re owed. If your case goes to court, your lawyer can also serve as your official legal representation.
Paying Your Arizona Personal Injury Attorney
Before you hire a personal injury attorney to assist with your case, you may wonder how you will be expected to pay them. Rest assured that before you sign on any dotted line, your lawyer will go over their fee structure with you in thorough detail.
Most personal injury attorneys work on what’s called a contingency basis. This means that they don’t get paid unless you receive financial compensation for your case. Then, you will take a fixed percentage of those earnings and use them to pay your legal fees.
Your lawyer should clearly explain what that percentage will be before they take your case and you begin working together. If your team can settle your case outside of court, then they can receive their fee that way. Otherwise, they will receive it after you win your case in court.
Contingency Fee vs. Fixed Hourly Fee
A contingency fee is different from a fixed hourly fee. In that type of fee arrangement, you will pay your personal injury lawyer a set amount of money per hour that they work on your case, regardless of the outcome.
In the beginning, you would pay a retainer fee to secure their services, which acts as a deposit. Then, the attorney would begin billing on an hourly basis immediately after that. At first, your deposit would be applied toward those hours, but once it’s expended, you’d be required to pay the remaining fees on your own.
Most lawyers do not price their services this way, because it requires clients to have cash available upfront. If your lawyer leads with an hourly rate, ask about working on a contingency basis instead.
Calculating the Contingency Fee
Now that we’ve explained how a contingency fee works, you might be wondering how it’s calculated. First, it’s important to understand that you will not be required to pay this fee unless your lawyer successfully wins your case.
Even then, there isn’t a standard, one-size-fits-all fee that applies to every case and client. Rather, there are a few different factors that will influence the amount of your fixed percentage. These include:
- The state you live in
- The type of personal injury you experienced
- Your individual lawyer
Most lawyers set a contingency fee to be between 30% and 40% of the final settlement. Let’s use a real-life example to break down what that means.
Say you were injured in a slip and fall accident at work. You knew you needed to secure legal representation, so you hired a personal injury lawyer for your case.
You sign a fee agreement with your attorney, at a fixed rate of 30%. Your attorney works on your case, and you are awarded a settlement of $15,000.
Since your case was successful, your lawyer would receive 30% of that $15,000, which equals $4,500. In addition, they may also take out money for additional expenses, which we will discuss in a later section.
Note that most lawyers will take their portion out before it’s allocated to you. They will receive the compensation check first, deduct their payment, and then issue you a check for the remaining amount.
Protecting Your Rights in a Fee Agreement
A reputable personal injury lawyer will walk you through every step of the contingency fee agreement, and make sure you completely understand the details. That said, there are several steps you can take on your end to protect your rights and avoid surprise future expenses.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind.
Don’t wait until you’ve been working with your lawyer for a few weeks to talk about the fee structure. This should be a conversation that you have early on in the process, so all the details are clear as you move forward.
Get It in Writing
Always get the full extent of your fee agreement in writing. This will serve as an indisputable record of your contract and can help clear up any confusion down the road.
Be Wary of Ultra-Low Offers
If you’re talking to multiple lawyers at the beginning of your case, you may be tempted to choose the team that will promise to only take a tiny percentage of your final payout.
While that might sound great in theory, consider why this lawyer’s offer is so much lower than the others. Most of the time, these attorneys are less experienced than their peers or don’t have the resources to fund your case in its entirety.
While money matters, it’s more important to choose a reputable and experienced law firm to represent your case. Look for a team that can deliver proven results at a competitive, fair rate.
Why Are the Fees So High?
A 30% to 40% contingency fee might seem expensive at first. After all, you were the one injured in the accident, and you may feel as though you’re due the full amount of your compensation.
Keep in mind that any time an attorney accepts a case, they’re assuming a significant amount of risk.
Various outcomes could occur at any point during a personal injury trial. A case could settle in a matter of days, or it could go to trial and take months. Then, some cases are appealed altogether.
Your lawyer cannot predict those timelines. At the beginning of your case, it isn’t usually clear whether it will settle or turn into a trial. They’ll take your case understanding that there’s a very real possibility they could work on it for months or even years, and even then, payment isn’t guaranteed.
Until your case reaches its conclusion, they’ll be the ones responsible for paying for all of the costs associated with it. For lawyers, this degree of risk is costly. For personal injury victims, it’s beneficial.
You don’t have to worry about paying out-of-pocket for any services upfront. Instead, you can focus on healing your body and mind, knowing that any amount you may owe in the future will only be required if your legal team settles your case or a judge awards it at trial.
What If I Don’t Recover Any Money?
You may have heard a personal injury lawyer promise, “We don’t get paid unless you do!” While it sounds like an attractive offer, is it true?
If you signed a contingency fee agreement at the beginning of your partnership, then yes. If your case is settled outside of court or goes to a trial, and you do not recover any money at the outcome, then you are not required to pay your personal injury attorney for any services they have provided up to that point.
Understanding Other Expenses
In addition to the agreed-upon contingency fee, your personal injury lawyer might deduct other expenses from your final settlement. While fees are charged in exchange for their time and professional expertise, expenses are costs that your lawyer pays for out-of-pocket throughout the duration of your case.
These expenses may include:
- Court costs (e.g. filing fees)
- Trial preparation costs
- Legal research costs
- Administrative expenses (e.g. copying, filing, faxing documents)
- Travel costs
- Medical report or police report filing
These expenses shouldn’t come as a surprise to you. Your lawyer should explain potential costs they might encounter during your case and make sure you’re aware of them when you sign your agreement.
Usually, your lawyer will total these expenses and deduct the amount from your settlement. However, some firms may require you to pay for these expenses as they’re incurred. Make sure you understand those requirements at the beginning of your case.
A Qualified Arizona Attorney Is Worth the Cost
You could choose to tackle your personal injury case on your own. However, it’s always smart to reach out to a personal injury attorney instead.
These experts are well-versed in cases just like yours. They know exactly how to proceed to help you achieve a favorable outcome. This can save you time, money, and stress, allowing you to rest and recuperate.
Now that we’ve covered how you’ll pay your Arizona personal injury attorney, the value of these services is even clearer. If you’ve been injured, we can help you receive the benefits you deserve. Contact us for a free consultation.