Negotiating Personal Injury Attorney’s Fees
Parties involved in a personal injury case often opt to hire an attorney to handle their legal matters. Certain situations may arise in which a party finds an attorney they would like to hire to handle their personal injury claim but later discovers that the attorney’s fees are just too high. If you find yourself in this situation, there are several ways you may attempt to negotiate a lower fee with your attorney.
When Should I Negotiate Attorney’s Fees?
There are several situations in which you should consider speaking with your attorney to negotiate attorney’s fees. Below are two of the most common circumstances that may require you to negotiate fees with your attorney.
When you have already performed a substantial amount of work on the case. Typically, when an attorney agrees to take on a personal injury case from the beginning, the attorney is doing all of the work from scratch. There are some situations where you, as the client, will have already taken on a good amount of work prior to consulting with an attorney. Although some attorneys may be hesitant to provide a reduced fee in this situation, it does serve as an ideal situation to negotiate with the attorney for lower fees. For the best outcome, be sure to show the attorney that the work you’ve done thus far is thorough and reliable. Typically, collecting all medical bills and records relating to your claim is most beneficial to an attorney as it can greatly speed up their process.
When you already have an offer on the table. If you already have an offer on the table from the insurance company, then you may be able to use the initial offer to negotiate an attorney’s fee. However, this depends on several factors. If your initial offer was made by the insurance company before you have finished treatment, the offer may not be reasonable. This tactic is used by many insurance companies to push for quick and early settlements. That offer will likely not include all of your medical bills and expenses, and your attorney will work to increase that offer substantially. Such an initial offer would not help you to negotiate your attorney’s fees. If you received your initial offer after presenting the insurance company with all of your medical expenses, you may have a better argument to convince the attorney to accept reduced fees.
With this being said, if you have completed all of your treatment and the insurance company has received all of your medical bills and records related to your injuries, then you should attempt to negotiate your attorney’s fees for a reduced rate. Typically, you should try to negotiate for either a reduced rate or for attorney’s fees to be taken only from the difference between the current offer and any increased amount your attorney may be able to achieve.
Word of Caution – An attorney may not be willing to accept only taking fees on the difference between the initial offer and the final settlement, since they will likely also put in many hours dealing with medical lien holders after your case has been resolved.
How Should I Negotiate Attorney’s Fees?
Personal injury attorneys often work on what is called a “contingency fee” basis. A contingency fee means they are only paid when a successful settlement is reached between the parties, or when you receive an award at trial. While the amount varies on a state-by-state basis, you will often see a 33 1/3 percent (one-third) to 40 percent range for contingency fees. As you can see, depending on the percentage that the attorney charges, this can be an expensive fee to pay. Given this information, it is a good idea to negotiate this fee with the attorney by suggesting alternative fee arrangements. Here are a few suggestions to take into consideration for negotiating lower fees.
Discuss with your attorney the fees associated with settling out of court versus taking a case through the litigation process. You may negotiate with the attorney to accept a smaller contingency fee if your case is settled out of court and prior to beginning trial. For example, if the attorney typically charges a 40 percent contingency fee for cases that go through the trial process, you may propose paying the attorney 30 percent if the case is settled out of court.
Discuss paying a lower contingency fee if your final settlement payout is below a certain amount of money. For example, if your settlement is under $10,000, negotiate paying a 25 percent contingency fee, and if your settlement is above $10,000, negotiate paying a 30 percent contingency fee.
Overall, finding an affordable attorney to take on your personal injury case may seem like a daunting and impossible task; however, it is possible, as every case is different. Remember, you are paying for the attorney’s time and expertise; therefore, you may not want to push too hard, as this may cause attorneys to become hesitant to work with you.