Too often, people who have suffered severe personal injuries—such as traumatic brain injury, spinal cord damage, or amputation—because of someone else’s wrongful actions, fail to contact an attorney because of concerns about the potential cost. Already struggling under the burden of unexpected medical costs and time away from work, they worry a lawyer would just be too expensive.
These worries, while understandable, are misplaced. Hiring a skilled personal injury lawyer usually does not cost clients a thing up-front, and the lawyers only get paid if the clients get paid first. How is that possible? Let us explain.
Personal Injury Lawyers Offer Free Consultations
Meeting with an experienced personal injury lawyer for the first time virtually never costs an injured person so much as a dime. That’s because personal injury lawyers offer free consultations to potential clients. Why do this? Simple. Personal injury lawyers want to make it easy for clients to find them. They know many clients would shy away from reaching out if they thought it would cost them a bundle of money. So, a first consultation does not cost anything.
That means that people who have suffered severe personal injuries can meet with an attorney without any fear of receiving a big bill. It also means they can shop around for the attorney who seems like the best fit for their case. That is how personal injury attorneys prefer it, in fact, especially attorneys at large personal injury practices with broad experience and strong track records of success for their clients.
Personal Injury Lawyers Work on Contingency
Free consultations are just the beginning, however.
Experienced personal injury lawyers also virtually always represent their clients on contingency (also known as working for a contingent fee). Similar to a builder who constructs a house on spec, a lawyer who works on contingency only gets paid if the lawyer’s efforts result in the client receiving compensation for a personal injury, usually either through a settlement or a jury verdict.
Here’s how it works. At the beginning of a case, the lawyer and client agree on a percentage of any financial recovery that the lawyer will get to keep as a fee. Today, many personal injury attorneys and their clients agree to sliding scale percentages that change based on the amount of time or work it takes to get a result for the client, and/or the amount of money involved in the claim.
Whatever the percentage, the attorney and client agree to it up-front, in writing. The client usually pays nothing to the attorney to get the attorney started on the case.
Many personal injury attorneys will also agree to pay the running costs of a legal claim—court filing fees, expert witness fees, travel expenses, etc. Personal injury attorneys and their clients agree on how to handle those costs, too, at the beginning of the representation, in writing.
Why They Work on Contingency
It can come as a surprise to injured people struggling with physical, emotional, and financial pain to learn that they can hire a top-notch attorney…for nothing. Why would an attorney agree to work without up-front pay, and at the risk of not getting paid at all?
There are two main reasons. First, working on contingency ensures that all people who have suffered a severe injury through no fault of their own have access to justice. They have already endured enough difficulty from getting badly hurt because of someone else’s wrongful conduct. They should not have the doors to the courthouse closed to them just because they do not have enough money to write a fact check to an expensive lawyer. All injured people deserve access to justice. Lawyers who work on contingency make that possible.
Second, working on contingency lines up the clients’ interests with the lawyers’. One of the biggest complaints many people have about working with lawyers who bill by the hour is that the lawyers have no incentive to work efficiently. The more hours the lawyers work, the more they bill, and the more money their clients owe them, no matter how well the lawyer does the job. Too often, that doesn’t work out favorably for the clients, who feel like they’ve been taken for a ride.
Clients of personal injury lawyers who work on contingency, however, do not have that problem. The lawyers and clients want the same thing: to get the most money possible into the clients’ hands as quickly and efficiently as possible. What’s best for the client is also what is most profitable for the lawyer. It’s a win-win.
The Most Expensive Mistake Is Not Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer
Victims of severe personal injury often find themselves in a bad way, financially. They need the most money they can get, fast. Some wonder whether they really need to share the money they deserve for their injuries with a lawyer at all. If they could settle a claim on their own, then even if the case didn’t settle for quite as much as a lawyer could get for them, they could make up the difference by not having to pay a lawyer a cut, right?
In theory, maybe. In reality, wrong.
In our nearly five decades of experience representing victims of severe personal injuries and the families of victims of untimely deaths, we have seen enough to know that people who try to represent themselves virtually always give up their valuable legal rights for cheap, and leave far, far more money on the table than they save by not having a lawyer represent them. It’s a tragic, preventable mistake. Don’t make it.
Personal injury lawyers virtually always add far more value to a case than they earn as a percentage contingent fee. That value comes from their ability to find and obtain more money for an injured person than that person could find on their own, and from their ability to guide clients around legal pitfalls that would otherwise cost them dearly.
Here are just a few of the ways personal injury lawyers can deliver far more value than they cost in a contingent fee.
They identify all parties who may have liability for a client’s injuries.
Injured people often do not appreciate how many individuals or entities may have liability to them for their injuries. Take a common auto accident scenario, for example, involving a two-vehicle crash that happened when the other vehicle’s tire blew out and its driver lost control. That driver could have liability. If the other vehicle is a company car or truck, so could the driver’s employer. If the tire blowout happened because of a defect the tire had when it left the factory, so could the tire’s manufacturer.
Identifying these parties, and figuring out whether they have liability, takes the skill and know-how of an experienced personal injury lawyer. It is also essential to making sure an injured person gets the most money possible for a claim. After all, every party with liability for someone’s injuries represents a source of payment for those injuries. In the car accident example above, it is far better for the injured client to be owed hundreds of thousands of dollars by the driver and two companies than just the driver alone.
They locate and obtain critical evidence for proving a client’s claim.
Getting money for a personal injury involves far more than pointing to someone else and saying “You owe me!” A successful personal injury claim requires proof that some individual or entity caused an accident or incident that injured an innocent victim. Experienced personal injury lawyers know what kind of evidence can prove a claim, where to look for it, and how to get their hands on it.
The investigation a skilled lawyer often performs for a client injured in a semi-truck accident serves as a good illustration of what we mean. A typical semi truck is a huge, lumbering beast of a vehicle. When it crashes, it often unleashes a chain reaction of accidents that cause widespread, catastrophic damage and massive injuries.
Say you got hurt in a collision between two vehicles that kicked off when one swerved to avoid tumbling debris from a truck that rolled over. How do you unwind what happened to prove that the trucking company (which carries lots of insurance) owes you damages?
An experienced lawyer can tell you.
- It involves moving fast to preserve data from the truck’s on-board electronic logging devices and/or from traffic and dashboard cameras.
- It means obtaining and reviewing the trucker’s driving history and employment record.
- It means tracking down and interviewing witnesses who saw the whole thing happen, even if they were passing by in the opposite traffic lane of a divided highway.
- It requires securing physical and photographic evidence of the vehicles that crashed, and getting that evidence into the hands of accident reconstruction experts who can interpret what it shows about the sequence of the crash.
Most people would not have a clue how to conduct that kind of investigation, let alone people who have accident injuries to tend to and mounting medical expenses to worry about. Personal injury lawyers, by comparison, have the time, energy, knowledge, and resources to get that investigation done right.
They know how to calculate maximum damages.
Injured clients often want to know how much their personal injury claim is worth; that is, how much money they can expect to get at the end of the day.
First and foremost, experienced personal injury lawyers will always tell clients that there are no guarantees. The strength of a claim and the amount of money it might involve varies widely from client-to-client and incident-to-incident.
Still, lawyers can and do often come up with detailed calculations of what their clients should receive as compensation for their injuries. It comes as a surprise to many clients just how many factors that calculation involves. Personal injury lawyers know how to find financial damages that clients did not even realize they had suffered, and how to prove those damages in a court of law. This can involve working with accountants and financial planners to produce detailed reports about the amount of a client’s future medical needs, or about how much money the client would have earned in the future, but for getting injured.
How many injured clients could tackle that kind of detailed economic calculation, do you think? From our experience, the answer is almost none, and even those that possibly could, do not have the time, energy, or resources to pull it off. This is why people who (tragically, in our view) try to settle claims on their own virtually always leave huge amounts of money on the table, often without even realizing they have made a massive, costly mistake that could ruin their financial futures.
They handle negotiations and litigations.
We have not even gotten to some of the most critical tasks personal injury lawyers perform for clients: negotiating settlements with insurance companies and defense lawyers, and taking claims to court when favorable settlements do not materialize.
Insurance companies and defense lawyers bob-and-weave for a living. They will do anything they can to deflect claims that could cost them and their clients money. It takes the technique of a seasoned personal injury lawyer to go toe-to-toe with professionals who spend their careers trying to avoid or minimize legal liability. Injured people who try to tangle with these folks without the help of a personal injury lawyer will inevitably come away the worse for wear… which is to say, without the money they deserve for their injuries and losses.
So, too, when a case needs to go to court to achieve the outcome an injured person deserves, no one should go without a skilled, experienced personal injury lawyer. The simple truth is, no one takes a lawyer-less party seriously in a courtroom. There’s a saying: People who represent themselves have fools for clients. It never goes well. Injured people should always rely on a personal injury lawyer to represent their interests in front of a judge and jury. Always.
The Lawyer You Need Won’t Cost You a Thing
Do not let money worries keep you from talking to a personal injury lawyer about your injury. Contact an experienced personal injury attorney today. The consultation is free, and you will not have to pay the lawyer any money up-front. You have nothing to lose, and potentially lots of money to gain.