How Do I Pay For An Attorney?

One of the most common concerns we hear from auto accident victims is, “How Am I Going to Pay for an Attorney?”

After all, you’ve just been in a horrible crash, your medical bills are sky-high and you’ve still got all your other expenses to worry about. How can you possibly afford an attorney right now?

The type of fee arrangement you work out with your lawyer usually has to do with the sort of claim you are bringing, the time constraints involved and the complexity of the case.

But here’s the good news: The majority of Boston personal injury and wrongful death cases are taken on a contingency fee basis. As the attorneys at The Attorney Injury Group can explain more thoroughly, what this means is you don’t pay any substantial costs upfront. Further, if we accept your case and we don’t prevail, you do not have to pay attorney fees.

The idea is that the courthouse doors should be open to everyone. We understand that the costs of hiring a lawyer upfront can be prohibitively high for most people. That’s why the contingency fee structure is so beneficial for so many motorcycle accident victims.

What is a Contingency Fee?

A contingency fee is a payment arrangement with your personal injury lawyer wherein you, the plaintiff, do not pay your attorney up-front or by-the-hour.

Attorneys in a contingency fee arrangement are not paid unless the client wins. If they client does win, the legal team is paid a portion of the winnings, usually about one-third. That portion should be designated ahead of time, when the lawyer agrees to take on the case.

Although contingency fees have been criticized from time-to-time, it’s usually not by the clients who sign them. Historically, it’s been argued contingency fee structures encourage litigation. But the fact is, very few people could afford quality legal representation without contingency fees. What this fee structure does is allow people with meritorious claims – who otherwise would stand no chance against a deep-pocketed insurance company or other corporation – to have their day in court, armed with competent legal representation.

To be clear: Civil courts are not designed to give plaintiff’s the advantage by any means. In fact, plaintiff’s bear the burden of proof for claims they bring. But plaintiffs have to first be able to get their foot in the door, which many could not effectively do without a fee structure that allows them to pay a fraction of what they win.

So when you hear personal injury lawyers say, “We don’t get paid unless you do,” that’s absolutely true.

Still, you need to carefully review the attorney arrangement because in some cases, you might be responsible for court costs or certain other expenses in the event the claim is unsuccessful. Some of those might include:

  • Copies of records and reports
  • Copy, fax and other office expenses
  • Legal research costs
  • Fees for investigators or witnesses

However, you won’t pay anything near the attorney’s normal hourly rate.

And this is the other advantage plaintiffs have in a contingency fee arrangement: Strong attorney incentive to secure as much as possible for the client.

How Much Are Contingency Fees?The exact answer to this is going to depend greatly from case-to-case.

Some factors that may be considered:

  • Complexity of the case
  • Number of defendants involved
  • Whether there are pressing time limits
  • Experience of the attorney

But even given all this, Massachusetts law does set certain limits for contingency fees in motorcycle accidents and all personal injury claims.

M.G.L. Ch. 231, Section 60I sets limitations on contingency fees. Those limits are:

  • 40 percent of the first $150,000 recovered;
  • 33 and 1/3 percent of the next $150,000 recovered;
  • 30 percent of the next $200,000 recovered;
  • 25 percent of any amount by which the recovery exceeds $500,000.

These limitations are applicable regardless of whether the recovery is by settlement, arbitration, court judgement or jury verdict.

Although this might sound like a significant portion of your winnings, bear in mind that complex personal injury cases can take years to resolve. Motorcycle accident attorneys can easily put hundreds of hours and possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars into preparing for a trial. They are taking on a huge risk anytime they agree to accept a case. (And that’s also why attorneys can be choosy about the cases they accept.) The trade-off is they are rewarded when these efforts are fruitful.