Written by: Portrait Photo Of Chad M. Prentice Chad M. Prentice

If you have been injured in an accident due to another’s negligence, you may have a right to claim financial compensation from the at-fault party. Your best move in this situation would be to hire the services of a top-rated personal injury lawyer who can prove the liability of the defendants and fight to maximize your damages. However, you may have concerns about how lawyers charge their fees, and what happens if they are unable to win your case or secure any compensation for you.

California’s legal system has taken care of this issue. The majority of personal injury attorneys in this state do not charge you a fee unless they win your case. There are no upfront costs or ongoing charges to be concerned about if your claim does not result in compensation; they only get paid if you do. This is known as a contingency fee arrangement.

Lawyer Writing On A Paper

How Do Personal Injury Lawyers Get Paid?

In personal injury law, the payment a lawyer receives usually depends on the result of your case. If the lawyer works on a contingency fee basis, their fee is directly linked to the financial compensation you win through a settlement or a court verdict. Dedicated personal injury law firms in California use this compensation system and only earn their fee if they obtain compensation on your behalf.

What are Contingency Fee Agreements?

Contingency fees are a way to pay your lawyer based on the outcome of your case, where a certain percentage of your settlement or court award is allocated to pay your attorney.

You agree to this percentage when you sign a contingency fee agreement when you hire your attorney. Make sure to thoroughly review this agreement with your lawyer and discuss any questions or uncertainties regarding fees before signing.

Knowing the percentage of your compensation that will go to your lawyer cannot be overstated. It helps you avoid surprises when your case concludes. With this knowledge, you can make informed decisions during negotiations and manage other critical aspects of your case effectively.

How Much Can Attorneys Charge in California?

No statute under California law sets a universal cap on contingency fees for personal injury lawyers, but there are guidelines and customary practices that most attorneys follow. For one, it is rare to see a contingency fee agreement where the attorney claims more than 40% of the proceeds.

The standard contingency fee for personal injury cases in California ranges from 33% to 40% of the recovered amount. This fee structure is often tiered based on the stage of the case at which a settlement or verdict is achieved:

  • Pre-litigation settlement: If the case is settled before a lawsuit is filed, the fee might be on the lower end, around 33%.
  • Post-litigation settlement: If the case is settled after the lawsuit is filed but before trial, the fee might increase to around 40%.

When are Costs Deducted from Awards in a Contingency Fee Agreement?

The timing is mentioned clearly in the terms of the agreement you have signed with your lawyer. In most cases, the agreement specifies that all case-related expenses are to be reimbursed to the law firm first, from the total amount recovered. 

Some agreements might have other variations or terms regarding the deduction of expenses. This is why you must carefully read the contract and feel free to negotiate terms before signing.

Judges Hammer On A Book

Benefits of Choosing a Lawyer on a Contingency-Fee Basis

Why is there a focus on hiring an attorney who represent their clients on a no-win-no-fee basis? The following insights should help you understand this:

They eliminate your financial risk

When you engage a lawyer on a contingency or “success” fee arrangement, you effectively remove any financial barrier to legal representation. Hiring an attorney can sometimes mean hourly rates that accumulate quickly, which can make legal assistance inaccessible for many people, especially if the case drags on for a long time. With a contingency fee, this risk shifts from you to the lawyer.

If your case is unsuccessful, you are not left with a large bill for legal services. These lawyers are not paid if they lose. Since the fee is a predetermined percentage of the settlement or judgment, you know exactly how much will be taken from your compensation. There are no hidden fees or escalating hourly rates, so the financial outcome is more predictable and transparent.

They level the playing field

In many personal injury cases, the opposing party is a corporation, like an insurance company, or other well-funded entity that can afford to retain high-priced legal talent. This can intimidate or unfairly disadvantage a plaintiff with limited resources.

With contingency fees, anyone can access highly skilled attorneys who are equipped to go head-to-head with powerful defendants. Since the lawyer’s payment is based on the outcome, they have a vested interest in ensuring they achieve the best possible results.

Personal Injury Law Book Next To Judges Hammer

They are motivated to maximize the value of your case

Because their fee is a percentage of the settlement or judgment, lawyers are motivated to go the extra mile to make sure you receive maximum possible compensation. This does not only mean fighting for a verdict in your favor but also ensuring that all potential damages are accounted for, including future medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, and any other compensable losses.

The legal team conducts a meticulous assessment of all damages so that no compensable losses are overlooked. This includes economic and non-economic damages:

Economic damages: These are the direct financial losses resulting from the injury, such as:

  • Medical expenses (costs for emergency treatment, hospital stays, doctor visits, surgery, medication, rehabilitation, and any ongoing medical treatments related to the injury)
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Property damage
  • Other out-of-pocket expenses (travel expenses to medical appointments, cost of medical devices, home modifications due to disability, etc.)

Non-economic damages: These damages compensate for the intangible losses related to the injury. They are subjective and can vary significantly from one case to another:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of consortium

To increase the compensation amount, attorneys at Maho Prentice, LLP also consider the projected costs and impacts that are expected to occur in the future. This includes estimated costs of medical care that will be needed in the future, and future earning capacity (if injury results in a long-term disability).

They are selective about the cases they take

Lawyers who work on contingency fees do not get paid unless they win or settle the case. As such, they have a strong incentive to take cases that have a good chance of success.

And once they take your case, they dedicate their best efforts and resources to you. They are likely to be more thorough in their preparation, more strategic in their legal tactics, and more persistent in pursuing the best possible outcome. For example, if you have a car accident case, in addition to the standard practices of taking pictures of accident site and talking to witnesses, attorneys at Maho Prentice may also:

  • Use advanced software to recreate the accident in 3D for providing a visual understanding for judges and juries.
  • Use drones to capture aerial photographs and videos of the accident scene.
  • Explore historical cases that might have unique similarities to yours to uncover arguments and precedents that are less commonly used.
  • Consult with academic experts or legal scholars to gain deeper insights or to corroborate a novel legal strategy.
  • Organize discussions or consultations with multiple top specialists to thoroughly assess the long-term impacts of your injuries.
  • Employ experts to interpret advanced medical imaging results (MRIs or CT scans) to provide a more detailed prognosis in court.
  • Hire digital forensics experts to examine GPS data or mobile phone records to offer insights into the actions and locations of the at-fault parties.

You do not have to pay for any of this upfront. 

They give you leverage in negotiations

Most contingency fee lawyers build powerful reputations based on their track records of positive legal resolutions. As their compensation depends entirely on the success of the cases they handle, these attorneys are typically very driven to achieve the best possible outcome for their clients.

If you are working with a personal injury lawyer who has consistently won large settlements for injuries resulting from car accidents in your town, the insurance company on the opposing side will most likely recognize them. Knowing the lawyer’s history of obtaining large settlements (or verdicts) and their willingness to go to trial if necessary, the insurer might prefer to offer a bigger settlement upfront to avoid a costly trial where the lawyer has already demonstrated their skill.

Insurance companies know that a lawyer’s reputation can subtly influence court proceedings, i.e., juries and judges might perceive them as more credible or authoritative based on their known past record.

Choose the Top-Rated Personal Injury Attorneys in California with a No-Win-No-Fee Assurance 

If you have been injured due to someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing, you can get compensated for your damages under California’s personal injury law. At Maho Prentice, LLP, our personal injury attorneys have recovered over $100 million for our clients through out-of-court settlements and close to 90 jury trials.The moment you sign up with us, our legal team will move fast to collect all possible evidence and build a robust case for maximum damages. We work on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t have to pay us anything unless you receive financial compensation. Call us at 805-962-1930 today or complete this form to schedule your free case evaluation.

By Maho | Prentice, LLP Attorneys at Law on May 29, 2024