Navigating Fee Structures for Personal Injury Attorneys!

Personal Injury Attorneys

Accidents can happen anywhere, and damages can be substantial. When they happen you want to receive compensation but this often means hiring an attorney. 

When you’re dealing with mounting medical costs, potential lost income, and property repairs or replacement, finding the funds to pay for a lawyer can seem impossible. 

Thankfully, you can often take advantage of various fee structures for compensating personal injury attorneys. This means you can afford to hire an attorney to help settle your personal injury claim.

How Attorneys Structure Their Legal Fees

Just like there are different types of attorneys, fee structures can also vary. This means a corporate lawyer may use a different fee structure than a personal injury attorney. However, fee structures aren’t typically limited to one type of law profession or another. All practicing lawyers can use several different fee structures to meet their client’s unique financial situations.

The is an exception when it comes to contingency fee structures. This type of payment option is typically limited to civil attorneys. In other words, a criminal defense attorney can’t use a contingency fee structure. The reason for this is pretty straightforward. 

The U.S. Constitution guarantees everyone the right to legal representation regardless of their ability to pay. If you can’t afford a criminal defense attorney, the court will appoint one for you. This means contingency fees aren’t applicable in criminal defense cases.

So, what are the common legal fee structures? Along with contingency fees, attorneys can charge a flat or hourly rate. A retainer is another example, along with consultancy fees.

Flat Fees

Attorneys may charge a flat fee in both civil and criminal cases, and this type of payment structure is commonly used when the case is well-defined, meaning there are rarely any unexpected legal surprises. Here, the case is pretty cut-and-dry and the lawyer knows exactly what to expect.

Some examples of when attorneys often charge a flat fee is when they’re helping a client file for bankruptcy or draft a will. Uncontested divorces, patent applications, and even helping to secure an immigration visa are other times when a flat fee is the preferred payment structure.

You sign a fee agreement with your attorney and pay the agreed-upon rate when your case is completed. Why do you want to get everything in writing? Even drafting a will can result in an unexpected cost, like a filing or mailing fee. With the contract, you only pay the listed amount. Anything extra is the responsibility of your attorney.

Hourly Rates

This type of fee structure is precisely what the name implies. You pay your attorney a set fee for each hour they work on your case. This is when the term billable hours is often tossed around.

A billable hour is the time an attorney spends focusing solely on your legal issue. The attorney keeps a careful log detailing the time spent on your case. To help ensure that you’re not being overbilled, it’s a good idea to request proof of the attorney’s work. Even though the majority of practicing attorneys aren’t going to overbill their clients, it can still happen.

When it comes to charging an hourly rate, a few factors go into deciding how much an attorney charges their clients. Their experience, education, and even location all help determine hourly rates. You should expect to pay more if you retain an attorney from a prestigious law firm than if you decide to work with a lesser-known lawyer.

Something to remember is simply because an attorney may not have their face plastered on billboards doesn’t mean they don’t have the experience or knowledge to assist with your case. Paying a higher hourly rate doesn’t always guarantee the best legal representation so always do your homework.


A retainer is when you pay an attorney before they start working on your case. You can also pay a retainer to have a lawyer on standby, ready to jump in if a legal issue pops up. Large corporations and wealthy individuals often have attorneys on retainers. 

Just think about your favorite legal dramas, the wealthy suspect always seems to make a call to their attorney. The reason the attorney picks up the call and shows up ready to provide legal representation is due to the retainer.

Simply paying a retainer doesn’t mean your legal bill is settled. Remember, the retainer only keeps an attorney ready to start working. As your case progresses, you should expect to pay additional fees. Some retainers may go towards your case, reducing your final bill, but not all. Some attorneys charge a retainer simply to be on call when you need their services.

Consultancy Fees

This type of fee structure isn’t as common as the other ones so don’t worry if you’re not sure how it works. A consultation fee is a fixed price you pay for an attorney to review your case. The consultation fee doesn’t go towards covering the cost of retaining legal representation. The fee only covers the short time the attorney evaluates your case.

Most legal professionals, especially personal injury attorneys, waive any consulting fees. They’ll evaluate your case for free, you only pay if you retain their services.

Understanding Contingency Fees

Contingency fees are common with personal injury attorneys. For some accident victims, contingency fees are the only way they can afford to hire an attorney. 

How contingency fees are structured isn’t complicated. You agree to pay a percentage of your settlement to the attorney if your case is successful. If the attorney doesn’t win your case, you won’t receive a bill for their work.

How much of a percentage the attorney takes varies. Some only ask for around 10% of your settlement while others can go as high as 40% or 50%. This is something you need to consider before entering into a contingency fee agreement. 

Don’t forget to ask about additional expenses like filing costs. Sometimes, these costs aren’t part of the contingency fee agreement.

You Can Afford to Retain Legal Counsel for Your Personal Injury Case

You have a few fee structures to work with if you need to retain a personal injury attorney. Most accident victims go with contingency fees for the simple fact there’s no upfront payment. 

Check to see if all costs are covered in the fee agreement and don’t be afraid to walk away if the attorney’s percentage is higher than you’re comfortable paying. 

Personal Injury Attorneys article and permission to publish here provided by Susan Melony. Originally written for Supply Chain Game Changer and published on May 17, 2024.

Cover image by Claim Accident Services from Pixabay.