How Much Does a Personal Injury Lawyer Charge?

 

From a car crash to a slip-and-fall, if you’re thinking about filing a personal injury claim after any kind of accident, it’s very likely that you’re also thinking about hiring a lawyer to help with your case. And naturally, one of your biggest concerns at the outset is how much a lawyer will cost. We surveyed readers who recently went through the personal injury claim process, to get a sense of how much their attorneys charged.

How Do Personal Injury Lawyers Charge for Their Services?

Let’s start by explaining that “charge” is a bit of a misnomer here, since almost every personal injury lawyer who represents the injured person works under a contingency fee agreement. Under this arrangement, the attorney receives a fee only if the client receives compensation, in the form of a settlement or a court-ordered judgment after trial. The contingency fee is a percentage of the client’s compensation. If the client doesn’t get any money, neither does the attorney.

What’s the Typical Personal Injury Contingency Fee?

Our readers reported that they paid an average contingency fee of 32% for their lawyers. That’s squarely in line with the industry standard used by the majority of personal injury law firms: 33.3%.

Not surprisingly, actual contingency fees can vary. Our readers reported paying from 25% (or less) to as much as 40%. What’s behind these differences? In cases where the defendant’s liability is fairly clear and there is a good chance the client will get something in the way of compensation, lawyers might agree to a lower contingency fee. But they might insist on bumping up the percentage in higher-risk cases (where there’s a decent chance the client will get nothing) or those requiring a lot of the attorney’s resources—especially for claims that seem like they might be headed for trial.

How Much Will My Personal Injury Lawyer Make Off My Case?

When viewed as a dollar amount rather than a percentage, our readers reported that their attorneys received an average of $18,000 (which came out of the settlement or award, as explained above). At first glance, that might seem like a lot of money, but keep in mind that lawyers and law firms can devote hundreds of hours to a complex personal injury claim. Often, that means passing up the chance to take on other case work. It’s also helpful to look at this figure in the larger context. Our readers who were represented by attorneys received an average of $77,600 in compensation, compared to $17,600 for those who went ahead without a lawyer. Even after deducting the average contingency fee of 32%, readers with a lawyer still ended up with 200% more net compensation, on average, than those who went it alone. (For details, see our article on the difference personal injury lawyers make in money and time.)

How Does Having a Personal Injury Lawyer Affect Satisfaction?

That’s the lay of the land when it comes to how much it’s likely to cost you from a financial standpoint if you put your personal injury case in the hands of an experienced lawyer. But perhaps the most convincing piece of data we’ve gleaned from our readers is this: Despite having to pay a portion of their settlement or court award to their attorney, those who hired a lawyer reported being twice as satisfied with the outcome of their case, compared with those who handled their claim on their own.

About This Report

The data referenced above is from Martindale-Nolo Research's 2017 personal injury study, which analyzed survey responses from readers who had personal injury claims and had researched hiring a lawyer. The names of any quoted readers have been changed to protect their privacy.

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