As many of you know, personal injury lawyers in Georgia “only get paid if you win.” That sounds great, but as with everything, the devil is in the details. The legal term for these payment arrangements in injury cases is a “contingency fee.” That means they only get paid on the contingency that you get an offer. The problem is that the lawyer may not be focused on the most important number and that is the number you, the client, get to keep.
It generally works like this:
Gross Settlement: $100,0000
Attorney’s Fees of 33.3% -$33,333.33
Client’s Share: $66,666.66
That would be OK if that is all the bites that are coming out of the settlement but you have to take into account 1) monies owed back to hospitals and doctors or medical lien companies and 2) health insurance reimbursement claims if you used that. when all is said and done, the lawyer can end up with more than the client and that is ridiculous. (We guarantee that the client will never receive less than the firm does).
So, now that you see the big picture and know that the lawyer and the medical gets paid out of the gross settlement you have to ask the next question:
How Much Should I Be Paying my Injury Lawyer?
Most good lawyers charge 33% for any case that is settled without going to trial and 40% of any case that is filed in the courts. The logic is the lawyer has to do far more work so the fees go up.
Recently we have seen a huge uptick in law firms charging as much as40% before the suit and 45% after the suit is filed! Several clients have come to us saying that Montlick, John Foy and Ken Nugent’s firms have charged them 38% and 40% for the phase of the case without litigation. The charge in litigation is running at 45% and that is just highway robbery for anything other than a medical malpractice case.
If your lawyer is charging more than 33% for a pre-suit case, you are being taken advantage of! Unless it is a medical malpractice case, that is completely unfair to the client. Pre-suit cases just don’t involve enough man hours to justify that kind of fee.
Can I Fire My Lawyer?
You can always fire your lawyer, the real question is what phase is the case in and what will you owe them? If there is no settlement offer on the table, then you are clear to fire your lawyer at any time and you will have the new lawyer pay the old one a modest sum OUT OF THEIR OWN ATTORNEYS FEES! That’s right, it won’t cost you a thing.