There are a variety of ways in which lawyers receive compensation for the work they do for their clients. Some ask for retainers for their time; others have base fees or hourly rates; others, like Finney Injury Law, work on a contingency basis, allowing the client to pay nothing until the outcome of their case is revealed. Contingency fees may seem too good to be true, so we get a lot of questions about how they work. Here are the most common.

Q: What is a contingency fee?

A: A contingency fee is any fee for services rendered in which the fee is only payable if there is a favorable result after those services. In the case of an attorney representing a client, it means that when you hire the attorney to take on your case, they will ask you for no upfront costs or payable retainers on the work they put into your case. Instead, they will be compensated for their work when your case reaches an agreeable settlement, or your case is won in a court of law.

Contingency fees are most often based on a predetermined percentage of the eventual compensation assigned to the client and should be agreed upon before any contracts for representation are signed. When a settlement is reached or the court awards the victim the compensation owed, that amount is usually paid to the lawyer, who then writes a check to their client for the remaining balance after their contingency fee has been taken out and any outstanding legal fees or liens have also been paid.

Q: What services and coverage should be included with a contingency fee?

A: There should rarely if ever, be any caveats to a contingency fee agreement. This means your lawyer should never ask you to fund any of the necessary processes behind investigating and building your case.

For example, if you’re in the midst of a personal injury accident case and your attorney asks you to go see additional medical experts, they should be willing to cover all the costs that involve doing so. If it pertains to building your legal case, and especially if it is requested by your lawyer, you should never have to pay for it out of your own pocket.

Q: Why is a contingency fee desirable for personal injury cases? 

A: Agreeing to pay a contingency fee is preferable when you’ve suffered personal injuries that are leaving you with expensive medical bills. You may not have the funds to pay for these bills and an attorney’s fees, but with a contingency agreement, you won’t have to do so until you’ve been awarded the money you need to make it possible.

If a law firm operates on a contingency basis and agrees to take on your case, this is also a good sign of their confidence in helping you win or earn a fair settlement. It’s also motivation for them to put absolutely everything they have into making sure your case reaches an agreeable outcome.

However, it’s also important to be wary of those lawyers who agree to take your case on a contingency basis, and then pressure you to settle for an amount that seems too low. Some attorneys may do so because they’re just trying to guarantee they get paid. When hiring a lawyer after an accident, seek one out who has experience in court and is willing to go to court for you if that’s what it comes down to.