California Personal Injury Lawyer Fee

September 6, 2022 | Article by Chain | Cohn | Clark staff

California Personal Injury Lawyer Fee

When you sustain an injury in California because of someone else’s negligent actions, you may be entitled to compensation. This money will help you address the costs of the accident and get back on your feet financially. Personal injury lawyers can play a huge role in helping you secure the benefits you deserve.

Once you are taken care of, the attorneys that helped you also need some form of payment for their services. How much you are required to pay depends on a number of factors. 

How Much Does a California Personal Injury Lawyer Cost?

The price of a personal injury case is rarely limited to the attorney fee. Filing an injury claim can be stressful, time-consuming, and expensive. Insurance companies may use different tactics to emotionally and financially drain you of your resources. Hidden costs can put you in financial debt, which may be insurmountable if you don’t recover sufficient benefits. 

When you hire a personal injury attorney in California, they can help offset the expenses of the case. Although it might seem complicated and expensive to hire a lawyer at first, it’s important to understand how low the financial risk actually is. The overall price of hiring a personal injury attorney is often based on the case itself. 

How Is This Value Determined?

The attorney fees are the largest cost in a personal injury case but are rarely paid until after you have money to do so. The other expenses associated with a lawsuit include the following:

  • Filing fees
  • Costs for postage and copies
  • Fees for investigators and expert witnesses
  • Court reporters’ fees for depositions
  • Fees for sheriff or server to deliver legal summons, subpoenas, or complaints

All of these costs are usually lumped together in the contingency fee agreement. 

How California Personal Injury Fees Are Charged

Personal injury accidents are expensive. You may be unable to work for a long period of time and require medical assistance or surgeries. All of these bills at once when you’re struggling to earn a wage can make hiring a lawyer seem like too much of a risk. Luckily, the majority of personal injury law firms in CA don’t require you to pay anything upfront. 

Here at Chain | Cohn | Clark, we work on a contingency fee basis. A contingency fee is only charged if you win your case. The money owed to the attorney will be a percentage of the compensatory benefits you recover through a settlement or verdict.

Contingency fee agreements must contain the following to be valid under California law:

  • The contingency fee percentage that will be owed upon receiving a settlement 
  • An explanation of how costs and disbursements will affect the client’s recovery and contingency fee
  • An additional statement detailing any compensation the client must pay the attorney for costs which are not covered by the contingency fee; this could include money collected by the attorney for the client throughout the case
  • A statement that the contingency fee is not set by law and can therefore be negotiated if necessary; this does not apply in medical malpractice cases 

Make sure to carefully look over contingency agreements before you sign them. You might even want to ask another lawyer to review it to ensure that you are not being taken advantage of by your lawyer. 

Contingency fees in California for personal injury cases cannot exceed a certain amount without approval from the court. The fee for cases which settle in civil court before the other party answers a lawsuit or files a demand for arbitration typically will not exceed 33.33% of the settlement value. 

If the case proceeds further, the max contingency fee might increase, but that does not mean an attorney is required to charge the maximum fee. Accident victims can meet with multiple attorneys to compare their rates before choosing one to hire in an effort to get the best value. 

Law firms will usually set their rates based on the following factors:

  • Types of cases the attorney handles
  • Skills and experience of attorney
  • Attorney’s prior success rate for trials and settlements
  • Education and certifications held by the attorney
  • Location of attorney’s office
  • Attorney’s level of trial experience
  • Law firm resources
  • Attorney’s legal reputation and past clients
  • Whether a case is settled or goes to trial

Contingency fees also typically increase if a case goes to trial. Contingency agreements may outline that there is a 33% contingency fee if the case is settled but a 40% fee if it goes to trial. Contingency fees are the most common form of payment for personal injury cases.

Benefits of Contingency Fee Payments

Injury victims are not required to use a contingency fee payment method, but it does usually make the most sense for the client and the law firm in a personal injury case. 

Victims who are unable to afford legal counsel can hire an attorney with this payment plan. They can also hire an experienced lawyer with no risk since they won’t pay if they don’t win their case. Considering that most law firms also provide a free case evaluation, it takes no initial investment to get started.

In addition to their low-risk, contingency fee, agreements also help clients and lawyers feel like they are on the same team. The lawyer will not get paid if the client doesn’t win their case. Additionally, the more the client gets paid, the more the lawyer makes. This encourages the legal team to do their best work for the highest reward.

As far as the different expenses in a court case are concerned, many times an attorney will offer to handle the additional costs if a settlement is not recovered. This prevents things like filing fees and document copying fees from discouraging clients. 

Contingency Fee FAQ

Can the other party pay my lawyer fees?

Even if you are the victim of a California personal injury accident, you will still be required to pay certain fees.

Most states in the U.S.—including California—follow the “American Rule.” This rule states that each party in a court case will pay their own attorneys’ fees regardless of whether they win or lose. That is unless both parties enter a contract that specifically states one will pay for the other’s attorney, in which case the American Rule does not apply.

The money for your attorney will typically be taken from your settlement. While it may seem unfair that you have to pay money you are owed as compensation for your injuries, hiring a legal professional almost always increases the overall settlement value, thus making it worth your while.

Imagine your insurance company offers you $10,000. You don’t think this is sufficient, so you hire a California personal injury attorney. They manage to negotiate the settlement value up to $50,000. If the lawyer then takes 33%, you will still be left with around $33,000, over three times your original $10,000 settlement.

Is there another way to pay attorneys?

There are a variety of payment options for personal injury claimants in California. One of the more common methods is an hourly rate. Law firms will ask for an upfront retainer then bill clients for every hour they spend working on the case. 

Attorneys could also ask for a flat fee. This is not common in personal injury cases because there are many changing factors involved. A flat fee might be used in a criminal case where the time and work required for the case are relatively predictable. 

When it comes to personal injury cases, contingency fees are the most viable payment method. It’s hard to pay hourly fees when a person is unable to work or has an influx of medical bills from the accident. The contingency fee allows victims to manage their financial challenges and have the security of incoming funds.

What if I switch personal injury lawyers?

You reserve the right to switch personal injury lawyers at any time for any reason in California. If you do decide to switch, you do not have to pay both lawyers in full. You will, however, be required to split the attorney’s fee between the two lawyers you used.

If you get halfway through your case and your original lawyer stops answering your calls, uses a strange legal strategy, or abuses your trust, they will still get a portion of your case winnings. The amount will depend on a contract which you signed with that attorney or how much work the two attorneys performed respectively. 

Is it worth hiring a personal injury attorney in California?

Before someone can become a lawyer, they must have exposure to a large number of similar cases. This means that when you call for a case evaluation, the person on the other end of the line will have a pretty decent idea of what your case settlement should look like. They might’ve even handled one with the exact same case details. 

The lawyer will advise you on whether or not they think it’s worth it for you to add a legal professional to your team. Considering the initial call is free and there’s no cost to hire someone unless you win, it will almost always be worth it if there is money to be recovered. 

The average settlement for individuals with an attorney is significantly higher than the average for those who do not hire someone. 

Contact Chain | Cohn | Clark for an Experienced CA Personal Injury Lawyer

Our firm has been representing California residents like you for decades. Primarily taking cases in the Greater Kern County Area, we understand what it takes to recover sufficient compensation from the guilty party. We will dedicate our resources to earning your benefits so you can focus on your recovery. 

Fill out our online contact form or call (661) 616-9829 for a free case evaluation today.