How Does A Personal Injury Attorney Get Paid?
Published on:May 12, 2017

 How Does A Personal Injury Attorney Get Paid?

One of the things that stops most people from filing a personal injury lawsuit is the potential costs of hiring an attorney. Over the years, attorneys have realized that fear of high costs is a problem with prospective clients, and that is why most personal injury attorneys only get paid if they win your case. So how does a personal injury attorney get paid? It is a good question to have answered before you decide to give up your right to sue.

Contingency Versus A Retainer

When you hire an attorney for a family or criminal law case, you will usually have to pay a retainer to the attorney before they get started. The retainer is put aside by the attorney and used to pay fees you accrue in your case until the case is resolved. When the retainer runs out, your attorney will start sending you bills for the amount you owe. If you don’t keep up with your bills, your attorney may refuse to represent you.

A contingency is much nicer because it does not rely on any up front payments. A contingency is a percentage that your attorney gets from your settlement after the case has been resolved. Most contingencies are limited by state laws to 33 percent of the final settlement. If you win a settlement of $99,000, then you get $66,000 and your attorney gets $33,000. Most personal injury attorneys work on contingency, and they only get paid if they get you a settlement.

Settlements Before And After The Filing

If your lawyer manages to get the other party to agree to a settlement prior to filing the actual lawsuit, then the contingency payment is capped at 33 percent. But in some states, your attorney is allowed to charge a contingency of up to 40 percent if the other party agrees to a settlement after the lawsuit has been officially filed. This is because there are extra charges and time associated with filing a lawsuit, and then rescinding the lawsuit after a settlement. Ask your attorney about contingency percentages before and after filing the lawsuit before you start your case.


The idea that a contingency payment represents an attorney’s final pay is incorrect. Along with taking their contingency payment, your personal injury attorney can also charge for expenses such as pulling medical or police records, investigator fees, and expert witness fees. Many attorneys allow clients to have expenses taken out of the client’s part of the settlement, but some attorneys require expenses to be paid on an ongoing basis. Make sure you understand how your attorney handles expenses before you take them on for your personal injury lawsuit.

Your personal injury attorney will be the one who gets your settlement check, and then they will send you your portion of it after all the fees have been removed. It is important to note that your attorney will not deal with any income tax implications of your settlement, and you should hire a professional accountant to help you with that issue. But it is also important to understand how your personal injury attorney gets paid to avoid any surprises when your get your final settlement check.