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Shapiro & Appleton

Virginia Personal Injury Lawyers Discuss Contingency Fee Contracts Which Let Lawyers Share Risk with Injured Clients

Our law firm, Shapiro & Appleton& Duffan, P.C. only uses contingency fee contracts in representing people in personal injury and wrongful death cases. The contingency fee contract is a percentage contract. This means that we do not charge clients anything unless and until we make a recovery for them, then we get paid a percentage of what is collected from the insurance company or at fault person. If no recovery is made on the personal injury case from the insurance company or at fault corporation, our law firm is paid nothing for its time spent on the matter. In this way, we share the risk with our client that there may be no recovery on the personal injury case. Also, the way a contingency fee contract is set up puts the incentive on me, as a personal injury lawyer, to get as much as I possibly can for the client. More money for the client means more money for me as the injury lawyer. With this kind of percentage contract, it allows a client who has been hurt in a car wreck or other accident to hire the very best attorney available without having to come up with cash to pay a retainer or pay the attorney on an hourly basis as would otherwise be the case.

Another aspect of the contingency fee agreement in personal injury cases is the repayment of "costs." "Costs" refer to those expenses which the personal injury attorney or someone will have to pay in order to pursue the injury claim. This is not money for the attorney’s time. Rather, the costs are to pay for things like the medical records, medical consultations with the injured person’s doctors, witness fees for the doctors to testify, expert witness fees for professionals necessary to prove certain aspects of the liability or damages, and fees to courts and court reporters. Normally, the personal injury victim is not in a position to pay these costs out of their own pocket. Typically, the person who has been hurt in an accident is struggling to pay their own bills while they may be out of work or incurring unexpected medical bills. So, the law allows a personal injury attorney to advance these costs on behalf of the client. This means that the lawyer will pay for these things to pursue the personal injury case expecting to get paid back after the case is finished. Our firm does this on all of our personal injury cases and gets it costs advanced back from the client upon successful completion of the case.

If the injured person does not make a recovery sufficient to pay back the costs, typically the law firm ends up writing off those as a non-recoverable loss. Technically, under the ethics law applicable to personal injury cases, the client remains responsible for unrecovered costs. However, as a practical matter, our law firm never sues anyone for these costs and does not expect to be paid back under most circumstances because the client usually cannot afford to pay back those costs in the event that their personal injury case is lost. The way cost recovery works also creates incentives for me, as the personal injury lawyer, to make sure that we try to win the case as we have the risk of having to eat the costs if we are not successful.

The cost of a personal injury case can range from under a $100.00 in a simple automobile case which gets settled before suit to tens of thousands in a complex medical malpractice or railroad crossing accident case. In a simple automobile case, it may be just a matter of collecting the medical bills and the police report so the costs are minimal. In cases like medical malpractice or products liability where expert testimony is required to win the case, the costs often run in the tens of thousands. Being able to afford the cost advance is one of the things which separates attorneys experienced at and prepared for expensive litigation and those who are not. I have seen some attorneys who try to do personal injury cases having their client advance all costs. Such an approach to personal injury cases really doesn’t make sense as the client typically can’t afford to do this. To me, part of being a personal injury law firm is being prepared to finance these expenses of personal injury litigation to get the best possible result for the client in the most efficient way.

One thing I like about the way that our law firm handles personal injury matters is the simplicity of our fee contract. It is only a paragraph and fits on a single page. There is nothing confusing about it and that it says that we are working on a percentage basis and that the percentage is from the gross recovery. Shapiro & Appleton& Duffan, P.C. wants to be your injury firm and will share the risk with you to get your wrongs righted.
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