Not all personal injury firms are made equally. Some firms operate entirely on volume. Take Walmart, for instance. Their stores run on razor-thin profit margins and manage to make billions each year. Why? Because their volume is so high, the profit margin does not matter. Eventually, it will add up to billions. Smaller stores operating on much higher profit margins (and charging more) will never compete with Walmart’s volume.
Personal injury attorneys can operate just like Walmart. They take on clients, settle their cases for a little more than the insurance company is offering, and because they take on so many clients, they earn a profit. However, you do not want to be one of a hundred active clients with open cases on your lawyer’s desk, and you do not want to settle your case for a penny less than its worth. You will only get one chance to litigate your claim. So, how do you screen lawyers to determine if their firms are settlement mills, or you are going to be getting the individual attention you deserve?
Personal injury lawyers are ethically obligated not to answer questions like this precisely. They can say something to the effect of, “In similar cases I’ve tried, I’ve seen settlements of such and such amount.” Or, “with these sorts of injuries, you can expect to recover medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.” Since your lawyer probably is not going to know how much you make a week, there is no way that he can know how much your settlement would be. You would be entitled to recover wages related to lost pay from injuries, but a doctor would be entitled to recover more than someone else because they are potentially losing more money if they are forced to take time off work to recover. So, your lawyer cannot tell you how much money you will get, and those “personal injury calculators” are not accurate at all.
Personal injury lawyers work on a contingency basis and generally take between 33%-40% of the gross settlement or award in your case. This can still be lucrative for plaintiffs who are getting low-ball offers from the insurance company. Your attorney may also have to hire expert witnesses, which would be taken out of the total cut of the money. Fees are not paid by the plaintiff until after a recovery is made by settlement or judgment.
If you are unsuccessful, you owe nothing to your lawyer for fees. However, the client may be responsible for the expenses incurred in handling the case (expert witness fees, court costs, trial expenses, etc.), as these are generally not contingent upon success in your case.
Contact Lafferty, Gallagher, & Scott today to set up a free consultation. We would be more than happy to discuss these questions and any other you have about your particular case.
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