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A personal injury lawyer does not cost the client any direct fee. Most personal injury firms use contingency fees, which tie their fee to their performance in the case.

If the client receives a settlement or jury verdict, the law firm receives a percentage of the recovery. The lawyer’s fee varies depending on different factors, including the complexity of a case and the chance it might go to court. You should ask your car accident lawyers about their specific fee structure.

There are several reasons why personal injury lawyers use contingency fees, and you may benefit as the client who agrees to a contingency fee structure.

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Why Do Personal Injury Lawyers Use Contingency Fees?

A personal injury lawyer may use a contingency fee structure for several reasons, including:

The Fact That Many Clients Cannot Otherwise Afford a Lawyer

Many clients who need a personal injury lawyer are in difficult financial circumstances because:

  • They are not well-to-do financially
  • They have been in an accident, causing sudden and unexpected financial hardship (such as medical bills and vehicle repair costs)
  • They cannot work due to injuries, causing substantial financial uncertainty

When someone faces financial hardship, they may be unlikely to pay money to hire a lawyer, especially if they can otherwise try to handle their own insurance claim. With a contingency fee, the client does not have to pay any money out of their own pocket to hire a personal injury attorney.

The Law Firm’s Ability to Cover All Upfront Costs

If you are considering whether to hire a personal injury lawyer, consider the services your attorney may cover:

  • Medical experts to diagnose your injuries, testify in service of your case, and help value the cost of future care
  • Mental health professionals to diagnose your pain and suffering, testify about the nature of your symptoms, and calculate the cost of future care
  • Filing fees
  • Any other services or fees related to your case

A law firm will cover all of these expenses for you.

The Law Firm’s Confidence That It Can Get Compensation for the Client

Your personal injury lawyer will not receive payment for their efforts and investments in your case unless they succeed. Therefore, a law firm can offer a contingency fee structure because it is confident it will secure compensation for the client.

Contingency fees are a structure that can work well for the law firm and the client. If the law firm wins for the client, the firm and the client can receive the compensation they deserve.

What Is the Benefit of a Contingency Fee from the Client’s Perspective?

As the client, the benefits of personal injury lawyers contingency fee structure include:
The absence of financial pressure in hiring a lawyer: There is no immediate or direct financial burden when you hire a personal injury lawyer through a contingency fee. Your lawyer’s fee will come from your settlement or jury award, meaning you won’t face any out-of-pocket risk to hire your attorney.

Judge's hands striking gavel in front of stacked coins on desk.

  • Complete financial support for your insurance claim or lawsuit: The law firm you hire will be financially responsible for your case. This arrangement will further insulate you from the expense of completing an insurance claim or lawsuit.
  • Your lawyer’s financial incentive to secure compensation for you: Because your lawyer’s fee will depend on your case’s outcome, your attorney will have substantial financial motivation to get a financial recovery for you. Even if a lawyer was inclined to negotiate a fair settlement or win a jury award, the contingency fee further incentivizes winning.

Before hiring, you should confirm that a personal injury lawyer uses a contingency fee structure.

What Determines the Percentage of the Financial Recovery a Law Firm Receives?

Different law firms may charge different fees, and a law firm may adjust its contingency fee percentage based on certain circumstances. The value of the contingency fee you agree to pay your lawyer will depend on:

The Practices of Each Specific Law Firm

Some law firms may value their services more highly than others. For instance, a law firm with a track record of securing large financial recoveries across many years of service may charge a higher contingency fee than a fledgling firm—though not necessarily.

Whether the Case Settles or Goes to Trial

Some law firms may adjust their contingency fee percentage based on whether a case:
Ends with a settlement

  • Goes to trial

Trial is a significant undertaking that may require more time, effort, and money from the law firm. Therefore, the law firm may understandably require a higher percentage of the client’s financial recovery if a case goes to trial.

Other Contingencies Built Into the Fee Structure

A law firm may include other contingencies within its contingency fee structure. Personal injury claims and lawsuits can be complicated, and law firms must ensure they receive fair compensation for their services.

Your personal injury lawyer will detail the exact terms of a contingency fee in a fee agreement. You should request a copy of this fee agreement and ask any questions before signing with a law firm.

What Services Do I Get in Exchange for a Contingency Fee?

A personal injury lawyer will work hard to earn their contingency fee, and their services will depend on the specific details of your case. Some of the common responsibilities of a personal injury lawyer include:

Protecting the Client’s Rights

A lawyer’s first obligation is to protect the client, and they may fulfill this obligation by:

  • Dealing with insurance companies whose goals do not always align with a client’s best interests
  • Helping the client craft any statements they must provide insurers, law enforcement officers, or courts
  • Advising the client so they do not make any mistakes that can jeopardize the insurance claim or lawsuit

Personal injury attorneys recognize threats that the client may not. Your attorney will ensure nobody can violate your rights while they fight for the money you are entitled to.

Securing Evidence as Quickly as Possible

Lawyers build winning cases with compelling evidence. Attorneys like to secure evidence as quickly as possible because:

  • Witnesses’ memories can fade with time
  • Some evidence, like video footage, may not be available long after an incident
  • Liable parties (such as a trucking company) may have evidence that they’re actively trying to conceal or dispose of
  • Gathering evidence is an essential step that no lawyer can skip

Your attorney may use an investigator to help gather evidence.

Detailing and Calculating the Client’s Damages

Damages are the heart of every personal injury case.

Your lawyer may document your damages using:

  • Medical records and bills
  • Employment-related records
  • Invoices for items and services related to the accident
  • Any other documentation that helps prove the nature and cost of their client’s damages

Your lawyer will also calculate the exact cost of your damages, as this will allow them to seek the money you deserve.

Pursuing a Fair Settlement

Settling is the preferred option for most lawyers and clients. Most prefer to secure a fair settlement rather than face a trial’s cost and long duration. The numbers indicate that your case will most likely settle, but settling is merely Plan A.

Liable parties may refuse to offer a fair settlement, in which case your lawyer will have to consider Plan B.

Going to Trial, When Necessary

Filing a lawsuit and going to trial may be Plan B.

If your lawyer does file a lawsuit, the next steps may include:

  • Engaging in settlement talks one more time
  • Completing discovery when both sides of a lawsuit exchange trial-related materials
  • Making opening arguments
  • Presenting, questioning, and cross-examining witnesses
  • Presenting evidence
  • Handling all motions and oral arguments
  • Imploring the jury to award you the compensation you deserve

Whether your case goes to trial or not, the fact you have a lawyer will ensure a trial is a realistic option for you.

Handling All Paperwork and Communications

Lawyers must draft and file paperwork to ensure the accuracy of each document. By ensuring the paperwork is accurate and filed on time, your lawyer will prevent any controllable delays in your case.

Attorneys also handle case-related communications to:

  • Ensure the client does not say or write anything that can harm their case
  • Ensure that insurers and others involved in the case have all the information and documentation they need
  • Ensure the case moves forward as quickly as possible
  • Ensure the client can focus on their recovery without having to deal with insurers and others involved in the case

Personal injury lawyers have paralegals who assist with case-related communications.

Your Damages Will Be Your Lawyer’s Greatest Concern

Close-up of two lawyers' hands clasped in negotiation, symbolizing business confrontation.

Simply put, your lawyer’s job is to obtain compensation for your damages. Every client is a unique person with unique economic and non-economic damages, and yours may include:

Medical Costs

Many people hire a personal injury lawyer because they’ve suffered some injury, which may require:

  • Emergency transportation
  • Emergency medical services
  • Hospitalization
  • Medical imaging
  • Various doctor visits
  • Rehabilitation

Your attorney will insist that liable parties cover the cost of medical care resulting from their negligence.

Professional Damages

Some common professional damages in personal injury cases include:

  • Lost income
  • Diminished earning power
  • Lost earning power
  • Missed bonuses
  • Lost chances for promotions
  • Lost or unearned benefits

One’s ability to work is directly linked to financial stability, psychological well-being, and physical health. You can be certain that your personal injury lawyer will seek fair compensation for your professional damages.

Pain and Suffering

Pain and suffering can refer to:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Psychological distress
  • Emotional anguish
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of physical abilities (which can happen when someone suffers a disabling injury)
  • Loss of cognitive abilities (which can happen when someone suffers a brain injury)
  • Mood and personality changes
  • Sleep problems
  • Lost quality of life

This is a common class of non-economic damages that personal injury lawyers seek compensation for. Because pain and suffering do not have an obvious financial value, having a lawyer calculate the cost of your pain and suffering can help.

Mental Health Treatment

If you receive any treatment for your pain and suffering, your attorney will include that treatment in your insurance claim or lawsuit.

Such treatment may include medications, counseling, or any other help a mental health expert or doctor prescribes.

Property Expenses

Many case types, such as auto accidents, result in property damage.

You may receive compensation for:

  • The repair of property
  • The replacement of property
  • Temporary transportation
  • Other property-related expenses related to someone else’s negligence

This is just one more type of damage for which your lawyer will seek fair compensation.

Disability-Related Damages

Those who suffer disabling injuries may:

  • Permanently lose income or earning power
  • Need a new, wheelchair-friendly vehicle
  • Need changes to their home (such as the addition of handrails, lift devices, and ramps)
  • Need a caregiver or may need a loved one to serve in a caregiver role (which may cause issues for the loved one)
  • Need long-term medical care and rehabilitation

Severe disabling injuries can impose millions of dollars in care costs. Hiring a lawyer may be the first step in ensuring that you don’t pay out of pocket for the cost of a disability.

The Loss of a Loved One

Those who have lost a loved one should determine whether a wrongful death lawsuit is warranted.

If you choose to pursue such a lawsuit, your recoverable damages may include:

  • Funeral costs
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of consortium
  • Loss of the decedent’s income
  • Loss of services the decedent performed for their household

Some cases tend to cause specific types of damages. For example, motorcycle accident victims often need to repair or replace their bikes. This is why you should hire an attorney familiar with your case type, as they will know which damages to anticipate as they build your case.

Hire Your Personal Injury Lawyer as Soon as Possible

Chester Cameron
Chicago Car Accident Lawyer, Chet Cameron, Jr.

There will be a filing deadline for your case due to the statute of limitations. Please don’t wait to hire your personal injury attorney, as they will file your case and maintain all options for seeking compensation.



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