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What Percentage Do Personal Injury Lawyers Take in California?

Most personal injury lawyers in California  take between 33 to 40 percent of each settlement or award they win, but can go as high as 50 percent depending on the complexity of the case. This reflects cases taken on a “contingency fee” basis. This means they won’t charge you an hourly fee or a retainer – you’ll only pay them a percentage of whatever amount they win for you. 

Here’s what you need to know about personal injury lawyer fees in California. If you’d like to know more about our billing at Hamparyan Personal Injury Lawyers, please feel free to consult with us.

What is a contingency fee?

A contingency fee is a percentage of a settlement or verdict that a lawyer takes as payment for their services. The client does not have to pay the lawyer upfront. Instead, the payment is contingent (dependent) on whether or not the lawyer wins a settlement or court award for the client. If the lawyer doesn’t win anything for the client, they don’t get paid either.

Let’s say you hire an injury attorney who charges a contingency fee of 40 percent. You then obtain a settlement of $100,000 for your accident injury. Your lawyer will receive 40 percent or $40,000 from this, and you will receive the rest.

Instead of charging clients a retainer fee or an advanced flat fee, many personal injury attorneys bill on a contingency basis to make their costs more reasonable for injured individuals. When you’ve just suffered an accident and are reeling from all the expenses, you shouldn’t worry about whether you can afford an attorney. Further, you don’t want to lose money on a lawyer who is unsuccessful in handling your case.

It’s more sensible for you to hire a lawyer when you know you don’t have to pay them until they’ve won an amount for you. Contingent billing ensures you risk no money. It also assures you that your attorney will work hard to win your case and maximize your recovery from it.

How much is the contingency fee of personal injury lawyers in California?

California personal injury lawyers typically get 33 to 40 percent as their contingency fee. The actual figure depends on how complex your case is. For instance, if your accident claim is straightforward and the at-fault party decides to settle quickly, your lawyer may charge a lower rate. But if you have a highly contested case that has a high probability of going to trial, it’s possible for the fee to go up to 40 or even 50 percent depending on complexity.

You should learn about an attorney’s fees right from your initial consultation. When they present you with a fee outline or agreement, don’t be afraid to ask about the provisions. Make sure you understand their billing system before you sign anything.

Who pays for other fees?

Besides the lawyer fee, a personal injury case entails other costs such as:

  • Court filing fees
  • Costs of obtaining medical records, police reports, and the like
  • Investigators’ and expert witnesses’ fees
  • Legal research
  • Court reporters’ deposition fees
  • Copies, postage, and other paperwork expenses
  • Process service fees (when court filings such as a summons have to be delivered by a sheriff to the other party).

In most contingency-based arrangements, the attorney shoulders these costs upfront and keeps track of them. If they win the case, the lawyer will take their reimbursement from the settlement or court award. On the other hand, if they don’t win, they’ll have to assume the costs. The client doesn’t have to pay for these expenses.

How is my lawyer paid once I win?

The arrangements for money dispensation is something you should also discuss with your attorney. Typically, when you’ve won an injury settlement, the at-fault party’s insurance company will send the settlement check to the attorney or law firm you’re working with. The money is then deposited into a client trust account. From there, the firm can deduct their fee and expenses, and you will get your share.

What if I switch lawyers? Will I have to pay more?

California allows you to change attorneys at any point in your personal injury case (except in a few rare circumstances). If you decide to change your injury lawyer, you won’t need to pay each attorney separately. Your original contingency fee remains the same, and the two lawyers will normally divide the fee between themselves according to the value of the services that each has rendered to you. You’re also not required to pay your original lawyer until your case is resolved.

Though the law puts no additional burden on you if you switch attorneys, the specific billing arrangements will still depend on your attorney-client contract. It’s important to review each provision of this contract and ask for clarifications when necessary. Our attorneys at the Hamparyan law firm are happy to discuss this with you when you consult with us about your injury claim.

Contact a San Diego County Personal Injury Attorney

For more than 20 years now, Southern Californians have trusted Hamparyan Personal Injury Lawyers to handle personal injury cases. We are one of California’s most active and successful injury firms, winning over $100 million in settlements and verdicts. Beyond our skilled and aggressive representation, clients trust us because we maintain transparency and communication with them, putting their minds at ease as we help them win their case.

Consult with us for free about your potential injury claim. You won’t have to pay us any lawyer fees unless and until we obtain compensation for you. Call us today at (619) 550-1355.


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