How to negotiate attorney fees?

by Cody
(Greensboro, NC)

In doing research on lawyers for a personal injury claim, I've seen some people posting on message boards claiming they've negotiated part of the settlement, and then gotten a lawyer afterwards to attempt to get more. The lawyer has agreed to only take their fee from whatever extra compensation they can get.

Is this standard practice? In what scenarios do they negotiate fees? How would I go about negotiating a lower fee with a personal injury attorney? Thanks!

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "How to negotiate attorney fees?":

Cody (Greensboro, NC):

You are correct. Many personal injury attorneys will agree to assist a victim with their settlement even after the victim has negotiated a settlement amount. There are some issues to keep in mind...

While many attorneys will agree to represent a victim even after the victim has negotiated a settlement with the insurance company, attorneys will not agree to represent the victim if he or she has already received the insurance company draft (settlement check) and deposited or cashed it, or signed a release with the insurance company.

When an attorney agrees to represent a victim, the attorney will likely agree to take his or her fee from any amount above the amount the victim has already negotiated with the insurance company. In so doing, the attorney may charge a contingency fee of anywhere from 33.3% up to 50% or more of the additional settlement amount.

Learn about contingency fee agreements here.

If you're considering retaining a personal injury attorney after you've already negotiated a settlement, the attorney will likely want to see the written offer of settlement you received from the claims adjuster. If the letter is unavailable, the attorney may contact the adjuster and confirm it was indeed a real offer of settlement.

However, this doesn't work all the time. Often an attorney will not agree to represent a client for such a claim if the attorney first calls the claims adjuster and the adjuster states the amount already offered was a final offer.

If the claim involves a serious injury such as head trauma, fractures, serious burns, permanent disfigurement, and like injuries, the attorney may agree to represent the victim even if the adjuster stated it was a final offer. In this case, the attorney can file a lawsuit and take his chances with a jury trial.

If you're considering retaining an attorney to represent you for an amount above what you've already negotiated, you have the right to negotiate the attorney's fee.

Ask the attorney what settlement amount (above the existing offer) he or she may be able to negotiate. If the amount is quite high, then the attorney's percentage should be lower. If the amount is not very high, then the attorney's fee should be much higher. Otherwise, it just wouldn't be worth the attorney's time and effort to accept the claim.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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