What does a reasonable personal injury lawyer contract consist of?

by Seth
(Los Angeles, CA)

Our son was almost run over by a car. It hit him in a cross walk and his foot was trapped under the right front tire. He had to stand up and motion for the driver to back up off his foot. His foot was not seriously injured, no broken bones, just badly bruised. He's on crutches but can walk around the apartment on the heel of his foot.

The only reason we called a lawyer was because he has a job he won't be able to attend for at least a couple days, as well as he can't remember how he got back on the curb after the accident. He didn't have a head injury so we're assuming his brain blocked it out due to fear or some other psychological reason.

We contacted a personal injury firm that sent a slimy hard sell salesman that tried to get us to sign a ridiculous contract, making us responsible for outrageous records fees and stipulated they could demand a percentages of the settlement at any time within 90 days of us agreeing to have them represent us.

I guess my question is, what does a reasonable personal injury contract look like and consist of? Can you provide an example? How can we be sure we're not being taken advantage of by a personal injury law firm? Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "What does a reasonable personal injury lawyer contract consist of?":

Seth (Los Angeles, CA):

Your derisive description of the law firm's emissary is unfortunate. From the facts you present, you were the one who contacted the law firm in an effort to seek legal representation for your son.

Below are the general terms you will find in a typical Personal Injury Fee Agreement:


Client requests and authorizes Lawyer to represent him/her in all matters arising out of a car accident which occurred on July 21st, 201_ against John Doe.

1. Lawyer agrees to exercise his/her best efforts and professional ability, and will consult with Client on an ongoing basis regarding major decisions relating to this matter, including trial or settlement.

2. Client agrees to cooperate with Lawyer, assist Lawyer with preparing the case as Lawyer requests.

3. Client agrees not to do any act that impairs the value of the case.

4. Client agrees not to settle the case without Lawyer's participation and consent.

5. Client agrees not to speak to others or consult other lawyers about the case.

6. Client agrees to pay costs of investigation, out-of-pocket costs and expenses

7. Client agrees to pay Lawyer's fee for professional services as follows: 33 1/3rd % percent of any settlement or recovery, and 40% if the case is appealed. Further, if, at the time the case is settled or a judgment is paid Client owes Lawyer for any expenses or other items, Lawyer may deduct that sum from the amount to be paid to Client. The percentage recovery will be calculated before outstanding medical bills, expenses and costs of suit are deducted.

8. If Client makes no recovery, Client owes Lawyer nothing for legal services but must pay expenses.

9. If Client decides to terminate the case after Lawyer has provided substantial legal services, Client must pay Lawyer a sum equal to the probable fee, to be determined by a panel of the American Arbitration Association. Lawyer will bear the cost of the arbitration.

10. Lawyer reserves the right to terminate this contract if at any time he/she concludes that the claim is without merit.

11. Client agrees that Lawyer cannot promise or guarantee a particular result.

13. This agreement represents the full agreement between Client and Lawyer. No other agreement, written or oral, exists, and discussions between Client and Lawyer that are not set forth in this agreement are not part of this agreement.

14. If Client and Lawyer agree to change any term in this agreement, the agreed-to change must be in writing and signed by both parties.

Signature of Attorney
Signature of Client


Like any profession, there are sometimes attorneys who don't act in an appropriate manner. However, the number of those attorneys who are unprofessional is minuscule in comparison to the number of attorneys who conduct themselves professionally.

The best way to be sure you are not being taken advantage of is to visit with more than one personal injury attorney. It's as simple as that. After consulting with several attorneys you will have a better idea of the viability of your son's injury claim and the probability of a successful resolution.

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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