Personal injury lawyers are different from other lawyers. Unlike most lawyers who will bill you for every ounce of air that billows through their vocal cords, personal injury lawyers offer advice for free. More importantly, unlike most other lawyers there is no money you pay them up front. In fact you do not have to pay your personal injury lawyer a dime for all his time and effort if he doesn’t win your case!
That is the beauty and genius of the “contingency fee” retainer. I like to call it the great equalizer. Contingency fee arrangements allow the average man access to an area from which he might otherwise be shut out … the court system.
The contingency fee system was set up to help Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public gain access to the courts by making it easier to pay for legal services. In the typical contingency fee agreement, the suing party (plaintiff) is only responsible for paying his lawyer if the case is won, with payment coming as a percentage of the winnings, typically one-third.
The contingency fee has become an important part of our legal system. It increases access to justice for individuals. Without it, most people would be shut out of the legal system even if they have a good cause of action. Access to our courts would be limited to people of means, who could then bully those without resources to defend themselves.
Contingency fees align the attorney’s interests with those of the client. The attorney is unlikely to use delaying tactics and “run up the clock” as his pay is based on results, not time. Since the lawyer is, in effect, investing his own money into bringing the case, he will be more judicious in the money spent litigating the claim.
An important added bonus of the contingency fee is that it adds an additional layer of protection against what some call “frivolous lawsuits.” Contingency fee lawyers will not take cases without merit for one simple reason: they are not going to invest their time, effort and money into cases that are losers. A contingency fee lawyer has to carefully screen his cases to take only those that have a high degree of being successful. This lowers the number of lawsuits filed, saving time and money for an often underfunded and overburdened court system.
Personal injury lawyers and the contingency fee … helping David sue Goliath.