How is an Attorney Compensated in a Personal Injury Case?

Interviewer: How do attorney fees work?

Bill Levinson: Most lawyers – that I’m aware of, for sure, in the state of Washington – work on a contingent fee. Contingent, meaning that if the lawyer doesn’t recover money for the client, the lawyer doesn’t get paid. Having said that, the amount of the attorney’s fees can vary depending on the kind of case. Typically, for the regular cases of collisions or premises cases, the percentage is thirty-three and a third percent. This office is consistent, however, if you’re going to go to trial, my percentage goes up to forty percent. If you’re going to do medical negligence, which is incredibly expensive to run, then the percentage could go up to fifty percent. In addition, there are out-of-pocket costs that the client is responsible for. If we’re gathering medical records, the records folks usually charge those, and those are the client’s responsibility. They know that up front because it’s in the contract. They know that they’re not going to pay the lawyer unless the lawyer recovers money. The cost typically, in any injury case, is the cost of medical bills to be reproduced and then doctor’s reports, which generally go into the settlement demand; it goes to the carrier. Compared to the overall settlement, those are nominal.

Uninsured Parties

Interviewer: Let’s say I was in some sort of accident, whether it be a vehicle accident or another, what if the other person did not have insurance? How would that work?

Bill Levinson: If the other person doesn’t have insurance then they’re effectively out of it. You’re out of the case. If you don’t have insurance, the client doesn’t have insurance or uninsured motorist coverage, the lawyer’s out of the case because there’s no pocket; there’s no place to collect. I tell my clients, always, if they buy any kind of coverage other than collision (which is required) and liability (which is required in the state of Washington), buy uninsured motorist coverage. That protects you in case people do drive without insurance.

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