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Contingency Fees at Pettit Law Office

The Risk-Free Way to Pursue a Personal Injury Claim

Attorney fees can come in the form of flat fees, retainers, deposits, and contingent fees. The contingent attorney fee is by far the most common type of fee arrangement for personal injury and workers’ compensation cases. Read on to learn more about contingent fees and how a settlement number is the first step in determining what you actually receive after a case.

If you have any questions about contingent fees, please schedule a free consultation with our team by calling (417) 222-6640.

What Is a Contingency Fee?

A contingent fee is an agreement where the client pays for the lawyer’s services at the end of the representation. Virtually all personal injury and workers’ compensation attorneys operate on the contingent fee basis. This means that no matter which attorney you choose, you should not have to pay anything out of pocket to get the compensation you deserve. “No fee until you win” is a common slogan for these attorneys, but make no mistake – ALL personal injury and workers’ compensation attorneys will offer the same deal.

The lawyer’s fees are taken out of the amount awarded to the plaintiff, whether by settlement or jury verdict. Contingent attorney fees are generally allowed by Missouri Supreme Court Rule 4-1.5(c). This is a special type of fee that allows people to get compensation for what they rightfully deserve without forcing the injured person or family to pay out of their own pocket before receiving their compensation allowed by law.

How Much Are Personal Injury Lawyer Fees?

In personal injury cases (cases not under workers’ compensation rules) there is no cap on the amount of the attorney's fees. However, rule 4-1.5 requires that the attorney fee be reasonable. Reasonableness is determined by the amount of time and attention the attorney spends on the case. Therefore, the limit of reasonableness depends on each case.

Contingency fees are usually ⅓ (or 33.3333%) of the plaintiff’s total recovery in car accident, slip and fall, and general injury cases. Other types of cases, like medical malpractice and product liability, are more complicated and require more attention. These cases could result in up to 50% in attorney fees.

In Missouri workers’ compensation cases, attorneys usually charge contingent fees of 25%. There is no Missouri law that limits the amount of the attorney’s fee in workers’ compensation cases, but the attorney fee must be stated when settling a case and it must be approved by the administrative law judge.

Can a Lawyer’s Fee Vary Depending on My Case’s Outcome?

Yes. Sometimes a lawyer’s contingency fee agreement varies, depending on if your case is settled before filing suit or after. A fee agreement like this could allow for a 25% fee if settled before filing suit, for 33.333% if settled after filing suit, and for 40% if the case is tried.

Is It Worth Hiring an Attorney if I Have to Pay a Contingency Fee?

In most cases, yes. Hiring a lawyer on a contingent fee basis increases the total amount an injured person or family will receive in the end. This is because the insurance company expects you not to understand the law. They also know that the average injured person or family member will likely accept less than the full value of their case. Hiring an attorney can help you get your full, deserved amount during settlement.

What About Costs?

An important part of understanding a contingent fee agreement is understanding case expenses (commonly referred to as “costs”). There are two types of costs: Litigation expenses and taxable costs.

Litigation expenses generally refer to the costs incurred while the case is being investigated and prosecuted. These include fees for obtaining records (i.e. crash reports and medical records), expert fees, and other fees incurred by the lawyer in order to prepare the case for trial. Taxable costs include filing fees, deposition costs, and service fees.

One of the largest costs in a personal injury case is the cost of an expert. Experts are commonly retained by both plaintiffs and defendants in injury cases. Experts are hired in order to give their opinion of why something happened based on their specialized or scientific knowledge. Because the experts have specialized knowledge, they are in high demand and therefore charge high fees. Pettit Law Office has seen experts charge fees up to $50,000 to give their opinion in a case – appearance to testify at trial is extra.

How Is the Fee Calculated?

When a case is settled or a jury awards a plaintiff compensation, then the calculation can begin. Usually, the attorney fee is calculated on the whole award. From there, costs and other bills are deducted. For an example, we will go through a hypothetical settlement.

Let’s assume John was in a car crash, hired an attorney, and reached a settlement amount of $50,000. John hired a lawyer for a ⅓ contingency attorney fee and that the lawyer incurred $2,500 of costs while working on the case. Let’s also assume that John didn’t have health insurance and has outstanding medical bills of $2,000.

The following is how the settlement memorandum would read:

  • Net amount to John: $20,833.33
  • Settlement amount: $50,000
  • Attorney fee: $16,666.67
  • Costs advanced by attorney: $2,500
  • Medical bills: $2,000

When the settlement money comes in, the fee is paid to the attorney, the costs are also repaid to the attorney, the medical bills are then paid out of the client’s net amount. In the end, John received a check for $20,833.33. Not too bad.

If you have any questions about attorney or contingency fees, feel free to contact our Aurora personal injury attorneys at Pettit Law Office. Call (417) 222-6640 today.

Client Testimonials

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  • “James was kind, knowledgeable and kept us informed during our whole process.”

    Kari L.
  • “Always very timely in responding and very knowledgeable in what they do!”

    Trenton P.
  • “I am extremely satisfied after 12 years of representation.”

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  • “They handled the process to take stress off my family and to reach a fair settlement.”

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Millions Recovered for Our Clients

  • $125,000 Settlement Rear-End Car Accident
    Upon approaching heavy traffic, my client slowed his SUV that was traveling South on Highway 65. The defendant driver rear ended my client. His neck surgery and medical bills of $55, 261 were a direct result of the collision. The defendant’s insurance failed to pay the policy limit of $25,000 as requested by the defendant driver. This resulted in a “bad faith” claim against the insurance policy. This case was settled during mediation.
  • $527,000 Verdict Premise Liability
    My client slipped and fell in a handicap ramp that was covered in ice as a result of a faulty unmaintained downspout. She ruptured disk C5-6 and suffered an annular tear at L4-5 along with shoulder and foot complaints. This resulted is surgery for an anterior cervical diskectomy and fusion of her neck. Her past medical bills were $80,000. Two pre-trial mediations failed with defense offering $30,000 to settle. The jury gave 25% fault to my client. The jury also awarded $40,000 for her husband’s consortium claim. (Missouri Lawyer’s Weekly, July 23, 2009)
  • $450,000 Settlement Motor Vehicle Accident
    Client was seriously injured when the car she was riding in was rear ended while stopped in traffic. She had to have back surgery. The case settled early in the discovery process without the need of formal mediation.
  • $1,300,000 Settlement Workers' Compensation
    Confidential settlement for our client who was hurt by a large piece of machinery at work.
  • $300,000 Settlement Premises Liability
    Our client was riding in a Rhino ATV when the driver caused it to flip. When the ATV flipped, our client’s hand was smashed requiring amputation of a finger. Case settled for policy limits without filing suit. After settlement our office worked to lower medical bills so our client received more money.
  • $250,000 Settlement Premises Liability
    Client was hurt after the driver of the Arctic Cat side by side rolled the ATV cutting the jaw of our client. Settlement reached at mediation just 3 months after filing suit.
  • $350,000 Settlement Semi-Trailer Accident
    My client proceeded thru the intersection of Highway 60 and 39 in Aurora. She was broadsided by a semi-trailer running. There was a dispute over who had the green light. My client was ejected from the vehicle resulting in the following injuries: fractures to her jaw, clavicle, iliac crest and five fractured ribs. She also had a 14 inch laceration from the corner of her mouth down to her throat. This almost completely removed her tongue. She had a collapsed lung requiring a respirator, a bruised kidney and a head injury. She was airlifted from the scene and received $147,790 in medical expenses. Medicare was reimbursed $36,410 of that expense. Expert used: neuropsychologist. Client agreed to a structured settlement.
  • $732,000 Settlement Rear-End Car Accident
    Our client was injured when he stopped his car on Highway 60 in Monett to wait for traffic to clear in order to make a left turn. He was rear-end by a vehicle that was rear-ended by a semi truck. The tractor trailer truck was owned by a company in Tennessee. This chain reaction was a direct result of his injuries. His diagnosis were: concussion, cluster headaches, Chiari malformation, strain to cervical and lumbar spine. His impotence was determined to be from a damaged pituitary gland as a result from his closed head injury. He required testosterone injections every 3 weeks. Experts used: accident reconstructionist, neuropsychologist, economist, vocational rehabilitation.
  • $640,000 Settlement Brain Injury After Semi-Truck Accident
    Our firm represented an 8 year old boy who suffered a brain injury as a direct result of accident involving a semi-truck at the intersection of Highway 39 and I-44. His past medical bills were $122,754. Client did have pre-accident diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Funds from the settlement were deposited into a Missouri Special Needs Trust to provide for future treatment.
  • $25,000 Settlement Workers' Compensation for Law Enforcement Officer
    Our client was involved in a crash while responding to a call. Settlement was done between the employer’s work comp coverage and the other driver’s liability insurance.

Why Hire Pettit Law Office?

Your Recovery is Too Important Not To
  1. All attorneys have trial experience & are prepared to go to trial.
  2. Over 100 years of combined injury law experience.
  3. Lawyers work closely with each client on a case-by-case basis.
  4. Direct access to the same attorney from start to finish.
  5. Lawyers & paralegals approach each case with compassion.
  6. Long track record of successful verdicts & settlements.
  7. Spanish language option available for clients who need it.
  8. Committed to serving the local community in & out of court.
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