Many accident victims fear hiring an attorney because of the cost. After all, they’re most likely facing large medical bills or lost wages, so they may not be able to afford one. Most people don’t realize that unlike criminal defense attorneys who have a set hourly rate, most personal injury lawyers use a contingency fee to charge their clients.

Contingency fees allow those who might not be able to afford an attorney a chance to pursue fair and just compensation for their injuries without added monthly bills. That said, there are some things you should know about contingency fees before you hire an attorney.

What Are Contingency Fees?

By definition, a contingency fee is payment for services provided where the client only pays the cost if there is a favorable outcome. Whether your case settles in or out of court, payments are contingent upon winning the case. This will be a certain percentage of your compensation, which is determined by several factors.

How Do Attorneys Calculate Contingency Fees?

While injuries vary from person to person, the basic estimation of contingency fees is generally uniform across the board. Contingency fees may cover an attorney’s costs and are deducted from a final settlement. Generally, personal injury claims become more expensive the longer they take to settle. Some expenses that contingency fees cover may include:

Filing and Court Fees

Going to court isn’t free. State and federal courts require a fee to file a case, but a personal injury attorney generally covers the cost and deducts it from the settlement. Bear in mind that courts charge for everything: filing, copying, and postage. So, these costs add up quickly.


Discoveries in court cases can be a lengthy and expensive process. Discovery may also require witnesses to testify in a deposition, and they must be paid to do so. There are typically a few depositions in personal injury cases.


To prove certain aspects of your injury, such as doctor’s visits and medical procedures, your attorney will have to gather documentation. Requesting or issuing a subpoena for medical records and other documents can cost hundreds of dollars.

Expert Witnesses

Your attorney may also bring expert witnesses to testify if the case goes to court. They’re brought in to give their opinion on the issue at hand, and the court often relies on their opinion to cast judgement. While expert witnesses might help you win the case, they may charge a few hundred dollars per hour for deposition appearances and providing trial testimony.

Advantages to Contingency Fees

There are many advantages to contingency fees. Aside from offering low-income individuals a chance at legal services, attorneys typically won’t charge you if you lose the case. This does vary by attorney and by case. Consider that an attorney will be incentivized to work harder on a case where they will only be paid if the outcome is favorable.

What Happens If I Switch Attorneys During the Case?

If you switch attorneys or decide to represent yourself, your former attorney will most likely put a lien on any financial earnings you receive from the case. A lien is someone’s legal right to take part in the settlement proceeds from your compensation.

Keep in mind that most attorneys will have you sign an agreement before working on your case. Read over the contract carefully before switching attorneys, as you may be obligated to pay for work that’s already been completed.

Skilled Personal Injury Attorney in California

If your injuries result from another party’s negligence, you have a right to seek compensation. The best way to receive fair and just compensation for your injuries is to speak with an attorney skilled in California personal injury law.

At Setareh Law, our team of legal experts is dedicated to representing accident victims. We have a proven track record of getting the justice our clients deserve. Call (310) 659-1826 or complete an online contact form to get in touch with one of our attorneys today.