A Guide To Understanding How Attorney Fees Work
If you are considering pursuing a personal injury case, and need to hire a lawyer, it is vital that you understand exactly what costs you will be expected to pay and when you will be expected to pay them. Here is a quick guide to how attorney's fees generally works. Use this guide as a basis for discussing your legal expenses with your potential attorney.
The Difference Between Fees and Costs
In normal everyday lingo, most people interchange the words fees and costs. However, when you are discussing legal expenses with your attorney, these two words carry different meanings.
When your attorney discusses their fees, they are talking about the rate that they charge you for their time and services. The fees are what your attorney expects to be paid for working on your case.
When your attorney discusses costs, they are talking about the expenses that will be associated with your case. A few examples of costs that your case will generate could include court filing fees, the cost of copying documents for your case, the cost of postage to send documents and the cost of any experts or outside help. Basically, the term "costs" cover all the other expenses associated with your lawsuit outside of your lawyer's hourly fees or compensation.
How Fees Are Calculated & Charged
There are three different ways that most attorneys charge their fees. It is important that you understand how you are being charged. You may be charged on either a contingency basis, hourly basis or a flat rate.
Contingency Basis: If an attorney accepts your case on a contingency basis, you will not be charged any attorney fees upfront. Your attorney will recoup any fees that they would have charged you from either your settlement offer or judgement in your favor. If your attorney is unable to secure you a settlement offer, or loses your case in court, you will not owe your attorney any fees. Generally, the amount of fees or the percentage of your settlement or judgement that will go towards your attorney is determined up front in your contract.
Hourly Basis: If your attorney is charging you an hourly rate, that means that you are being charged based on the actual time that your attorney spends working on your case. Your attorney will have to document and provide you with a record of all the time they spent working on your case.
Generally, when you are charged on an hourly basis, your attorney will require a retainer up front. Your retainer will cover the estimated number of hours multiplied by your attorney's hourly rate that they expect to spend on your cases. If they do not spend as many hours as they estimated on your case, an unpaid portion of your retainer will be returned to you. If your attorney exceeds the estimated number of hours and thus exhausts the retainer, you will be expected to pay any additional fees incurred.
Flat Rate: Finally, sometimes your attorney will offer you a flat rate. With a flat rate, you pay a certain amount of money to your attorney. The rate that you pay does not depend on how long it takes your attorney to accomplish the task, nor does it depend on the outcome of the task.
How The Costs Are Calculated
Many attorneys will charge you for a wide range of costs, from your court filing fees to hiring an expert to testify at your trail. These costs are separate from your attorney's fees. The way these are charged is also separate as well.
If you have a large and complicated case, your attorney may ask for a retainer up front to cover the costs of your case. If your case is more basic, you may be sent a bill once a month for any costs associated with your case, or you may be sent a bill once your case is complete.
You need to make sure how you are expected to pay the costs is specified in your contract with your attorney since theses expenses are often billed and calculated differently than your attorney's fees. For example, even though your attorney may be taking your case on a contingency basis, they may still expect you to pay the costs associated with your case.
Before you hire an attorney to represent your personal injury lawsuit, make sure you understand how they define both costs and fees, and how they expect both of those expenses to be paid.
Contact various attorneys, such as Starnes Rob P. LLC, Attorney At Law, to find out how they prefer to handle fees and costs.