What is a Contingent Fee?

How much is a contingent fee?

Contingent Fees are the Poor Man's Key to the Courthouse
Contingent Fees are the Poor Man’s Key to the Courthouse

A contingent fee is a fee that is contingent upon a recovery; that is, the lawyer’s fee is only paid when the lawyer successfully obtains a recovery. In a typical workers’ compensation, personal injury, or car accident case, the fee is completely contingent, meaning that the client pays nothing unless money is collected.  This has traditionally been known as “the poor man’s key to the court house.”  This means that a person with a meritorious claim can be represented by the best lawyer even if they are not able to afford his high hourly rates.

At Bernard Stuczynski & Barnett, all injury, workers’ compensation, and Social Security Disability claims are handled on a complete contingency basis.  Our clients pay nothing unless and until we get them a recovery.

Not all contingent fees are created equal

Although the contingent fees charged by lawyers are similar, there are significant differences.  In addition to the fee, a law firm is entitled to be reimbursed for any expenses that they have advanced.  This can include such things as medical records, expert witness fees, deposition expenses and investigator fees.  While the reimbursement of these expenses is to be expected and legitimate, it also has the potential for abuse.  For example, some of the larger personal injury “mills” are known to charge for a private investigator in nearly every case.  This may even be an investigator who is on the law firm’s payroll!  The fact is that many cases do not require an investigator.  Although police reports are certainly not 100% accurate, much of the time they are sufficient.  We always try to keep our clients’ costs down when possible, and only hire an investigator when it will actually benefit the case.  We often do some of the investigative duties ourselves.  Not only does this reduce costs, it gives the lawyer a better feel for the evidence than reading an investigator’s report.

With contingent fees, it doesn’t cost any more to hire the best lawyer than it does to hire an inexperienced lawyer.

Fees charged by personal injury attorneys tend to be very similar.  Typically they are 20% in a Pennsylvania workers’ compensation case, 25% in a Social Security Disability case and 33 1/3% in a motor vehicle collision case.  Even though the fees charged by attorneys are similar, it’s important to note that you can hire a firm of experienced personal injury attorneys to represent you for the same price that might be charged by a recent law school graduate or general practitioner who only occasionally sees a personal injury case.  At Bernard Stuczynski & Barnett, our clients can be confident that personal injury work is all we do; we don’t “dabble” in it.  You gain the benefit of a team of experienced injury lawyers.  Our goal is to put the most money we can into our clients’ pockets.  This requires experience and care. If you’re looking to hire a lawyer on a contingent basis, give us a call to set up your free consultation today.

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