Skip to main content

Contingent Fees

Posted by attorney Mark Brynteson


Personal injury litigation is one of the few areas of the law where even the poor have equal access to justice. The reason for this is the contingent fee agreement . The fee a client will pay will ordinarily be a percentage of the total amount of any recovery in their claim, whether by settlement, jury verdict or some other alternative dispute resolution procedure. The "contingent" aspect of the fee means that if there is no recovery, there is no attorney fee. The contingent fee is to be distinguished from expenses, which ordinarily remain an obligation of the client, although in many cases the attorney will advance expenses during the time the case is pending and will deduct the expenses from the client's share of any recovery at the conclusion of the case.

There are a number of advantages to this type of fee arrangement, the most obvious of which is the absence of a risk of owing the attorney a fee when there has been no recovery. Another important advantage of this type of fee arrangement is the security the client should feel at knowing that the attorney has cast his/her fate along side that of the client. The fact that the attorney is willing to handle a client's case on a contingent fee basis is a reflection that the attorney has a degree of confidence in his/her ability to obtain a recovery in the case, because attorneys, like other professionals, don't generally work for free and cannot ordinarily afford to become involved in cases which they feel are unlikely to produce a fee commensurate to the work they expect to perform.

A final advantage of the contingent fee agreement is themotivation it provides to the attorney to maximize the client's recovery. In other types of litigation where clients pay the attorney by the hour for their time, it makes little economic difference to the attorney whether the client has a successful outcome to the litigation. In contingent fee cases the attorney's own recovery is tied to the result obtained for the client, so it is important to the attorney to put in the time and effort necessary to bring about the greatest recovery in the case.

The percentage to be charged on a contingent fee case, to a large extent, depends on the type of case. In automobile accident cases a contingent fee of 1/3 of the recovery is common. Medical malpractice cases, product liability cases and other more complex personal injury litigations often are handled on a higher percentage basis, because they frequently consume substantially greater amounts of attorney time and resources. Attorneys frequently advance many thousands of dollars in expenses, including expert witness fees, in the more complex personal injury litigation. It is not unusual in some of these cases for expert witness fees to exceed $20,000.00 to $30,000.00. Workers' compensation and Social Security Disability attorney fees are generally regulated by the agencies administering the law and often are somewhat less than in other areas of personal injury litigation. Depending on the type of case, some attorneys may charge a lower percentage on a contingent fee if the case is settled before suit is filed, more if the case is concluded after trial has begun or more if an appeal is necessary.

At the Law Offices of Mark D. Brynteson, virtually all of my cases are handled on a contingent fee basis. Regardless of the particular contingent fee arrangement utilized, it is important that the client understand the way it works and its advantages. I can readily provide you with a quote as to the fee which would apply in your case, and we welcome your inquiries. Please feel free to email us . In the alternative, you may find the telephone number of the office of your choice by returning to our homepage and clicking on the particular office.

Additional resources provided by the author

Author of this guide:

Was this guide helpful?

Avvo personal injury email series

Sign up to receive a 3-part series of useful information and advice about personal injury law.

Recommended articles about Personal injury

Can't find what you're looking for?

Post a free question on our public forum.

Ask a Question

- or -

Search for lawyers by reviews and ratings.

Find a Lawyer