Written by attorney Christopher Michael Davis

Dog Bite Cases and the Contingency Fee

Understandably, most people are wary of hiring an attorney because of the expense. Cases involving injury claims, including those involving dog bite injuries, are usually handled by experienced lawyers on a contingency basis. With a contingent fee agreement, the lawyer agrees to defer his or her fee until the case successfully resolves. The fee is based on a percentage of the recovery obtained by the lawyer. If there is no recovery, then no attorney fee is owed. Most contingency fees can range anywhere from one-third to 50% of the recovery. Usually the customary contingent fee rate is around one-third of the settlement or recovery obtained by the lawyer.

Often a serious dog bite case can take years to resolve and the lawyer will spend hundreds of hours on the case before he or she gets paid. The riskier and more complex the case, the higher the contingency fee will be. If a lawyer takes on a case that has a high risk of failure, and hence the possibility of receiving no fee, that lawyer will usually want a higher contingency fee as a premium for taking on this risk. Contingency fees allow people of limited financial resources to hire the best legal representation possible. This helps to level the playing field because the dog owner's insurance company will usually retain some of the most expensive and experienced defense attorneys to help deny, delay, and/or defend the claim.

The costs associated with a claim are a different matter. As previously discussed, the term "costs" refers to those expenses that are incurred while investigating the claim and, if necessary, prosecuting it in court. Examples of typical costs include expert fees, court costs, deposition fees, and record retrieval expenses. In Washington, an attorney is permitted to advance all costs and then deduct them from the client's recovery at the conclusion of the case. This allows the client to hire an attorney without ever having to pay out of pocket. Most experienced and reputable accident attorneys will agree to advance costs in a case. There are exceptions, of course, depending on the type of case and the facts involved.

Overall, contingency fees are designed to help victims in cases driven by negligence. Many people are weary when the contingency fee subject is brought up, but it isn't anything someone with a solid case should be scared of. It's important to realize that the system was established to make it less of a financial burden on victims in such cases.

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