The final piece of the puzzle is the attorneys’ fees. Attorneys’ fees don’t have anything to do with the full value of the case, but they have more to do with your take-home–with the final net value of your settlement.
There are a number of different types of attorneys’ fees for other types of legal claims. In criminal and family law cases, it is not uncommon for the client to provide a retainer fee, and then to be charged hourly for work done. Some types of cases are paid by a flat fee–a predetermined amount of money for a specific project.
Most personal injury cases use a contingency fee. This means that you do not make any up-front payment to your lawyer–in fact, you will never write your lawyer a check. If the case is lost, you will not owe your attorney for expenses. In this way, there is no financial risk to you of bringing a claim.
Typically the attorneys’ fees are structured on a two-tier basis. If your case resolves by settlement before a lawsuit is filed, the attorneys’ fees will usually be one-third or 35% of the total settlement. If the case is filed in court, and it resolves afterward (by settlement or verdict), the attorneys’ fees are usually 40%. The specific percentages may vary by attorney, but these amounts are customary.
Finally, in contingency cases the case expenses are taken out separately, after the attorneys’ fees. In most district court cases, case expenses range from zero to $250.00. Circuit court cases are more complicated, and include depositions, experts, more expensive filing fees, and other costs. Expenses vary depending on the complexity of the case.
If you want to see how these figures are calculated, take a look at this sample Settlement and Disbursement Form: S&D (05-11-14).pdf.
A sidenote–if you have a personal injury case and call an attorney to make an appointment, move on to the next attorney if he/she charges a consultation fee. The majority of personal injury lawyers will meet with you at no charge.