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What Should You Pay Your Lawyer? – Don’t Overpay

May 04, 2017

What Should You Pay Your Lawyer? – Don’t Overpay

What Should You Pay Your Lawyer?

If you or a family member has been hurt in an accident in Nashville or elsewhere in Tennessee, you’re probably considering filing a lawsuit. The first question you likely need the answer to is: “How do attorneys get paid?” Or, more specifically, “How do Nashville personal injury attorneys get paid?”

How Do Tennessee Personal Injury Attorneys Get Paid?

For most of the nearly three decades that I’ve been practicing law, the answer to that question has remained much the same. As the Tennessee Bar Association (TBA) explains on its legal fees page, Tennessee personal injury lawyers are paid on a contingency fee basis. In other words, a fee is paid only if the lawsuit is successful or favorably settled.

Generally speaking, a one-third contingency fee is the customarily accepted percentage that a lawyer will be paid from your award. If your case is lost, the lawyer is paid nothing for his or her time,” advises the TBA.

I believe this arrangement benefits both parties. It allows you—the plaintiff—to pursue litigation that you might not otherwise be able to afford. It also provides that my firm and I are fairly compensated in the event we are successful.

While one-third is a sizeable percentage, keep in mind that Raybin & Weissman invests time and covers out-of-pocket expenses for months—and in some cases, years—before we receive an award. And as I noted in a previous post, How Do Attorneys Get Paid?, I like that “when you retain me on a contingent basis … we are in [it] together. If you don’t win, I don’t get paid. This is how it should be.”

How Much are Nashville Personal Injury Attorneys Charging?

However, several disturbing trends have recently emerged, with some personal injury firms in Nashville and Middle Tennessee charging 40 or 45 percent to pursue personal injury cases. It gets worse. Some firms are also requiring clients to advance the out-of-pocket expenses necessary to pursue a lawsuit, or to be responsible for those costs in the event the lawsuit is unsuccessful.

It’s imperative to be aware of costs, especially if they will be coming out of your pocket at some point in time. Generally speaking, pre-litigation expenses (like court filing fees, postage, and the cost of obtaining accident reports and medical reports) are relatively modest. But if your case proceeds to trial, expenses like paying court reporters and hiring expert witnesses can add up in a hurry. Know too, that certain types of personal injury lawsuits—medical malpractice cases, for instance—tend to be more costly to pursue than others.

I recommend asking a prospective personal injury attorney about the expenses that can be expected in a case like yours. Also, inquire about out-of-pocket expenses that may be variable from firm to firm—like the cost of photocopies and the interest rate you’ll be charged (if any) on costs. I know of one firm in Middle Tennessee that charges 50 cents per page for photocopies, which most people would regard as excessive.

It’s worth noting that if a firm is charging you 40-45 percent, plus expenses, you might end up receiving less than half of the award or settlement when all is said and done.

How Much Should a Nashville Personal Injury Attorney Get Paid?

The bottom line is that there are many qualified personal injury attorneys in Nashville and Middle Tennessee who will pursue your case for a one-third contingency fee, plus reasonable costs, paid only if your case is successful. There is no reason to pay any more than that.

If you have questions about a potential personal injury case or a question about how much a Nashville personal injury attorney should get paid, contact me at Raybin & Weissman or give us a call at 615-256-6666.