Interviewer: How does an attorney collect the fees in an injury case?
Daniel Hoarfrost: Well, in injury cases, it’s typically on a contingent fee, though what happens is: you reach a final result, whether it’s by settlement or judgment after trial, and when the money’s collected it’s deposited into the attorney’s trust account and divided up between the attorney and the client based on the terms of the attorney fee agreement.
Interviewer: Generally how long does that process take after the injury case is completed?
Daniel Hoarfrost: Once you reach the final result, the actual dispersing of the money goes rather quickly, although there’s a bit of a delay while the check clears from the opposing side. Usually it takes a couple weeks to actually have money in hand for the client.
Interviewer: What percentage does an attorney usually collect from that amount?
Daniel Hoarfrost: Well, there’s no set amount. The percentages that I charge are fairly standard in the industry, and actually probably on the low end of the percentages that are charged. My contingent fee agreement charges 25% if we’re able to settle without filing a lawsuit. It goes up to a third if we have to file the lawsuit but then we settle, and 40% if we actually go to trial or arbitration – have a contested hearing, basically.
Attorney Fees from Non-Injury Cases
Interviewer: How do attorneys usually collect fees if it’s not an injury case? How do they usually do that? Do they usually set up a payment plan or anything like that?
Daniel Hoarfrost: Well, generally, in most litigation scenarios, you are billing by the hour, so attorneys require a fairly substantial retainer up front to cover the initial time investment that they know is going to take place, and then they bill based on the time that’s spent on the case. The client is required to make a pretty substantial investment of money while the case is pending.