You might worry that even if you succeed in recovering monetary compensation from a blameworthy party (such as the manufacturer of a defective product that caused you harm), there will be no money left for you after you pay your legal fees. You may have heard that legal representation is expensive. But Bernstein Liebhard LLP works for victims on a “contingency basis,” which ensures that what you will pay the firm for its services will never exceed the amount of your monetary recovery. To the contrary, your legal fees will be a fraction of your recovery.

Pay only if you recover

When a lawyer (or firm) takes a case on a contingency basis, it means that the legal fee is contingent upon a positive monetary recovery (through an award after trial or out-of-court settlement.) That is, your lawyer receives a fee only if you win or settle your case. You do not have to pay any up-front fees, and if your lawyer does not obtain money for you, then you do not have to pay any fees at all. (You might have to reimburse the firm for incidental expenses, however, such as filing fees, copying charges, postage, etc.)  Generally, contingency fees are between 33-40 percent of the total amount you are awarded or receive in settlement. If a case is complex and time-consuming, a lawyer usually must take on considerable costs, and this will result in a higher contingency fee. In any event, the contingency arrangement is something discussed in detail in advance by you and your potential lawyer and before any relationship is established.

Fee based on the entire award

You might also be curious about whether contingency fees are based on the total amount of money recovered, or calculated after your lawyer’s expenses have been subtracted from the total. Typically, the contingency fee is based on the total amount recovered. Consider the following example: Your case goes to trial, and the jury decides in your favor and awards you $1 million. Your signed contract with your attorney provides for a contingency fee of 40%. Your lawyer would therefore receive $400,000, and you would receive $600,000. You might then be responsible to reimburse your lawyer for expenses (such as those mentioned above) as well. This will also be discussed fully in advance of the signing of any legal representation contract.

A contingency fee arrangement allows you to obtain legal representation even if you do not have the money to hire a lawyer when your case begins. The most important thing to remember about contingency fees is that if your lawyer does not recover money for you, you pay no legal fees.

Published November 17, 2011 by