Recently I was contacted by a nice guy who had been in a car accident in Chicago. He had found what seemed like a great car accident law firm to represent him, but had questions about their fees.
He first asked me what a standard fee is for a personal injury lawyer. I answered honestly that in most cases it’s 1/3 of what is recovered. Occasionally this goes higher or lower, but 1/3 is pretty standard.
That made sense to him. What didn’t make sense is that the firm he was thinking about hiring wanted to charge him 40% of what is recovered if the case goes to trial and 50% of what is recovered if the case gets appealed.
Now I’m not saying that this never happens or that there aren’t circumstances that call for it, but none of the firms I work with do this (that I’m aware of) because 33% is a lot to begin with and when you are talking 40-50%, the lawyer tends to end up with more than the client and that’s not right.
When you hire an attorney, they must be thinking the case could go to trial. That’s their job. So for them to get an extra 7% for the “inconvenience” is absurd. They aren’t taking less money if they settle the case quickly, why should they get more money if the case takes a longer time?
The reality is that some law firms will just charge what they think they can get. In most cases there are a handful of firms that can do a good job for you. So to me, there is no reason to hire one for 40-50% when an equally good one will do it for 33%. And quite honestly, to me it says something negative about the character of a lawyer that tries to take that much from a client.
Bonus tip. Under Illinois law, the maximum fee for a medical malpractice case is 33% and for workers’ compensation cases it’s 20%. If you come across a lawyer who is asking for more than that they are likely breaking the law.
Bottom line is that you shouldn’t be afraid to ask these types of questions and if you aren’t happy with a fee and have a good alternative, don’t sign up.
If you have any questions or want a referral to an experienced personal injury lawyer, call us for free any time at 312-346-5320.