Does the Loser Pay in Personal Injury Cases?

Golden legal scales on a desktop

If you file a lawsuit and lose, does the loser have to pay for the winner’s attorney’s fees?  The answer is it depends.  In personal injury cases, if you lose your case, you don’t necessarily have to pay for the winner’s attorney’s fees.  Attorney’s fees vary, however, typically most attorneys take into account elements such as, degree of complexities in the claim, their time involved, past experiences with a similar claim and their legal skill level, and the general costs of doing business, such as overhead to run their practice.

A prospective client should clarify charges and attorney fees at an initial meeting with a prospective attorney.  This consultation meeting is a chance to interview the attorney and make sure they are the right match for your case.  It is helpful if you are prepared for this meeting and know how much you are willing to invest in your own case.  Both client and attorney can then enter an agreement and outline the full expectations of both parties involved.

How a Personal Injury Attorney Gets Paid

Contingency Fees

Many personal injury attorneys are willing to work on contingency fees.  Contingency fees are a percentage of the reward money that the client receives from the claim.  This percentage is set in the initial meeting and is outlined in a contingency-fee contract.  Attorneys usually advertise they accept contingency fees with the “we will not get paid any fees unless you win your case.”  If you win your case, typically attorney fees range around 33 ⅓ percent for a settlement and hover around 40 percent for a trial and jury verdict.

Attorney fees are separate from the costs of running a case and depending on the law firm, these costs may vary.  Costs from running a case can include court filings, expert witness testimonies, depositions, accessing medical records, and more.  These costs may or may not be covered in your attorney contingency fees.  Make sure to ask your attorney if they include these costs or consult the contingency-fee contract.

Loser Doesn’t Usually Pay the Winner’s Attorney Fees

The legal rumor that the loser has to pay for the winner’s attorney fees is just that, a rumor.  In the United States, the rule for attorney fees is each party pays for its own attorney, win or lose.  In England, the losing party is required to pay for the winner’s “reasonable attorney fees.”  This rule is also applicable in other countries judicial systems around the globe.

Proposals for Settlements (PFS)

There is an exception to the American Rule surrounding “proposals for settlements (PFS),”  A proposal for settlement, or PFS, purpose was designed assist in early dispute resolution to lighten the caseload of a burdened court system.  A proposal for settlement allows the plaintiff or defendant to offer a settlement to the other party before going to trial.  However, under Florida law, if a plaintiff rejects a defendant’s PFS, the plaintiff needs to get a verdict of a least 75 percent or more of the PFS to avoid have to pay the other side’s attorney fees and costs.  For example, if a defendant submits a PFS for $10,000, and the Plaintiff rejects the PFS, then the Plaintiff needs to get a verdict of at least 75 percent, or $7,500, to avoid having to pay for the other side’s attorney fees.

Don’t trust a less experienced attorney with your case and potentially owe money to the other party.  Zimmerman & Frachtman’s attorneys look out for your best interest and work to avoid these pitfalls.

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