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What Does Contingency Mean?

An Objective Explanation by Greene & O’Malley Attorneys at Law

The method of compensation for legal services depends on the field of law and the type of service rendered.

Potential methods of compensation include:

  • A contingent fee where the lawyer's payment is contingent upon the outcome of the case
  • A flat one-time fee for straightforward services such as preparing wills or establishing trust funds
  • An hourly fee for hours accumulated on a case such as divorce, criminal defense, or adoption
  • A retainer, which is an advance payment on the hourly rate, from which the hourly charges are deducted throughout the duration of the case

Most cases handled by Greene & O’Malley Attorneys at Law are accepted on a contingent arrangement for plaintiffs, those bringing the lawsuit. In this kind of structure, the plaintiff does not have to pay his or her lawyer anything to prepare and try the case.

Payment is collected as a percentage (usually one-third but up to one-half) of the recovery, which is the money rewarded to the plaintiff once the case is concluded. This does not include the expenses of litigation, which are then added on. If the case is lost, the client is not expected to pay the attorney for the work done on the case. This type of compensation is most common in personal injury cases such as auto accidents, product liability, and medical malpractice.

Debates over Contingent Fees

Recently, there has been a lot of debate over contingent fees. The question is whether or not this is a fair compensation arrangement between lawyer and plaintiff.

There is a common misconception that lawyers and plaintiffs get rich off of huge wins in personal injury cases. Unfortunately, the media rarely reports "zero" or defense verdicts, those where the plaintiff loses. This happens frequently, and certainly more than the media reports.

Critics argue that the contingency system encourages lawyers to file frivolous lawsuits. No doubt, some of those cases are filed. But the real problem is when attorneys take only the "easy" cases, those that don't require a lot of research or deal with complicated issues.

At Greene & O’Malley Attorneys at Law, many of our best cases are difficult ones. We appreciate a challenge and give you straightforward information about your case. Then, we bring our winning approach to every case we take.

No one plans to be a victim of injury or accident, and most people do not have the means to pay costly legal fees. Pursuing a trial can cost thousands of dollars in hourly attorney rates, expert witnesses, filing fees, and other related expenses. The contingency fee structure makes it possible for a person to seek justice regardless of their income.

What a Contingent Fee Means for You

At Greene & O’Malley Attorneys at Law, it is our position that the contingency fee agreement is in some of our clients’ best interest. Contingent fees were established to ensure that those who cannot afford to pay a lawyer can still obtain one.

It’s important that you fully understand how contingent fees work, and to be knowledgeable of the details of your specific agreement with your attorney. At Greene & O’Malley Attorneys at Law, we review the contingency fee agreement with every prospective client and encourage you to review it with your family before signing. We never ask you to sign an agreement in our first meeting.

Regardless of which attorney you choose to work with, we encourage you to ask questions as necessary until you are fully informed of your arrangement with your attorney. Take your time and make this important decision carefully. You should never be pressured to sign. Choosing an attorney is about selecting the right fit.

Some key questions to ask any attorney before entering an agreement include:

  • What percentage of the recovery do you require?
  • What expenses are covered by the contingent fee? (Be sure to ask about miscellaneous costs such as filing fees, expert witnesses, use of technology, obtaining records, research, and operating expenses)
  • Will I have to pay expenses if the case is lost?
  • Will I be provided with an itemized statement of expenses?
  • How will I be notified of the progress of the case and of the expenses incurred?
  • Will I be able to have a say in expenditures before they are made?
  • What happens if I am not satisfied with the progress of the case and your services?

We recommend selecting a lawyer who will provide you with answers to all of your questions. We encourage you to read our FAQ – and don’t hesitate to schedule a consultation with us to get more of your questions answered.

Call (859) 594-7730 to get started.

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