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What Are the Attorney Fees in A Personal Injury Case?

June 25, 2020


In New York, attorney fees in personal injury cases are on a contingency basis. That means that your attorney receives no money unless there is a successful conclusion (monetary recovery) either by settlement or jury verdict. When you sign a Retainer Agreement for a personal injury case, other than medical malpractice, you will have to choose between two options. Both options are explained below. We understand that this is a complicated system and, if you contact us, the Gordon Law Firm of New York LLP will be happy to explain more fully explain each of the options and the reasons that you may select one or the other. The Gordon Law Firm of New York, LLP offers no-cost, no-obligation consultations.

In every personal injury case, there are expenses which must be paid. The following is a general explanation of what constitutes expenses/disbursements. Please note that this is not a complete list and may vary from case to case. In every case, throughout the process, there are court costs involved that are paid by the attorney to the court. Obtaining medical records is necessary in all personal injury cases and is another expense of the case. When we start a case the summons and complaint must be served on the defendants by a process server. That cost is another expense of the case. When we conduct the deposition of the defendant(s), there is a court reporter present to record the questions and answers. Following the deposition, we receive a transcript of everything that was said during the deposition, as recorded by the reporter. We pay for that transcript by the number of pages and that is also an expense charged to the case. One or more experts may be required to connect the negligence to the injuries. We retain (hire) experts to review the medical records and often examine our clients. In addition, when necessary, we retain experts to testify at trial. The experts charge for their time and that is another expense of the case. These are a few of the expenses that occur in most, if not all, cases.

There are, of course, also costs for postage and photocopying. The Gordon Law Firm of New York, LLP considers postage and photocopying as costs of doing business and will not charge them against your case, except in very rare circumstances where there are extraordinary costs for photocopying and/or postage.

When signing a Retainer Agreement in a personal injury case, other than medical malpractice, (for more information about attorney fees in medical malpractice cases, see “What Are The Attorney Fees In A Medical Malpractice Case?”), you will choose between two separate options.

The attorney fee in a personal injury case is generally thirty-three and one-third (33 1/3) percent of the sum recovered, whether recovered by judgment, settlement or otherwise. The option that you choose, when you sign the Retainer Agreement may significantly affect the way the expenses in your case are treated and the amount that you will ultimately receive from any recovery. The differences between the two options may be complicated and should be discussed with the attorney you hire. No matter which option you choose, the attorney fee will be 33 1/3%.

Under Option Number One, you, the client, remain liable for all costs and expenses, regardless of the outcome of the case. The percentages (amounts) are calculated on the net sum, after deducting all expenses and disbursement from the amount recovered. Under this option, the client may be responsible for expenses even if there is no recovery. This means that the client bears some risk, but in return, will see a somewhat larger recovery (see examples below).

Under Option Number Two, the attorney agrees to pay for all costs and expenses, regardless of the outcome. The percentages (amounts) are calculated on the gross sum recovered before deducting the expenses and disbursements. Under this option, there is no risk to the client, but the client will receive a somewhat smaller recovery (see examples below).

The following are examples only to explain how options 1 and 2 work. It is not meant to indicate that these numbers will apply to your case.

In a hypothetical case, let's say a settlement was reached in the amount of $100,000.00 (one hundred thousand dollars). Expenses (disbursements) attributed to the case totaled $10,000.00 (ten thousand dollars). The math is done as follows:

Option Number One in which you, the client, remains responsible for costs and expenses, regardless of the outcome:

Total Recovery: $100.000.00

Less Expenses: $ 10,000.00

Less 33 1/3% of remaining $90,000.00 $ 30,000.00 (attorney fee)

Client's Recovery $ 60,000.00

Option Number Two in which the attorney agrees to pay for costs and expenses, regardless of the outcome:

Total Recovery: $100,000.00

Less 33 1/3% of $100,000.00 $ 33,333.33 (attorney fee)

Less Expenses: $ 10,000.00

Client's Recovery $ 56,666.67