When a person is seriously injured as a result of the carelessness and negligence of somebody else, that accident victim has the right to seek compensation for the damages that he or she suffered. Most people hire a personal injury lawyer to represent them for that purpose. What comes to issue is that many injury victims are not in a financial position to be able to pay an attorney to pursue compensation for them after they’ve incurred substantial medical bills and have been put out of work for weeks or months. That’s what contingency fee agreements are for. Here’s everything that you need to know about them in the State of Washington.
What’s a Contingency Fee?
You’ve heard it all before on television during the day or late at night. “No fees unless we win!” That’s what contingency fees are. Those contingency fee personal injury lawyers don’t get paid a penny for their services unless they reach a settlement or obtain a verdict on your behalf.
State of Washington RPC 1.5(9)
The Rules of Professional Conduct govern attorneys in the State of Washington. In the context of contingency fees, RPC 1.5(9) governs. First and foremost, any contingency fee agreement between attorney and client must be in writing and signed by the client. Handshakes aren’t allowed. Here is an overview of some other pertinent parts of the rule.
How Attorneys Get Paid on Contingency Fee Agreements
If your personal injury attorney does obtain a settlement or verdict for you, he or she is paid a percentage of that gross settlement or verdict. That percentage must be clearly and unequivocally stated in your retainer agreement.
In order to bring and maintain a claim or lawsuit on your behalf, certain costs are involved. Those might include but not be limited to costs of records, filing and service fees, along with court reporter fees, transcript charges and witness fees. Those are ordinarily advanced on your behalf by the law firm that represents you. Costs are distinguished from legal fees. How those costs are to be paid must also be clearly and unequivocally stated in a retainer agreement. They usually come off of the top after legal fees. The agreement must detail what expenses the client will be liable for, regardless of whether the client is the prevailing party. What that means is that a case might be lost, but the client might still owe his or her attorneys the costs of pursuing the case.
Attorneys are not allowed to take a case on a contingency fee that involves securing the dissolution or annulment of a marriage or the amount of any maintenance, support or property settlement in connection with the marriage. Contingency fee arrangements are also prohibited in criminal cases.
Before leaving an attorney’s office, make sure that you get a copy of any contingency fee agreement that you enter into. You’ll likely want to refer to it sometime in the future. Jump to top