Attorney Fees and Costs
In almost all injury cases there are Attorney fees and costs. In most cases, the attorneys will work on your case based on a contingency fee agreement. This means that the law firm will get a percentage of whatever gross recovery they receive. Therefore if the attorneys are able to obtain a large recovery it will be the same percentage of that recovery as it would be if it were a small one. The reason why most plaintiffs’ injury attorneys obtain their fees under this model is that most people do not have the resources to pay to work on their files versus the other way—which is hourly.
A good experienced plaintiff’s lawyer will bill at a minimum $300.00 up to $600.00 or $700.00 an hour. Therefore, if the case takes 100 hours of the attorneys’ time, thus assuming the attorney only works 100 hours on the file, the client would be responsible for paying the attorney between $30,000 and $70,000 regardless of the outcome.
Most people simply do not have the resources to do that and in order to insure that everyone has free access to the courthouse, plaintiff’s lawyers will then take the cases on a contingency fee basis. If the case is lost, the plaintiff’s lawyer does not recover any money at all for fees and will have basically worked for free as a result. This form of fee structure also encourages the attorney to do the best job possible in order to obtain the highest result that they can which is in the client’s best interest.
The percentage of the fee in which a attorney charges is generally governed by the Florida Bar. The Florida Bar is the regulatory body which is a self-governing entity which sets the rules and regulations of what lawyers are and are not allowed to do. The ramifications of a lawyer violating one of the Bar Rules can be anything from a reprimand, suspension and even disbarment, therefore all lawyers should follow the Bar Rules to “T”. A simple rule applies for most lawyers when trying to determine if they are compliant with the Bar Rules and that rule is – “what is in the client’s best interest”.
Fees on Cases Settled Pre-Suit
The Florida Bar has determined that if the case is settled before the suit is filed that the attorney can receive 33 1/3% of whatever recovery they able to obtain up to the first million of any recovery. It should be noted that most cases settle for far less than a million dollars. For anything over 1 million, but up until 2 million, the attorney can only receive 30% of any proceeds, if the case settled before suit is filed. Finally, the attorney can only recover up to 20% of any proceeds exceeding 2 million dollars.
However, if an attorney has to file suit on a case, the fee goes up from 33 1/3% to 40%. The increase is only 6 2/3%, so there is no real encouragement for an attorney to file suit on a case, as the amount of work that goes into filing suit and litigating a case is much more time consuming and costly than handling a file pre-suit. However, the fee for litigation files is 40% up to 1 million; between 1 million and 2 million it is 30% and everything over the 2nd million is 20% fee.
It should be noted that in some special cases a 40% across the board fee can be approved by the Court. This is something that the Court must approve and extraordinary facts and circumstances need to exist in order to support such a fee. These facts and circumstances could come from the length or complexity of the case and certain types of cases generally lend themselves to a 40% across the board fee, such as medical malpractice, nursing home, or products liability cases.
However, just because a lawyer has accepted one of these cases does not mean that they are entitled to a 40% across the board fee. As I stated earlier, it must be Court approved and you must have very good facts and circumstances to support such a fee. Generally, this type of fee request will not be granted unless there are such extraordinary circumstances. The vast majority of cases (over 95%) have the traditional 40%, 30%, 20% breakdown as far as the attorneys’ fee percentage is concerned.
Case Costs (Separate from Attorney Fees)
Costs are separate from the attorneys’ fees. Costs include anything from retaining experts, cost of file materials, legal research, hiring outside vendors such as copy services, presentation services, having visual aids drawn up, service of process, filing fees and a whole host of other costs that are not included with the attorneys’ fees. These costs are generally “pass-through” costs, in that this is what it costs the attorney to pay for a certain service that is necessary to fully develop the case, and the amount is simply reimbursed back to the attorney when the case is over.
The attorney does not make a profit on any of this portion of the costs, and in fact, is prohibited from doing so by the Florida Bar rules.
The reason why costs are separate from attorneys’ fees is that the cost in every case can vary widely. In some cases, the cost may only be $500 to $1,500, and other cases could be hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is very difficult at the outset of any case for an attorney to know how much cost will be incurred by the law firm or attorney until the case is either settled or tried.
The Florida Bar has separated out costs from the attorneys’ fees as a way not to discourage an attorney from not fully funding a case simply because they determine that the outcome or fees generated may be less than the cost incurred. Therefore, if they were combined, the attorney would either not be paid for the time they spent on the case, or may actually lose money, even though they obtained a good recovery. This would prohibit many people from having their day in court.
In addition to the normal fees for preparing and/or litigating the case the Florida Bar has allowed an additional 5% fee in case there is an appellate proceeding or post judgment action for recovery on a judgment. What that means in English is – in case an appeal is necessary an appellate lawyer is usually retained to do that work.
It should be noted that there are many attorneys that specialize in this type of work and most trial lawyers, while being excellent at what they do, will not go outside their specialty as they feel their clients would be better served by having someone who is a specialist and who routinely appears before the Appellate Courts in the State Courts of Florida or the Federal Court systems. This type of attorney generally charges an additional 5% on top of whatever the litigating attorney would charge.
Lower-than Normal Fees
However there are some cases where the lawyer is forced by Statute to take a lower fee than the normal 33 1/3% or 40% that they would charge in most cases. For example, if someone is injured by someone who is working for a governmental authority (i.e.; City, County or other Division of the State of Florida) they are limited to a 25% across the board fee on any recovery.
In addition to that, the amount that can be recovered from this municipality would be $200,000.00 for any one person and up to $300,000.00 for any group of people. The State of Florida has done this in order to discourage any lawsuits filed against governmental entities. Thus, many lawyers will refuse to take such cases. For this fact and due to the fact that the State of Florida has put up numerous hurdles in which the Plaintiff’s lawyers need to overcome in order to file a case against a governmental entity.
Another type of case in which the law firm of Christopher Ligori & Associates practices is securities litigation. Many times in securities litigation if the case is going in front of an arbitration panel, such as FINRA, the law firm will charge only a 35% fee. Another reason for this is that it is arbitration and not a jury trial, therefore the preparation is different and generally slightly less time consuming then a jury trial. However, these cases many times run into the millions of dollars of damages and still take an enormous amount of time to properly work up and be ready to arbitrate the case.