What Amount Of A Settlement Or Verdict Are You Likely To Receive?
We believe it is important at the start of every case we handle for our clients to know exactly how any settlement or verdict obtained for them will be disbursed at the end of the case. After all, how can a persona injury victim make an informed decision about whether or not to settle his or her case much less what to offer to try to settle the matter.
In this article, we will lay out the framework for how a personal injury settlement or verdict is disbursed by a lawyer at the end of the matter. Naturally, the exact amount each client is able to take with them is different in each case as we will discuss further below. We start the decision with the first figure that is disbursed.
The Contingency Fee
The personal injury attorneys’ contingency fee is calculated based on the gross amount of the settlement or verdict obtained for the client. In most situations that fee is somewhere between 33 1/3% and 40% of whatever is recovered.
Therefore, if you obtained a jury verdict against the defendant for $250,000.00 and your attorney is charging 40%, the law firm receives $100,000.00 in attorneys’ fees. These fees may seem like a lot in the larger awards but you must understand what the contingency fee represents.
The contingency fee is a mechanism created so injury victims can afford an attorney during their worst times. Many are unable to work and therefore do not have the funds to pay a lawyer the traditional way—-an hourly rate paid invoiced and paid each month to keep the lawyer working for the client.
Instead, the contingency fee allows the injured client to receive the best legal representation possible without having to pay a dime out of his or her own pocket for the lawyer’s time and effort. The lawyer sometimes goes years without being paid in the hopes of recovering a significant amount for his or her client. It is this risk/reward that allows attorneys to be able to take on contingency fee work.
Otherwise, injury victims would be left having to pay their lawyer each month at a rate of anywhere between $300-$600 an hour.
Next to be disbursed is reimbursement to the law firm of any expenses incurred pursuing your case. Our firm and most other personal injury lawyers, front all expenses for their clients and obtain reimbursement for all expenses out of the settlement or verdict. This way, much like the contingency fee, the client can stop worrying about finances and focus on getting well.
Typical expense totals in a personal injury case that is settled before suit is filed are pretty low—-usually as low as a few hundred dollars. That is because usually all that is expensed by that time are charges to obtain your medical records and mailing costs.
After suit is filed, expenses increase. A typical case will have several thousand dollars. Complex cases could have tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses in them.
Typical expenses after suit is filed are such things as filing fees with the court; various expert witness fees; deposition costs per witness; trial exhibit costs and witness fees for trial testimony.
Liens And Other Healthcare Related Costs
After the above two categories are come out of a settlement or verdict, the rest of the settlement or verdict is the client’s minus any reimbursement requirements to healthcare providers who treated on a lien or to the client’s health insurance company.
Reimbursement to Healthcare Providers
If you did not have health insurance, you likely received treatment on a lien from various doctors. Typically this is done through contact with your lawyer. You will have to pay these providers back at the end of the case out of your settlement or verdict.
In many cases, your lawyer can try to negotiate the amount owed back down as much as possible. Ultimately, you will need to pay the provider something since they treated you at no charge at the time.
Health Insurance/Medicare/Medicaid Reimbursement
If you were lucky enough to have health insurance at the time you were injured, your lawyer hopefully advised you to use your health insurance to cover all of your medical treatment. This ultimately saves you the most money.
In most circumstances, you will have to reimburse your health insurance company something out of your settlement or verdict to avoid a legal battle. This is where a good personal injury lawyer can help you save a lot of money by negotiating with the insurance company so you pay as little back to them out of your settlement or verdict as possible.
If you had Medicare or Medicaid pay your medical expenses, it works much the same way as health insurance reimbursement with a few added twists. Ultimately, clients should know that they are likely to owe something back to whoever paid for their medical treatment.
At the end of the day, if you have a good understand of the above before you attempt to negotiate a settlement of your case, the better off you will be in the long run. You never want to be shocked at the end when you receive your proceeds that a large portion was eaten up paying back expenses to the law firm or reimbursing physicians who treated you.