Your Attorney Won’t be Paid Unless You get Paid

Jul 02, 2013

Why Contingent fees work for Americans

An injury accident can often cost a lot more than you might think. And if you don’t have someone on your side who understands the law and how insurance companies operate, you can get into a lot of trouble. If you are involved in an accident on the road or at work, an attorney can be your best option for regaining your physical and financial life. But the question often arises as to how much it will cost to hire an attorney. The idea of paying legal fees out of your pocket can be daunting, but that’s where the contingent fee system comes into play. Attorneys who represent you for injury claims are usually paid on what is called a contingent fee basis. This means your attorney is compensated only if you get paid by the person who injured you or by their insurance company. If you don’t get paid, then typically you don’t owe your attorney anything.

On the other side, the person who injured you (the defendant) and their insurance company will hire a lawyer who gets paid by the hour. That lawyer gets paid whether the defendant wins or loses, and in fact, defense lawyers get paid more if your litigation lasts longer because they can bill more hours. Not a great prospect, is it?

Contingent fees are often a target of insurance companies because of the benefits they provide working families.

Contingent fees open the courtroom doors. They allow people who are injured to bring suit without having to have the money up front to pay their attorney or other legal costs, such as for investigators and expert witnesses, because their contingent fee attorney pays those costs for them.

Without a contingent fee system, only the wealthiest of injured people could afford to have their cases heard in court. Average Ohioans would not risk their life savings to go to court against an insurance company or corporation that has virtually unlimited resources to fight a lawsuit. Rather than go to court, average people would be forced to accept whatever the defendant offered in compensation.

Contingent fees promote efficiency & discourage frivolous lawsuits. Since contingent fee attorneys pay the injured person’s costs to go to court, the attorney bears a considerable financial risk – if there is no recovery, or if the recovery does not cover their costs, the attorney stands to lose financially. As a result, contingent fee attorneys act as gatekeepers – they do not accept frivolous or unjustified lawsuits. Contingent fee attorneys will listen to the injured person’s story, consider how the law applies to their situation, and then offer the person legal advice about the likelihood of success in the courtroom. Contingent fee attorneys also strive for efficiency because any extra costs will be paid by them and not by the client. In contrast, defense lawyers who are paid an hourly fee have an incentive to draw out the proceedings in order to maximize their hours of billable time regardless of the case’s merit.

Costs for contingent fees are comparable to hourly fees. Despite sensationalized stories of attorneys taking home huge amounts, numerous studies show that, for the number of hours worked, fees paid on a contingent basis are comparable to the hourly fees of defense lawyers in similar cases. Client surveys of contingent fee attorneys show they are highly appreciative of their representation because they recognize that their attorney is fighting for them and their families.

Caps on contingent fees limit access to justice. Limits on contingent fees would make it more difficult for attorneys to accept cases with lower damages. For example, if fees were capped at 10%, an attorney who routinely takes cases of a low dollar value would soon go out of business. The math just doesn’t work when an attorney has invested twenty hours of time on a case that produces a $3,000 award where the attorney’s fee is capped at 10% or $300. Contingent fees must be high enough to take into account the risk of losing, of receiving a low settlement, or of having to try a case through to appeal.

Those who advocate for limits on contingent fees know that caps mean limiting access to the courthouse for average Ohioans. That is their goal – to stop injured people from getting to the courthouse where they have a better chance of being fairly compensated for their injuries.

Caps on contingent fees is un-American. Americans aspire to be successful, and we celebrate our best and brightest. We believe in pay for performance. We understand that our lawyers will be more motivated if their fees depend on success. Why would we retreat from “results-oriented fees” by placing caps on contingent fees for attorneys? Capping contingent fees is just plain un-American. The bottom line is that contingent attorney fees offer working Ohioans a means by which they can compete fairly against the wealthy and powerful, such as insurance companies bent on limiting how much they pay you for your injury. Those who wish to limit or prevent contingent fee systems only have one thing in mind – protecting their company’s bottom line.

Our firm will continue to fight to ensure that the citizens of this state always have a fair shot at justice. Preserving our contingent attorney fee system is one way that we work to keep the courthouse door open for average Ohioans.


Willis & Willis Co., L.P.A.
670 West Market Street
Akron, OH 44303

Local: 330-535-2000

Fax: 330-434-5248

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