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Is it Expensive to Hire a Lawyer?

Though concerns over the “expense” of hiring an attorney are generally dependent on the nature of the legal matter at issue and the financial resources available to the client, there are many situations in which hiring a lawyer will cost you nothing up-front — primarily situations involving plaintiff’s-side litigation.

If you’ve been injured while traveling aboard a cruise ship, for example, then you may be entitled to bring a lawsuit against the cruise line for damages. Many plaintiffs worry about the cost of doing so, but in reality, there are no up-front costs. When you pursue a personal injury lawsuit, whether in the maritime context or otherwise, you will (typically) hire an attorney on contingency.

How Do Contingency Fee Arrangements Work?

Contingency fee arrangements are designed in such a way to reduce the friction of working with an attorney. Attorneys who work on contingency are not paid unless and until their client secures compensation for their injuries (whether through a verdict or negotiated settlement compromise).

When you hire an attorney on contingency, the vast majority of various costs associated with comprehensive litigation, such as the cost of working with a subject matter expert, and filing fees, among other expenses, are advanced by their firm. You do not pay out-of-pocket for any costs incurred by a firm advancing your case, including those required to pursue litigation. You bear only your own costs, for example if you must travel to the forum where the case is pending to attend your deposition, a compulsory physical examination or attend a mediation these are the only costs you will be asked to advance.

The contingency fee payment only comes into play once the case is resolved. If you do not secure a recovery, then no fees will be owned to the firm. If you do secure a recovery, however, then the attorney will take a percentage “cut” of the compensation that they helped you obtain. The percentage taken through contingency can vary from case-to-case and depending on when the matter is resolved — if the matter proceeds to trial litigation, for example, then the contingency fee percentage will increase to 40 percent.

This can be a bit confusing without further context, so let’s use a brief example to clarify how a contingency fee plays out in real-world situations.

Suppose that you are injured in a cruise ship accident. You hire an attorney on contingency. If you are not able to successfully litigate the claim and secure damages, then you will owe no fee to the firm and will owe costs to the firm only if the case proceeded to trial against the advice of your attorneys. If you do secure damages of $100,000 through an early negotiated settlement, then the attorney will take their percentage cut out of that $100,000 amount (say, 1/3rd of the recovery before any deductions, or $33,333.00 in this example). If the negotiated settlement is obtained later in the litigation, for example anytime after the other side files an “Answer” to the complain the attorney will take a 40% of the recovery before any deductions.

Contingency fee arrangements are advantageous in that they greatly limit a plaintiff’s risks of a negative result from a lawsuit, but also create a favorable dynamic in litigation for the plaintiff. When an attorney is hired on contingency, the goals of the attorney and client are aligned — the attorney will only be paid a fee if they can successfully obtain compensation for their client, and further, the attorney will increase their pay if they can maximize the total recovery. As such, the attorney is incentivized to invest time, attention, and resources towards the client’s case.

If you’ve been injured due to the fault of another in a maritime and admiralty law scenario, whether you are a passenger, employee, or bystander, then Brais Law Firm can provide legal assistance. Contact our firm to schedule a free and confidential consultation.