How Much Do Personal Injury Lawyers Cost?

The Basic Legal Fee New York Accident Attorneys Typically Charge

New York accident attorneys typically charge 1/3 of the amount collected for you plus case expenses. No fee is charged if no money is collected. Consultations are free. But the similarities stop there. There may be more charges for other components of an accident case.

What is a Personal Injury Lawyer?

A personal injury lawyer is an attorney who represents people injured in many different ways, such as motor vehicle accidents; premises accidents; construction accidents; medical malpractice; products liability; and mass tort cases such as drugs and other dangerous products. Some attorneys limit their practice to one or more different types of cases.

construction worker injured in an accident

Is There a Fee for a Consultation?

There is never a fee for a consultation. If a personal injury lawyer wants to charge you a fee for a consultation, call another lawyer. Any lawyer will provide a consultation by phone and most lawyers will provide a consultation in person in the office, in the hospital or at your home.

Legal Fees

New York accident lawyers are prohibited from charging more than a 1/3 contingency fee. A contingency fee is a fixed percentage the lawyer agrees to accept which is paid out of the money recovered for you. With a contingency fee, no fee is charged if no money is recovered for you. The legal fee is contingent on a successful outcome.

Contingency fee sign

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines contingent (definition 4), as dependent on a condition and gives the example “payment is contingent on fulfillment of certain conditions”.  This is why a personal injury legal fee is called a contingency fee.

While an attorney can charge less and I’m sure it has happened, I have never seen a New York accident lawyer charge less than 1/3 of the amount they collect.

Percent symbol injuring person

An attorney providing a contingency fee for a personal injury case must do so in writing, called a retainer, which is signed by the client. A retainer statement must then be filed by the attorney with the Office of Court Administration stating:

  • Date of the agreement;
  • Percentage charged;
  • Name and address of the client;
  • Name and address of a referring attorney if any;
  • Date and location of the accident; and
  • Name, address, occupation and relationship of person referring the client, If any.

Other Legal Fees in Personal Injury Cases

The well-known 1/3 contingency fee is for the pain and suffering claim. What is not well known is that some attorneys charge additional fees for other claims which arise in an accident case.

Disability — Some attorneys charge a fee to collect lost wages paid by NYS No-Fault in a car accident.

No-Fault — Some attorneys charge a fee for processing a No-Fault application and handling the paperwork involved in a No-Fault claim. It is permissible to charge an hourly fee for this.

Collision Damage — Some attorneys charge a one third fee for representation with regard to a collision damage claim.

Liens — Some attorneys charge one third of the amount the lawyer reduces a medical lien.

Wrongful Death — Some attorneys charge a legal fee for the paperwork related to the estate. When someone dies in an accident and does not have a will, an executor or executrix must be appointed. With or without a will, a substantial amount of paperwork must be submitted to the Surrogate’s Court.

Who Pays Expenses in a Personal Injury Case?

As of April 1, 2014, all Appellate Divisions of the New York State Supreme Court require attorneys to offer two options regarding case expenses. One option allows clients to pay the case expenses upfront in exchange for a slightly lower legal fee. With the other option, the attorney advances the case expenses and is paid back at the end of the case. Following is an example of the two options:

Option Number One Example (The Client Remains Liable for Repayment of All Costs and Expenses, Regardless of the Outcome of This Matter):
Total recovery $100,000.00
Less expenses and disbursements: -$10,000.00
Less 33 1/3 % of remaining $90,000 -$30,000.00
Client’s recovery $60,000.00

Option Number Two Example (The Law Firm Agrees to Pay and Remain Liable for All Costs and Expenses, Regardless of the Outcome of This Matter):
Total recovery: $100,000.00
Less 33 1/3 % of $100,000 -$33,333.33
Less expenses and disbursements: -$10,000.00 (expenses are paid back at end of case)
Client’s recovery $56,666.67

Dollar bills spent on accident cases

Types of Case Expenses

Miscellaneous Expenses — Many attorneys charge for copying, postage, messenger fees, overnight delivery fees, travel, computer storage, shredding, telephone and other similar charges.

Case Expenses — You can expect to pay any lawyer for all other case expenses. Some examples of case expenses include the cost of:

  • Investigation, Which can include DMV and other computer searches, investigators, etc.
  • Photography
  • Medical records
  • Medical narrative reports  — These reports usually range from $500-$1,500 for doctors
  • Medical testimony at trial  — Often ranges from $2,500-$15,000
  • Expert reports  — These reports often range from $2,500-$7,000
  • Expert testimony at trial  — Often ranges from $2,500-$15,000
  • Court fees
  • Process server fees
  • Court monitoring fees
  • Court reporter fees for depositions and transcripts
  • Trial preparation fees; and
  • other costs.

We do not charge many of the legal fees and expenses listed here.  Please see our legal fees