Court Costs and Attorney Fees
The Contingency Fee
In almost every personal injury trial, a “hidden” or unnamed party in the suit is the defendant’s insurance company. There is almost always insurance but the laws in Florida do not allow it to be disclosed during trial. The insurance industry is considered politically the most powerful industry in the United States with trillions of dollars in assets.
Considering the fact that top trial attorneys can cost more than $500 an hour, how can the average person afford to hire a good attorney to fight a big insurance company that has unlimited resources?
What has developed as an answer is the “contingency fee”— which is often called “everyman’s key to the courthouse.” The contingency fee is simple in concept. If the case is won, the attorney is awarded a percentage of the jury’s verdict. If the case is lost, the attorney receives nothing. In short, the attorney analyzes the case and if he or she believes the case is meritorious and the insurance company is not offering a fair settlement to the plaintiff, it is taken to trial.
Obviously, that is a risky decision, and only cases that attorneys feel have serious merit are taken to trial.
Accident Attorney Costs
However, the attorney not only puts all his or her own time at risk, but the attorneys generally have to personally advance litigation costs; often, in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars as out-of-pocket-costs. Such costs typically include, for example, filing fees, service fees, expert witness fees, travel, depositions, video presentations, demonstrative trial aids and other expenditures to prepare for trial.
If the case is lost, the attorney recovers no fee, the client recovers nothing for his or her injury and the attorney loses all the costs advanced on behalf of the client.
It is a very risky way to practice law and considerable skill is required in evaluating a case and to determine if it is winnable.
The system has the merit of weeding out bad cases as they are too risky and only those that have merit and are likely to produce a favorable verdict are brought to trial.
Neither the fees or costs are awarded directly by the jury in its verdict. Rather, they are paid out of the verdict amount that the jury finds for total damages to the plaintiff.