How Much Will An Attorney Cost You?

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How Much Will An Attorney Cost You?

Being injured in an accident often means you have plenty of questions. You wonder about the extent of your injuries and how they may impact your life. If property damage is involved, for example, in an auto accident, you’re worried about repair and possible replacement costs.

Questions about filing a claim with the insurance company will probably pop up. You may even be questioning the cost of an attorney. While none of the questions have simple answers, one can be particularly confusing.

 When it comes to the factors affecting attorney fee structures, the answers can leave you scratching your head.

The Type of Lawyer Can Affect Fee Structure

When it comes to attorneys, there isn’t one type that fits all kinds of cases. Lawyers tend to specialize and this affects fee structures.

A criminal defense attorney will typically charge by the hour or type of case. Whichever method the attorney uses, you’re going to be paying a specific amount up front. Yes, the amount can vary depending on the attorney.

Personal injury attorneys often work on a contingency fee structure, which means that your attorney receives a portion of your settlement amount. It doesn’t matter if the compensation is awarded by the court or insurance company—the attorney claims a prearranged amount and you take home the rest.

Consultation Fees

Before an attorney agrees to take your case, there’s a good chance you’ll go through an initial consultation. This doesn’t mean you’re retaining the attorney, only that they’re willing to discuss your case.

How long the consultation lasts varies—sometimes, the discussion can take an hour, and others only last a few minutes. The type and complexity of your case often determine how long the consultation lasts. Adding to the confusion is some attorneys also set specific time limits for consultations. You may leave a consultation feeling rushed and still have plenty of questions about your case.

So, what about consultation fees? Most attorneys offer free consultations, meaning that you aren’t paying a fee to discuss the basics of your case. Why are consultations often free? Think of it as a form of advertising. Attorneys know once you’re in the door and discussing your case, you’re more likely to retain their legal counsel.

If you’re not sure if an attorney offers a free consultation, just ask before setting up the appointment. Since most lawyers don’t charge for the initial meeting, you shouldn’t run into any problems finding one that doesn’t charge a fee.

Recent Changes to Florida Law May Affect Attorney Fees

In 2023, Florida passed HB 837. If you don’t need an attorney or aren’t concerned about fee structures the changes to the state’s rule aren’t a big deal. However, if you’re searching for an attorney and are worried about a potentially high legal bill, HB 837 may affect you.

So, what is HB 837? The rule addresses attorney fees and includes a few changes that can have a big impact on both lawyers and their clients.

One-Way Attorney Fees

Removing one-way attorney fees may initially seem like only insurance companies and attorneys are affected. The revised law prohibits attorneys from collecting fees from an insurance company. This includes any fees from personal injury protection insurance (PIP). Even though Florida drivers are required to carry PIP, their attorneys can’t sue the insurance provider for any fees stemming from a personal injury case.

While this may not seem like a disadvantage to consumers, in reality, it’s affecting the type of cases lawyers are willing to handle. Sometimes, the settlement amount isn’t enough to cover both the attorney fees and provide adequate compensation for their client’s damages.

When attorneys are worried about collecting payment, they’re more likely to turn a case down. This can make it difficult for some individuals to find and retain legal representation.

Limitations of Attorney Fee Multipliers

If you’ve never heard of fee multipliers, you’re not alone. The practice isn’t common. Most attorneys only apply fee multipliers on cases they have a low chance of winning. Think of the multiplier as a type of bonus an attorney receives for winning a particularly difficult case.

An example is a personal injury case with limited evidence proving negligence. If an attorney can’t prove negligence, whether intentional or unintentional, most personal injury cases are dismissed. This means the attorney has put in the work and doesn’t receive compensation.

So far, this part of HB 837 doesn’t seem so bad for clients. However, it can affect your chances of finding an attorney if your case is complex. The change in the stature now applies to any case that involves unusual circumstances. You may be hit in a crosswalk by an electric scooter. Since electric scooters are relatively uncommon in Tampa, this can count as an unusual event.

Denial of Coverage

Before the passage of HB 837, attorneys were allowed to claim fees from the court when a claim was successful. Yes, this is a form of one-way attorney fees and it’s still allowed as long as the insurance company doesn’t deny coverage.

However, insurance companies occasionally deny legitimate claims and this is when the legal process often heads to civil court. If your attorney successfully proves your claim in court, the insurance provider is required to settle the claim. However, if a legitimate claim is also denied in court, an attorney can’t pursue one-way fees, and this means the attorney isn’t compensated for the work they put into presenting your case.

With the passage of this section of HB 837, attorneys are becoming more reluctant to take on cases they’re not guaranteed to win. Some may still be willing to take on a denied legitimate claim, but only if the client can pay an upfront or hourly fee.

Tampa Attorney Fee Structures May Be Increasing

Some of the recent changes to Florida’s attorney fee structures aren’t going to affect some cases like criminal defense.

You’re still expected to pay upfront or an hourly rate. However, the same isn’t true for personal injury cases. The fee structure is changing to reflect HB 837. This means your attorney may not be willing to work on a contingency basis. They may start structuring their fees similarly to a criminal defense attorney.

This doesn’t mean foregoing legal representation in your personal injury case. Instead, you have a few more questions to ask during your initial consultation.