There are definitely some industry norms for fees for personal injury and wrongful death cases. In general I would say that the standard fee is 1/3 of the settlement amount if litigation is not required, and then those fees, the percentage usually goes up if litigation is required and then it will go up even further if the case goes to trial.
There’s not uniformity, however, in the fees that attorneys charge. There are some attorneys that advertise that they’re discount lawyers, and that they charge reduced rates. It is true they do charge reduced rates but in my experience the clients don’t actually get more money in their pocket because of those reduced rates. They get less money in their pocket because the value of a case is not static, it is dynamic.
The attorney has a tremendous influence over the value of that case. If you have an attorney that’s charging, say, only 29% of the value of the case, that sounds better than 35%, but 71% of 10,000 dollars is a lot less than 65% of 100,000 dollars. Percentages really should not be the deciding factor. The quality of your attorney needs to be the deciding factor.
We are very selective about the cases that we will take and we’re not discount attorneys. We don’t charge discount fees but I do believe that we end up putting a lot more money in our clients’ pocket than some of our discount competition does. That’s how we operate here at our firm. I’m not going to say across the board that a discount fee might not work better in some case. If it’s a very small case and there’s just not a lot at stake, and there’s not a lot of complexity, then maybe a discount lawyer is the way to go on that sort of a case. If we’re talking about a significant claim or a claim you even think has the possibility of being a significant claim, what you really want to do is get the best attorney possible.