In most cases involving car accidents, a lawyer will accept your case on an arrangement called a contingency fee, which means that part of the money recovered in the lawsuit or settlement will be paid to the lawyer as a fee for legal services. There must be a written fee agreement at the beginning of the representation which clearly states what portion of the recovery the lawyer will receive. It is usually a fixed percentage of the recovery, which can be adjusted upwards if there is a retrial or an appeal involved.
Contingency fee contracting means that the lawyer will not get paid any legal fees unless you win your case. However, you may still have to pay legal costs, including court filing fees and any amounts paid to experts or witnesses. If you win, these costs will also be deducted from your portion of the recovery. If you lose, you may have to pay these costs out of pocket, unless your legal contract states otherwise.
According to the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct, if your case is settled before an answer is filed or an arbitration demand is made, the contingency fee can be 33.3 percent of any recovery up to $1 million. If the case settles after an answer is filed or arbitration is demanded, any time through the entry of judgment, the contingency fee can be 40 percent of any recovery up to $1 million. Any amounts over $1 million and up to $2 million can be split up to 30 percent contingency fee, and if the case settles for over $2 million, the fee is 20 percent of the recovery above 2 million.
To illustrate, if your drunk driving personal injury claim settles for $5 million dollars before an answer is filed by the other side, your Florida attorney could be entitled to one third of the first million ($333,333.33); 30 percent of the second million ($300,000), and 20 percent of the remaining $3 million ($600,000), for a total of $1,233,333.33 in attorney fees on a $5 million award. There are additional rules related to contingent fee agreements as well.