I spent the week in New Orleans with several other injury lawyers taking depositions in a trucking case and discussing legal issues and a topic came up that deserves mention; are Georgia attorney’s fees negotiable? The answer is, sometimes.
Injury lawyers in Georgia all work on a contingency fee basis meaning that if they settle or win your case, they are entitled to a percentage portion of the gross recovery. The contingency fee structure works well for clients as they come to an injury lawyer because they have sustained a serious injury and that usually results in a financial hardship. The last thing the client needs is a humongous legal bill from their injury lawyer. I do some hourly work at $250.00 an hour and the bills can add up quickly for hourly clients.
The question arises; can I negotiate the percentage of the contingency fee with the lawyer. Some lawyer do, some don’t and the fees vary. The low end TV advertising firms in Atlanta charge the client 40% pre-suit and 45% in litigation and that is astounding. They will negotiate the fee if the client objects.
Most good injury lawyers charge 33.33% pre-suit and 40% in litigation to handle a case and they will not negotiate. Smaller top shelf personal injury lawyers establish a personal relationship with the client involving detailed communication and legal analysis. To put it simply, you are getting more of the lawyers time and experience and as a result most of us do not negotiate fees except in rare circumstances.
Those circumstances include cases where there is only $25,000.00 in coverage, although those should be a thing of the past soon, given the new stacking uninsured motorist insurance coverage in Georgia. If there is only $25,000.00 in coverage and the injuries are significant enough to know that the insurance carrier will have to pay the policy limits quickly, I do reduce my fee slightly as most of the workmanship comes in cleaning up the medical insurance reimbursement issues.
I will also on occasion reduce my fee percentage pre-suit at the time of the signing of the contract if there are multiple clients involved in the same accident. This reflects the fact that there is less work when the liability facts are common to all cases.
In summary I would tell you that it never hurts to ask your lawyer if they will reduce their fee percentage. In typical cases though, a good lawyer can honestly tell you that you get what you pay for. Do not make your attorney hiring decision based on saving a few percent off the fee. As I always say, interview the lawyer in person before you hire them. If they cannot make time for you in the beginning, they will not make time for you at any point during the case.