Worried about Paying Your Lawyer When You’re Hurt in an Accident?


When you’re hurt in an accident, it can seem like a bit of a Catch 22.  The severity of your injuries often impose restrictions on your earning capacity. All things considered, the prospect of paying for a lawyer to pursue a personal injury claim seems dismal. How in the world can you possibly afford legal fees?

Here’s the good news when it comes to an otherwise bad situation. Experienced Philadelphia, Wilkes-Barre, and Scranton accident attorneys in Pennsylvania routinely take cases based on contingent fee arrangements. Meanwhile, you might not know what that means exactly in the grand scheme of things.

More than likely, you already know that lawyers use the word contingent in various types of legal agreements. For example, real estate sales contracts often are contingent on the buyer obtaining a mortgage, or on the sale of their existing home.

In the case of a personal injury lawsuit, attorneys’ fees are contingent on a successful case result. Lawyers who take contingency cases agree that their fee is based solely on a percentage of the net outcome of your recovery.

What does that mean if the insurance company refuses to pay out on your claim? Or, what if a jury doesn’t award you money? Quite simply, you won’t owe attorneys’ fees. After all, the percentage of zero damages always equates to zero.

That said, some lawyers allocate other charges when taking personal injury cases. You should always check with prospective legal counsel to determine if you will incur charges for expert reports. Many lawyers pay these fees up front and easily eat the costs if the client does not recover money.


Pennsylvania attorneys are bound by Rule 1.5 of the Professional Conduct when it comes to fee agreements. When you sign a retainer agreement, you should check to see if the fee is fixed, hourly, or contingent. Some of the more common cases that involve contingency agreements include:

  • Auto accidents
  • Crashes involving commercial vehicles, including buses and trucks
  • Mass transit accidents
  • Slip, trip, and fall accidents
  • Products liability cases
  • Other types of premises liability claims
  • Medical malpractice actions

Although some states limit the percentage attorneys may charge for contingency fees, Pennsylvania does not. You should, therefore, speak with your attorney regarding the proposed percentage, which can sometimes range up to 40% of the money you receive.

In the meantime, you should also know that attorneys’ fees are based on net recovery. This number comes after subtracting all expenses related to the case first. These are reimbursed to the firm before anything else.

Workers Compensation Attorneys’ Fees

Attorneys handling workers’ compensation cases also work on a contingency basis. However, the maximum fee allowance cannot exceed twenty percent of the recovery.

You should also know that it is up to the workers’ compensation judge to approve attorneys’ fees when your case goes to court.


Fellerman & Ciarimboli offer experienced legal advice to personal injury victims and those hurt in an accident. Give us a call to learn how we can assist you.

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