In the state of California, if someone else’s negligence has caused you to be injured – for example, in a vehicle crash, by a defective consumer product, or by medical malpractice – you have the right under California law to complete compensation for medical treatment, lost wages, and all other related damages. If the injury you’ve sustained permanently or temporarily disables you, then you are additionally entitled to future medical expenses arising from the injury and future lost wages or “lost earning capacity.”
Those injured by another person’s negligence have the right to be compensated, but compensation for injuries does not magically appear in your mailbox or checking account. To acquire compensation, injury victims have to prove they were injured and that someone else’s negligence was the reason why. Victims of negligence will need an attorney’s help, and in the greater Fresno area, they should consult an experienced Fresno personal injury attorney.
A typical scenario after an injury caused by negligence is that a victim is spending additionally and unexpectedly for medical care, yet no money is coming in because the victim is prevented from working. Many injured victims of negligence and their loved ones face a genuine financial hardship after – and as the result of – an accident caused by negligence. However, there’s a remedy for this situation in the state of California, and it’s a remedy that personal injury attorneys are happy to make available.
WITHOUT MONEY, HOW CAN YOU HIRE AN ATTORNEY?
The concept of the contingent fee (or “contingency” fee) was woven into the U.S. legal system from the very beginning. It reflects the law’s basic concern with fairness and with access to justice. For all of its faults, the U.S. legal system has tried to ensure that the poor, as well as the rich, have access to the justice system and to the advice and assistance of fully-qualified legal counsel. Today, personal injury attorneys remain committed to the principle that everyone deserves justice – whether rich, poor, or like most of us, somewhere in-between.
Fresno personal injury attorney Paul J. Pimentel explains that “The primary purpose of a contingency fee is to make sure people of modest means can hire a lawyer. Lawyers who work in civil law are paid either by the hour or by a percentage of the recovery. Paying a lawyer by the hour can be very expensive if the lawyer charges $300 per hour, that will add up quickly to thousands of dollars.”
The injured victims of negligence frequently face financial circumstances and obligations that prevent them from paying “up front” for an injury attorney’s services. They are able to seek justice because personal injury lawyers are paid at the conclusion of the personal injury process rather than at the beginning and because the attorney’s pay is “contingent” on actually prevailing for the client.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF A CONTINGENT FEE ARRANGEMENT?
This arrangement lets the victims of negligence – even the poorest of them – to go to court on a level playing field against any defendant. The arrangement also motivates attorneys to work conscientiously and fight aggressively for the compensation and justice that a victim of negligence deserves. The contingent fee system additionally serves to prevent frivolous cases from overcrowding the courts, so serious injury claims get the full consideration they deserve.
However, the contingent fee system cannot guarantee justice in any particular personal injury case. If you don’t have evidence to support your claim, it won’t matter how severely you’ve been injured, because you probably will not find a lawyer to take the case. Personal injury lawsuits require a thorough investigation and need to be backed by persuasive testimony and evidence. If you have no evidence – or if the person who injured you has no way to pay – your chances of prevailing in a personal injury lawsuit are not high.
But even if your personal injury lawsuit prevails, the case may not be over. Defendants almost always appeal large awards or negotiate for a reduced amount in consideration for not pursuing an appeal. However, if you choose to file a personal injury claim, it probably will not turn into a trial. Most personal cases are settled out of court when attorneys for both sides meet and negotiate the claim. An agreement acceptable to both sides cannot be reached in only about ten percent of the personal cases here in California.
Fresno personal injury attorney Paul J. Pimentel explains, “In a contingency case, the attorney agrees to wait to be paid until the case is resolved by way of settlement or trial. Once the case is finished, the lawyer receives a percentage of the total amount paid. The percentage the lawyer will receive is negotiated between the lawyer and client at the beginning of the case, but typically ranges between one third to 40 percent of the total amount paid.”
WHAT COSTS ARE INCURRED WHEN YOU FILE A PERSONAL INJURY CLAIM?
When a fee agreement has been finalized between a client and an injury attorney, the attorney pays for the costs of the case “up-front.” Those costs may include filing fees, arranging for payments for depositions, and a number of other incidental expenses. Most people can’t pay a three-figure hourly rate or a four-figure retainer fee, so the contingent fee system isn’t only a good option for the victims of negligence – it’s the only practical option that offers a realistic path to compensation and justice after you’ve been injured.
Of course, it’s imperative for an accident victim to read thoroughly and scrutinize closely any contingent fee agreement before signing. Ask all of the questions you have until you are comfortable and satisfied with the agreement. You should also be at ease and entirely comfortable with your attorney, because the two of you may work together on your personal injury claim for as long as a year and sometimes even longer.
If you have been injured in California, and if you are not sure if someone else may be liable for your injury or injuries, seek sound legal advice. Do not accept any insurance company’s settlement offer until you’ve met and discussed your case with an experienced California personal injury attorney. A lack of resources does not mean that you lack legal rights. Your rights are equal to anyones. If you’ve been injured by negligence, the contingent fee system lets you exercise those rights and pursue the full compensation you need and deserve.