A contingency fee is a legal fee that is contingent upon the outcome of the case. In most tort claims where a personal injury lawyer represents a plaintiff bringing a claim, the case is handled on a contingency fee. That contingent fee, in most instances, is one-third of the gross recovery. If the gross recovery is $100,000.00, then the attorneys fees is one-third of that. Most state bars require that the personal injury lawyer disclose to plaintiffs in tort claims or any contingent fee case that in addition to the attorneys fee the client may be responsible for the cost of litigation. Those costs of litigation are typically such things as the cost of filing suit, the cost of hiring expert witnesses to testify at trial and other such cost of litigation.
If there is no recovery in the case, then there is no attorneys fees that is due, although an attorney may be required under the regulations of the State Bar to still hold the plaintiff responsible for those costs as referenced above.
See Brien Roche’s book Law 101 published by Sphinx Publishing for more information on this subject.
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For more information on contingency fee see the pages on Wikipedia.