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Why Do Some Personal Injury Attorneys Charge A Retainer Fee?

Updated on: 11/22/2019

personal injury retainer feeWhile there are no official rules governing how personal injury lawyers charge for their services, it’s essentially become an industry standard for attorneys to work on a contingency fee basis when it comes to handling accident and injury cases. Contingency fee arrangements allow anyone who has been injured in an accident through no fault of their own to find quality legal representation regardless of their financial situation, and incentivize lawyers to get the best possible results for their clients.

And yet every once in a while, potential clients who contact Davis Law Group ask us how much our “retainer fees” cost or whether we accept credit cards for paying up-front fees. After we explain that we work on a contingency fee basis and that there are no up-front costs, the next question is usually, “Well why would an attorney charge a retainer fee in the first place?” Ultimately, there are a few potential explanations for why a personal injury might require clients to pay a retainer fee.

Limited Financial Resources

When a personal injury attorney agrees to accept a new accident or injury case, it is a given that the attorney will incur thousands of dollars in costs related to the case in the immediate future. These costs are typically attributable to retrieving and compiling medical records, consulting with relevant experts (such as accident reconstruction experts in car accident cases or plastic surgeons in dog bite or animal attack cases), and related legal fees such as court filing fees.

Experienced law firms that have remained financially stable will have the financial resources available to make these types of investments into each individual case they have. The stakeholders at these firms know that making these investments early on will improve the chances of a successful outcome, which will provide a return on the initial investment. Although these firms can have hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in individual cases at any given time, they can afford to make those investments because they’ve been around long enough to handle the load.

Conversely, newer and less-experienced law firms or firms which might be struggling financially may not have the necessary resources to invest in their clients’ cases without requiring an up-front retainer fee. These retainer fees may sometimes cost tens of thousands of dollars, which is a lot of money for the average person. Not only are retainer fees inconvenient, but they may be taken as a red flag under these circumstances. Personal injury cases can take months or years to be resolved, and you want to make sure the firm you hire will still be in business at that point.

Lack of Experience & Confidence

On a similar note, a personal injury attorney may charge clients a retainer fee that is dedicated to all costs for the case. In many cases, the retainer fee may be partially or fully non-refundable, so the money cannot be recovered even if the attorney releases the client or the client fires the attorney. This is a much less common practice in general, but can be a sign of a firm which does not have as much experience in personal injury law or lacks the confidence that is necessary to be willing to take on a case on a true contingency fee basis.

As a rule of thumb, accident victims are best served hiring an attorney who has experience with cases that are similar in nature to their own case. This can have a significant impact on your chances of success and the type of result you get for your case, but also in how convenient and beneficial the payment structure will be for you and your family.

Contact Our Personal Injury Attorneys To Learn More

Have you or a loved one been injured in an accident? If you are searching for answers and don’t know where to turn, call our award-winning team of personal injury attorneys today at (206) 727-4000 or use the confidential contact form on this page.

Our attorneys always work on a contingency fee basis, and we will review your case free of charge and explain if and how we believe we may be able to help add value to your case. There is no obligation to hire us and we will not share your information with any third party. Contact us today to get started with your case.

Chris Davis
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Chris Davis is the founder of Davis Law Group, P.S. in Seattle, WA.
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