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How Attorney Fees Work in the American Justice System and at Scottsdale Injury Lawyers
A common misconception that clients have is that if they win their case they will be awarded attorney fees. However, the American justice system does not typically allow a prevailing party in a lawsuit to recover his or her attorney fees as a matter of right. This is true for personal injury lawsuits as well.
America differs from most other western countries in this respect. The majority of western countries follow the English Rule. The English Rule holds that a losing party to a lawsuit must pay the attorney fees of the winning party.
In America, for a party to be entitled to attorney fees after winning his or her case, it must be provided for by contract or statute. For example, almost every contract contains an attorney fees clause. This clause states that if a dispute arises out of the contract and a lawsuit is filed, the loser must pay the winning side’s attorney fees and litigation costs. Whether you realize it or not, almost every contract you enter into has such a provision. This includes lease agreements, service contracts, health club agreements, contracts with your bank, cable company, mobile provider, etc.
Attorney fees may also be awarded to the prevailing party if provided for by statute or other law. The statute may be state or federal. For example, Arizona has a state law which allows the court to award attorney fees, at its discretion, to the winning side to any contested action arising out of a contract. This is even if the contract was not in writing and there was no attorney fees clause. This is set forth in Arizona Revised Statute 12-341.01(A).
Another example, are federal civil rights cases. Our firm regularly handles federal civil rights cases involving law enforcement misconduct. These cases can involve claims for: excessive force, police brutality, unlawful search and seizure, First Amendment retaliation, unlawful detention, wrongful arrest, malicious prosecution, prisoner abuse, cruel and unusual punishment, deliberate indifference to medical needs, among other claims. When we advance such claims we do so under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983. Another federal statute, 42 U.S.C. Section 1988 allows for the award of attorney fees for prevailing on a civil rights claim brought under this statute.
In the typical Arizona personal injury case attorney fees are not awarded. These cases include: car accidents, slip and falls, animal attacks, premises liability, medical malpractice, product liability, dog bites, bicycle accidents, motorcycle accidents, trucking accidents, among others. In all of these cases, the attorney fees are taken from the total amount awarded to the client.
When our firm handles a personal injury case, we do so on a contingent fee basis. Our attorney fees are contingent upon a successful result. This means, we only earn our fees if we recover for the client. We also advance all costs. This is a great advantage to the client because it allows the client to proceed with representation without having to pay for it. If we win the case, we are paid at that time. If we lose the case, we also lose all the money we spent on the case and our time invested.
A contingent fee arrangement is also beneficial for the client because it creates an incentive for the attorney to work efficiently to achieve the best result possible. In a contingent fee arrangement, the attorney is paid more by how much the attorney recovers. As such, the attorney is not billing the client for pointless work and is striving to get the most money for the client as that increases his or her fee.
Our typical fee in most personal injury cases is 1/3 if the case is resolved before the filing of a lawsuit and 40% thereafter. However, these percentages may be adjusted depending on the facts of a case and if warranted. For cases that will not require as much work, these percentages may be adjusted down. For cases that are exceptionally challenging or difficult, these percentages may be adjusted up. No matter what, the percentages are agreed to by the client before hiring our law firm so it is always an amount that the client is comfortable with.
If you or a loved one suffered a personal injury or were the victim of law enforcement misconduct, contact Scottsdale Injury Lawyers today. One of our skilled personal injury attorneys will discuss your case and provide a free consultation at no cost.