In the personal injury context, you have the option of hiring an attorney on a “contingent fee” basis. This means the attorney is paid a percentage of any settlement for their time spent working on your case. Contingent fee arrangements are very popular not only because they eliminate any up-front cost to the client, but also because they align the attorney and client’s interests. The larger the settlement an attorney obtains for the client, the more the attorney is paid for a job well done.
The typical percentage on the east side of Washington and Oregon is one third or 33%, unless there is an appeal. “Appeal” means the case has been tried to a judge or jury, but one of the parties has requested that the court of appeals or the supreme court hear an issue brought up during the trial. The percentage increases slightly to 40% in that circumstance, but appeals are very rare.
With your permission, attorneys will also take money out of their own pocket to purchase things necessary to pursue your claim. This practice is called “advancing” costs or “costs advanced”. Costs advanced may include, among other things, charges for copies of medical records, medical bills and police reports. If a lawsuit is filed, costs advanced could also include court filing fees, expenses for depositions, fees for medical or liability experts etc. According to the Washington and Oregon bar associations, however, repayment of costs advanced can never be contingent upon the outcome of your case. According to the ethical standards governing all attorneys, the costs advanced are owed to the attorney even if the case is unsuccessful. That said, it is extremely unusual for costs to exceed the recovery in a case. In fact, we have never experienced this in our practice.