Now that you think you need an attorney, you may be wondering what types of fees are involved once you sign your retainer agreement or contract. While each attorney or law firm may have different details involved in their contract, there are usually two distinctions: attorney fees and costs. Attorney fees and costs are not the same thing. Attorney fees will come out of the total amount recovered for you before any costs or other payments.
Most personal injury law firms will work on your case based on a contigency fee, in which they will recieve 1/3 (or some other amount) of the settlement or verdict as the attorney fee. They may also agree that if they are not able to make a recovery for you, then you will not be responsible for any attorney fees. However, the Virginia State Bar requires that clients be responsible for the costs in their case regardless if the outcome is successful or not.
Costs are items that the law firm has fronted for your case. These include paying for copies of medical records, x-ray films, phone conferences or in-person meetings with your treating physicians, and if your case is in litigation, filing fees, service fees, court reporter costs and depositions of witnesses and experts who are hired to testify in your case. There are other items that may be necessary for the law firm to pay for in order to prepare your case for trial. Costs can range anywhere from $100 -$200 in a case where no lawsuit is filed, to tens of thousand dollars for cases that must be brought before a jury. You also want to understand if the firm charges interest.
While it is important to consider what costs are being spent, you do not want to harm your case because your attorney did not spend the necessary money to adequately prepare your case for trial. It is important to take all necessary measures to ensure your case the greatest chance of success.