Answered by Christopher Combs in Personal Injury on April 01, 2021.

If you’ve recently been in a car accident or suffered another sort of personal injury through no fault of your own, you are most likely thinking about hiring a personal injury lawyer. However, you’re also probably thinking that hiring a high-quality personal injury lawyer will be so expensive, that the fees and associated costs you will have to pay will easily eclipse the settlement you are expecting to receive.

At Combs Waterkotte, we have heard this sort of complaint from many of our clients. We are here to answer some questions about personal injury lawyers, the cost of hiring one, and what sort of services you will get when you hire an experienced St. Louis personal injury lawyer.

Do I Have To Pay A Personal Injury Lawyer Up Front?

We will be the first ones to admit that personal injury lawyers can–and indeed do–make quite a bit of money. There are hundreds of personal injury attorneys in the St. Louis area, and if you’ve driven anywhere here in town you’ve probably seen their billboards. It’s highly likely you’d believe that they make enough money to put up ads along the interstate by getting their clients to pay substantial sums up front before they take their personal injury case.

However, this is not the case. Most personal injury law firms in St. Louis operate on what is called a contingency basis. Simply put, this means they do not collect a fee unless they win their case or get a settlement. Once most personal injury lawyers obtain a favorable judgment, they take a cut of your total settlement money. Typically this ranges from between 20 to 40 percent of your award amount. This also depends on whether you decide to settle your case or take it to trial–usually lawyers take a different percentage depending on whether you settle before or after a lawsuit is filed.

Even If I Lose My Case, Will I Still Owe Money?

There are a number of ancillary expenses associated with a lawsuit. These can include:

  • Filing fees
  • Accessing police reports
  • Accessing medical records
  • Fees for expert witnesses
  • Accessing medical records
  • Paying for court reporters (especially if depositions are required)
  • Mail and copying charges

The total amount of these expenses varies case by case. Usually, court costs increase the longer cases are open. If your personal injury lawsuit ends up going to trial, expect the costs related to your lawsuit to increase even further.

On average, court costs will amount to anywhere between ten and fifteen percent of your settlement or judgement. And unfortunately, court costs are payable regardless of whether you win your lawsuit, reach an amicable settlement, or lose your case.

Your Rights as a Client Regarding Fees

Attorney fees in Missouri are subject to what is known as the Rules of Professional Conduct. These are guidelines adopted by the Supreme Court of Missouri and are fully binding and mandatory. Rule 4-1.5 is the section that governs fees, and it states that lawyers may not collect “unreasonable fees and expenses”, as well as requiring all fees owed by a client to be put in writing and available for review before they agree to hire an attorney. Furthermore, new clients must be given a standard schedule of fees as well as what amount of those fees the client would be responsible for.

This schedule of fees also includes your rights and responsibilities to pay these fees during a case. Some attorneys work on a “pay-as-you-go” basis or send monthly bills, but many more recognize that this can be problematic for their clients. Many clients are dealing with bills themselves and do not want the added burden of having to pay legal fees now, especially considering it can be weeks or months after a judgment before they finally receive their settlements. Therefore, attorneys often work with their clients to develop a mutually beneficial payment plan for these additional costs in the event their lawsuit does not reach a favorable conclusion.

Contact A Personal Injury Law Firm That Values Communication

Combs Waterkotte always vows to be transparent and open with their clients, whether it is about the facts of their case or what they may end up paying. We believe that communication is the basis of all good relationships and that includes the one between a lawyer and their client. If you are interested in a law firm that will always be up front with you and values your feedback, contact us either online or by calling (314) 900-HELP.


Personal Injury