What is a Contingency Fee?

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Personal Injury Lawyer Attorney | Magnuson Lowell Redmond WA Duvall WA

Magnuson Lowell Blog


Each week we post a blog about relevant legal issues.  Glance through our various topics to learn more about a particular legal situation.

These articles are for limited informational purposes only and are not, nor are they intended to be, legal advice. You should not rely on this information for your case and should consult with an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

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What is a Contingency Fee?
Written By: Josh Lowell ~ 3/4/2024

After a car accident, the last thing you want to think about is paying bills. You have health insurance or Personal Injury Protection insurance to help afford medical treatment. You might be missing work, and the thought of paying an attorney is unthinkable. Fortunately, most attorneys understand the stress of motor vehicle collisions. Instead of requiring payment for services rendered up front, personal injury attorneys will typically handle cases on a contingency.

BLOGPOST_ContingencyFee110120021.JPGA contingency fee means that the attorneys services are only billed contingent upon winning your case. It is most often represented in a percentage of the gross settlement or litigation award. The industry standard is a 1/3rd contingency fee prior to a lawsuit being filed, and most attorneys will increase that fee to 40% (or even 50% depending on the type of case) if a lawsuit is required. In other words, you do not have to pay your attorney anything as they help you through the claim. Once the case settles or an award is issued by the court, the attorney claims a percentage of the final amount.

This is a huge risk for the attorney. Some cases are not slam dunks, and others might have complexities that raise the risk of a reduced award. In a disputed liability car accident – like a “who had the green light” scenario – your attorney might spend 50, 75, or even 100 hours taking your case to trial. If the jury finds in the defendant’s favor, your attorney will not be paid any fee. This also creates a scenario where you know your attorney will work their best for you because the more they win, the higher their fee.

Many attorneys may offer an hourly fee arrangement in certain circumstances, but those situations are rare. It might take 20 hours or more for a simple case to settle without litigation. At average attorney rates, your out of pocket might be well over $6,000 and could be as high as $10,000 for a more expensive counsel. A case going to trial could easily be 100 hours of work with fees alone exceeding $40,000. Especially while an injured party is focused on healing and getting back to normal life, a pay-as-you-go attorney fee is just not practical.

Contingency fees have an odd reputation in the community. Some clients may see the percentages as an unreasonable way of handling a fee agreement. However, the time and risk involved in the case make the alternative a far more precarious arrangement. If you are injured in a motor vehicle collision, you may need attorney assistance to ensure the insurance company plays fair. The law offices of Magnuson Lowell, PS are experienced litigators ready to tackle your claim head-on. Call today for a free case evaluation.

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Mandatory Arbitration - A Great Choice for Small Car Accidents
Written By: Josh Lowell ~ 2/26/2024

Trial is expensive, tedious, and often life-draining experience for all involved. With costs stretching into the tens of thousands for even simple cases, it may be financially impractical for small car accidents. The Washington legislature introduced RCW Chapter 7.06 to help create justice for those involved in claims for fewer damages. This Mandatory Arbitration statute is a great opportunity after smaller car accidents to access the courts without the risk or cost of trial.

What is Mandatory Arbitration?

Instead of a jury or judicial bench trial, Mandatory Arbitration places an arbitrator as the fact finder and decision-maker. This arbitrator must be a qualified attorney who has practiced in the field for several years. In lieu of a week or two long trial, witnesses will testify in front of the arbitrator, and they will decide after a single hearing outside the courtroom.

What are the Benefits of Mandatory Arbitration?

Cost and time! As the injured party, you will typically incur costs totaling approximately $750 to $1,000 pursuing Mandatory Arbitration. Fortunately, if you win, many of these costs are reimbursable. Unlike trial where witnesses need be called live to testify, witnesses may be called by written declaration in an arbitration. For expert witnesses especially, this can save thousands (if not tens of thousands) of dollars.

Not only will you save in costs, but the time to pursue Mandatory Arbitration is substantially less than trial. Typically, you will have a hearing within about three months of filing the lawsuit; whereas it takes at least one year or more to reach trial.

What are the Downsides of Mandatory Arbitration?

To ensure only more simple cases are heard in Mandatory Arbitration, the damages allowed to be awarded are currently limited to $100,000. This cap used to be $50,000 and may change again in the future. This amount is often sufficient to cover most small to medium car accident claims that do not involve long/permanent injury, broken bones, and surgery.

Cases in Mandatory Arbitration may be appealed to a new trial. In most circumstances, the insurance company is the party who appeals (although an injured party may appeal if they feel the arbitrator failed to understand the case). This threat of appeal often leaves good arbitration awards undone or requires small cases to head to a smaller, quicker, trial de novo (new trial). The benefit of this transition, though, is that if the insurance company fails to improve their position after appealing, they are responsible for your costs and attorney fees incurred after arbitration.

Is Mandatory Arbitration Right for My Case?

Mandatory Arbitration is a major boon to injured parties. Prior to its introduction, it was mostly financially impractical to file lawsuits for smaller injury cases because the costs of the trial would typically outweigh the potential compensation. Mandatory Arbitration – despite its flaws – provides great potential for these matters to be heard in a reasonable and efficient manner. The litigators at the law offices of Magnuson Lowell, P.S. have brought and overseen thousands of arbitrations. Call today for a free case evaluation!


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Do I Have to Move Out of My House in a Divorce?
Written By: Josh Lowell ~ 2/18/2024


Immediately after a divorce is filed, one of the most pressing questions faced is whether they should move out of the family home. In Washington state, the decision to stay or leave can have significant implications on various aspects of the divorce. Below are some pros and cons of moving out during a divorce. Additionally, we'll discuss the two ways a spouse might typically end up leaving the house.

Living Together:

  1. Easier Parenting: One of the primary advantages of moving out during a divorce is the potential for smoother co-parenting. Living together may allow both parents to continue the routines with the children, fostering a sense of stability and normalcy in their lives. While the status quo may be only temporary, it can be convenient until the parties reach a full agreement.

  2. Lower Costs: Moving out almost always leads to increased financial strain. Maintaining one household instead of two may alleviate the burden on both parties while they’re trying to move efficiently during the divorce process.

Moving Out:

  1. Increased Expenses: On the flip side, moving out typically increases living expenses. Supporting two households can strain finances, potentially stretching the budget for both parties and leading to financial challenges during and after the divorce.

  2. Potential Property Division Issues: Leaving the family home may impact property division negotiations. It's crucial to consider the implications of vacating the property, especially if it holds sentimental or financial significance.

  3. Heightened Tensions: Living separately might reduce tensions between divorcing parties. Communication can become more challenging, but often living apart can lead to reduced conflict on a day-to-day basis.

There are only two scenarios where someone ends up moving out of the family home.

  1. By Agreement: If both parties reach a mutual agreement regarding who will stay in the family home, it can simplify the process. However, it's essential to document such agreements properly to avoid potential disputes down the line. Working with your attorney beforehand to create a temporary settlement contract or order regarding finances and parenting is crucial.

  2. By Court Order: By request of either party, the Court may intervene to remove one party or the other from the marital home. Especially with safety concern, this route is often preferred. Requesting Court intervention often leads to increased tensions and costs, however.

The decision of whether to move out of the family home during a divorce is complex and depends on various factors. It's crucial to weigh the pros and cons carefully and consider the unique circumstances of your situation. Consulting with an experienced family law attorney in Washington can provide valuable guidance tailored to your specific needs, helping you navigate this challenging period with confidence and clarity. Call the legal team at Magnuson Lowell PS for a free telephone case evaluation.

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