Virginia State Bar Policy: Fee Vs. Cost
Most personal injury attorneys charge one-third of whatever is recovered in the personal injury case. So I always give the example to make math easy, if we were able to recover $30,000 for your case, the fee would be 10. If we were able to recover three million dollars for your case, the fee would be one million. I always am careful to distinguish between cost and fees. You’ve seen all these advertisements from lawyers that say no recovery, no fee. Well, the Virginia State Bar has actually determined that to be deceptive. It’s factually deceptive because most people do not distinguish between fees and costs when you talk about it in a legal advertisement. So I’m always very careful to tell people that fees are one thing, costs are different things. In many personal injury cases, because it’s a contingency fee, the lawyers will advance the cost that it takes to prosecute your case. Costs would be, for example, obtaining medical records, or speaking with doctors, or paying court reporters, or deposing doctors, or videographers.
All of those things cost money and the personal injury lawyers in our area will generally advance those costs on your behalf. But those costs have to be recovered. That’s not an Osterbind Law policy, that’s a Virginia State Bar policy. As a rule, Virginia lawyers are not allowed to finance the litigation and the personal injury litigation. So we are required as a rule, an ethical rule, to get reimbursement for whatever costs we spend on your case. So if you have one of those cases where the result is a zero verdict or a defense verdict, or a significantly lower verdict than what you would anticipate, your personal injury lawyer is required by law to ask you to pay for the cost that he or she spent on your case. So while a fee might not be earned, the costs have to be paid back. So if there’s a zero verdict or a defense verdict, then you are still on the hook for whatever cost your lawyer spent in your case.
You should ask your personal injury lawyer the difference between those two things.
- Do you propose you’re going to keep our costs low?
- Do you do certain cost-saving measures?
Electronic medical records, instead of paper medical records. In our office, we are entirely electronic. So we asked for medical records electronically instead of on paper. And the difference is huge. Instead of paying $300 for medical records, we would pay $6.50. The difference is so great it makes a difference in your pocket at the end of your case.
So ask the lawyer that you’re speaking to, what will you do to help save costs in my case? Certain things you can’t save costs on. Talking to doctors, or court reporter fees, or transcript fees. Those things cost what they cost. You can use a local company that you have a good relationship with, and you can save money there to a certain degree, but there are other things that you can do to save money down the road because ultimately it’s your money. It’s not the personal injury lawyer’s money, it’s your money that we’re saving at the end of the day.