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Allen M., Esq.
Allen M., Esq., Attorney
Category: Personal Injury Law
Satisfied Customers: 19182
Experience:  Lawyer with personal injury practice experience.
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Is it common (or even appropriate) for a personal injury attorney

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Is it common (or even appropriate) for a personal injury attorney who has taken a case on contingency to expect the client to put up money to pay for expenses related to trial? This seems to undermine the fundamental intent of a contingency agreement, and suggests that the attorney is either not fully committed to the case, or has doubts about his/her ability to try it successfully. Have you ever heard of this? Is this a big red flag?
Hello, my name is XXXXX XXXXX I look forward to assisting you today. I bring nearly 20 years of experience in various legal disciplines.

It is extremely common. A contingency agreement means that you don't pay attorney's fees, meaning their typical hourly rate for the time that they spend working on the case.

Costs refer to things like the cost of filing the complaint, making copies, paying for a deposition, etc.

Even courts differentiate between costs and attorney's fees.

Nothing about this request indicates a lack of commitment to the case or any sort of doubt about the potential outcome. In fact, I have never seen a personal injury contingency agreement that did not pass costs on to the client.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I understand that all contingency agreements guarantee that the attorney will recoup his or her out of pocket expenses if there's a judgment or settlement, but unless the retainer agreement specifically allows for it, I've never heard of the client being asked to pay these costs upfront.

I can't speak to the firms you've dealt with in the past, but every firm that I have worked with has required these costs upfront.

Costs from the other side, in a judgment, are unknown so the attorney can't charge for them upfront.

The attorney's own costs are more known. I have seen this in practices I have worked in and have done so in my own practice, so again, I do not see this as uncommon but rather it is the norm.
Just to get back to the main point, the request is not inappropriate or illegal. It is legally permissible and nothing about the request indicates any lack of commitment to the claims or any predisposed belief about the outcome.

At least, there is nothing to suggest that those are absolutely true, because we took clients cases all the time that we completely believed in, and still required these costs up front.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Well, this has definitely been a learning curve for me. My attorney friends all insist this doesn't represent a true contingency agreement unless it includes specific language describing the client's obligation to fund any part of the process upfront. Thanks for you input.

Ok. I wasn't aware that the agreement that you signed made no mention of these costs.

Our contracts specifically explained the costs up front.

The contract you have may have slippery language stating only that they will not charge any "fees" up front and that could be sufficient from a contractual basis. This is something you'd need to explore more, as they could conceivably be in breach of their own contract.

I have been speaking strictly from what is permissible in contingency fee agreements.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

The agreement essentially says that I owe nothing if we don't prevail. It doesn't mention the client being responsible for costs at any time.

Then this may be a breach of contract issue and a complaint that you could make to the bar association for not making their contracts clear.

Again though, I previously was answering from the standpoint of what is legally permissible and done in the firms I've worked for and against.

If they aren't following their own contract language, then it isn't appropriate.
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