If you have been injured in a New Jersey auto accident or suffered a personal injury, you may be struggling to make ends meet while recovering from your injuries. Even though you know that obtaining legal representation can help preserve your rights and improve your recovery in your personal injury claim, you may worry that you can’t afford an attorney or be afraid that even calling one will obligate you financially. You are protected by a number of New Jersey laws governing attorney-client agreements, so don’t be afraid to contact a personal injury attorney to help with your claim!
Free Initial Consultations
For many kinds of cases, usually including personal injury claims, free initial consultations are customary. You may worry that just making an appointment to talk to a lawyer will saddle you with a hefty attorney’s fee bill, but this is absolutely not the case. An attorney must tell you what and how they will charge you and obtain your agreement to that fee structure before you are obligated to pay them.
Attorney Fee Agreements
Attorneys in New Jersey are permitted to offer clients a variety of types of payment agreements, called “retainer agreements.” When a person engages the services of a New Jersey lawyer, the attorney must prepare a written contract setting out the scope of representation and the fees that the parties agree to for the representation. The lawyer should advise the client of the right to pay hourly and explain that any cases that settle will be subject to a statewide judgment lien search (i.e., that proceeds from a settlement may be used to first pay off existing creditors who have registered a legal claim).
For many personal injury claims, attorneys will offer clients a fee agreement called a “contingency agreement.” This makes collecting fees for the attorney’s services contingent on recovering a settlement or judgment in favor of the client. The client agrees to pay a percentage of what they receive in settlement or verdict (for damages including but not limited to sums for medical bills, wage loss, and pain and suffering) to the attorney at the end of the case if they are successful. The attorney or law firm takes the risk that it will not be paid for its work on the case if it does not recover and allows a client to pursue their case against a responsible party or insurance company without incurring significant litigation expenses.
In New Jersey, the law sets a cap on how much you can agree to give your attorney under such an agreement, depending on how much they ultimately recover. These limits are
- 33 1/3% of the first $750,000 recovered;
- 30% of the next $750,000 recovered;
- 25% of the next $750,000 recovered;
- 20% of the next $750,000 recovered; and
- On all amounts recovered in excess of the above, fees are set by application for award of a reasonable fee in accordance with the provisions of the court rule.
Blended Rate Legal Agreements
A blended rate legal agreement is another type of allowable fee agreement. This allows you to pay a reduced hourly rate during the course of your litigation and then pay a smaller contingency percentage payment at the end. The blended rate legal agreement is ideal for those clients who do not want to pay a high contingency percentage or high hourly rate but would accept a compromise of a lower rate for both. This can be appropriate for fairly straightforward personal injury claims that are more likely to be resolved before litigation (i.e., without filing a lawsuit).
Other Costs & Liens
Clients are typically required to pay costs incurred during the course of the case in addition to attorneys’ fees. These costs are for expenses like courier or messenger delivery fees, court filing fees, expert witness fees, postage, photocopying fees, expenses for obtaining medical records, and other similar out-of-pocket costs. In a contingency case, these costs will be taken out of your gross settlement amount; in a blended agreement, they will be set forth on regular invoices.
Attorneys also pay outstanding third-party expenses related to the case (like medical liens) and debts that have been recorded with the state by creditors (including workers’ compensation payments, Medicare/Medicaid liens, and other possible claims) out of any settlement proceeds before disbursing any proceeds to the client. Your attorney may negotiate such liens with your creditors to allow you to defer payment on your medical treatment expenses and other debts while your case is proceeding. This can help you pursue the fairest resolution of your claim rather than settling under the pressure of outstanding creditors and debt collectors.
The Mark Law Firm offers different representation agreements depending on the circumstances of your case. We represent clients throughout the State of New Jersey and will work with you to craft an agreement that helps you pursue the best resolution for your claim while giving you financial peace of mind. Contact us now to set up a no-obligation, no-charge consultation with one of our experienced New Jersey personal injury attorneys today.
 "Rules Governing The Courts Of The State Of New Jersey—Rule 1:21. Practice Of Law." NJCourts.gov. 1 Feb 2001. Accessed 19 Jan 2018.
 N.J.S.A. 2A:44-36
 N.J.S.A. 34:15-40
 N.J.S.A. 30:4D-7.1, 42 U.S.C. §411.24(g)