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How Much Do Personal Injury Lawyers Get Paid?


Retro couple sitting behind table.
Retro couple sitting behind table.

How much a Personal Injury ("PI") attorney or lawyer makes is a burning question people often love to ask. There are hundreds of forums and blogs on the internet where this topic gets beaten to death. Some people want to know their yearly salaries only because they are curious about how much a lawyer makes.  

But others inquire about it because they want to join this field out of law school.

  • How much a PI lawyer makes depends on many factors. However, it can be easily said that a lawyer makes a handsome yearly salary that is better than what most other professions yield for the people.

The Many Different Types Of Personal Injury Lawyers

There are many different types of personal injury lawyers. Personal injury is not a small field. And if you go deep in it, you will see more than a dozen different types of lawyers that are considered to be personal injury lawyers.

Surprisingly, some cases they handle involve deaths, worker's compensation, employment law, cruise ship cases and other casualties.

Here are some of the different types of accidents PI lawyers handle under the big umbrella term of "personal injury":

  • Auto accidents
  • Wrongful death
  • Motorcycle accidents
  • Burn injuries
  • Animal bite injuries
  • Brain injuries
  • Aviation accidents
  • Amusement park accidents
  • Insurance/bad faith
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Construction accidents
  • Swimming pool drowning accidents
  • Nursing home abuse
  • Slip and fall accidents
  • Medical malpractice
  • Pedestrian accidents
  • Defective products

As you dig deeper you will find out many other types of accidents and injuries that can be handled by personal injury lawyers. But some areas of PI law are more cookie cutter and others very complex.

For example, a rear ender car accident is cheaper and easier to litigate than a complex mesothelioma, or Jones Act cruise ship man overboard claim.

Knowledge of contract, criminal and other laws may also be requisite for your type of case. Generally, the better trained the lawyer, the higher their Lodestar or attorney's fee value.

Factors Affecting Yearly Incomes Of Personal Injury Lawyers

Many websites will quote $62 to be the mean average hourly wage for most lawyers. But these statistics don’t always apply to PI lawyers. It is understood though that a personal injury lawyer can easily make above $70,000 every year. Because PI lawyers work on a contingency, they get paid a percentage of what they collect.

What percentage do lawyers take for personal injury?

Many state statutes limit the percentage your lawyer can charge as a contingency fee. California let's the parties decide what's fair in most cases. Generally, PI lawyers take 33.33% of the gross amount of your case prior to filing a lawsuit.

However, minors compromises and certain cases involving incompetents see fee reductions to 25% quite often.

  • The normal fee arrangement is 33.33% if your lawyers settle before litigation.
  • If the lawyer has to file suit, their take increases to 40%.
  • If they collect punitive damages or have to go to trial, the fee can go as high as 50% of our case.

A lawyer with lots of cases to resolve in a year can also cross the $200,000 mark annually. Anyways, these are the statistics you will find on many websites, but the matter is not as easy as it sounds. Different lawyers make money in various scenarios and conditions.

Some lawyers might not be making even half of $100,000 every year because of many reasons. The breakdown of a typical personal injury settlement is discussed here.

When There is No Insurance Money, Do Most Lawyers Bill Hourly?

Yes. This is true. What legal domain a lawyer works in is a significant factor when calculating their annual income. Even though the per hour rates are not very common these days, some lawyers still prefer to go this way.

One big reason for many lawyers charging this way could be that they are not seeing the case ending on favorable terms. Mostly, lawyers avoid at fault or partial fault type cases. After all a case like this means it's less likely insurance will pay, assuming there was coverage at all.  

So naturally, the lawyer chooses hourly billing in these cases, because a percentage of nothing doesn’t give them a good return. This remains true even if they can win the case for the client. Besides, good luck trying to collect on an unsecured debtor's judgment.

  • With no insurance compensation, especially when a lawyer thinks that the case is weak, charging customers on a per hour basis is considered wiser.

What are Some Other Factors Determining How Much Your Lawyer Gets Paid?

  • 26% of lawyers don’t work for any organizations and are self-employed because they want to earn bigger profits from their profession. Some just want a flexible schedule.
  • Location of the lawyer also plays a vital role in his yearly income. A lawyer located in a populated city will mostly be earning more than a lawyer working in a rural area.
  • How a lawyer markets himself has become the most crucial factor in a lawyer’s yearly income. Law websites are some of the most popular types of websites today.

What type of employment a lawyer takes up is another deciding factor of his yearly income. A personal injury defense attorney will almost always be paid by "billable hours."

A freelance will charge a percentage of the win. So it is hard to predict how much a self-employed plaintiff's lawyer would make at the end of the year. It totally depends on their personal efforts. The type of organization that employs the lawyer also decides how much he will make at the end of the year.

A PI defense lawyer serving the government will not make as much money as a PI defense lawyer working for a successful private firm. As you can see, the types of lawyers and how much money they make depends on several factors.

And this fully answers the question. Lawyers need to have themselves marketed properly and more efficiently on the internet today. A free consultation is the biggest tool of today’s lawyers to attract more clients towards them.

Furthermore, lawyers can now make use of social networking platforms to market themselves and earn huge profits at the end of the year. Personal injury lawyers in particular could make almost nothing, or become very wealthy.

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Los Angeles, CA 90071

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