Q. My son was injured in a car accident and he found an attorney to help him. The attorney isn’t charging anything upfront but wants to take 40 percent of whatever he gets. How can we decide if that’s a fair amount? What do these lawyers usually charge?
A. We’re sorry to hear your son was injured and we hope he’s on the mend.
It seems either you’re mistaken, or your son is being taken for a ride.
Your son has entered into a “contingency agreement,” which is when an attorney charges nothing to take the case, but upon successful resolution collects a percentage of the money recovered, said Joseph Peters, the co-chair of the personal injury and workers’ compensation practice at Mandelbaum Salsburg in Roseland.
He said contingency agreements are common in New Jersey, and they’re covered by rules.
New Jersey Court Rule 1:21-7 states in that “an attorney shall not contract for, charge, or collect a contingent fee in excess of the following limits:
(1) 33 1/3% on the first $750,000 recovered;
(2) 30% on the next $750,000 recovered;
(3) 25% on the next $750,000 recovered;
(4) 20% on the next $750,000 recovered.
“This means that the most your son may be responsible for providing to an attorney in a motor vehicle accident is one-third – 33 1/3 percent – of the first $750,000,” Peters said.
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