The idea of hiring an attorney often feels expensive, especially if you have never employed the services of a legal professional before. In a civil rights case, the fear of losing both money to legal fees and the case itself can scare people away from pursuing a case at all.
However, if your civil rights have been violated, then you deserve to be able to seek out a claim against the offenders. This is why understanding the financial aspects of hiring an attorney is critical.
How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Civil Rights Attorney?
In a civil rights case, many law firms will enter into a contingency fee arrangement with their clients, rather than the client paying up front for the attorney’s services.
A contingency fee arrangement is an arrangement that the client and attorney enter into prior to the trial; typically, it states that the attorney will receive a percentage of the settlement or verdict if the case is won. This is a valuable arrangement for the client, as they are only responsible for the cost of an attorney if they win. If the client loses, they are not responsible for the fees for the trial.
One of the most common types of civil rights cases faced by legal professionals is Section 1983 cases: claims against employees of the state, like police officers, who violate a person’s civil rights. The most common violations are illegal search and seizures, unlawful arrests, and excessive use of force. The claims are typically against establishments, like the police department, rather than an individual.
When a client agrees to a contingency fee arrangement, they do not spend money on the claim. The filing fee, which is typically around $400, is covered by the law firm, as well as any additional costs, which can range up to $50,000. The client is only responsible for these costs if they win the case or receive a settlement. Only after the settlement is complete will the client reimburse the law firm for the expenses, as well as the fee for the attorney’s representation.
Contingency fees are typically 33% to 40% of the settlement, while the attorney fee is dependent on the complexity of the case and the time spent representing the client.
There is no fixed rate for the attorney fee because the length and complexity of a case can fluctuate greatly from one case to another. The longer and more challenging the case is, the higher these fees will be.
Calculating Attorney Fees
Federal courts may also award the attorney who represents the client an additional professional fee for pursuing the case, on top of the contingency fee arrangement.
This fee does not increase how much the settlement or verdict awards a client but can motivate the defendant (the department that is being sued for civil rights violations) to settle out of court in order to avoid additional fees.
The defendant is responsible for the settlement costs as well as the attorney fee if the case is decided in court. This means that the client who hired the lawyer is not responsible for the additional fee. The attorney fee can significantly increase the amount the defendant would have to pay if they are forced to pay a settlement.
Attorney fees are calculated based on a number of criteria, including:
- Time and labor required for the case
- The difficulty or novelty of the case tried
- The skill needed to pursue the claim
- The figures from attorney fees in similar cases
- The attorney’s resume
- The awards from other cases
A good attorney will explain each component of a settlement, as well as each facet of a contingency fee arrangement. Be sure to work with an attorney who takes the time to explain to their clients how a contingency fee arrangement works.
Work With Skilled Civil Rights Attorneys To Get Your Money’s Worth
If you are concerned about the cost of legal representation but want to pursue a civil rights case, a contingency fee arrangement may be right for you.
At The Brown Firm, we believe that pursuing legal action should not be a possibility only for those who have the money up front to pay; we can work with you to establish a plan of payment that works for your situation so that you can seek the justice that you deserve.
Reach out to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys so that we can evaluate your unique situation to determine whether you have a case and help to set your financial expectations.