There are 2 main parts to prove in your case – liability and damages. Within the liability framework, the goal is to find out who caused or contributed to the wreck. In Tennessee, we have a modified comparative fault system where the fault of all responsible parties is compared and must add up to equal 100%. If you are at fault, a percentage of fault could be assigned to you based on the facts of the case. Our system of comparative fault allows you to make a recovery if your own negligence is 49% or less. However, your recovery is reduced by the portion of fault assigned to you. For example, if you get a judgment of $100,000 and your fault is determined to be 20%, you can recover $80,000. The categories of compensatory damages you may recover include medical expenses, pain and suffering, loss of earning capacity (lost wages), loss of enjoyment of life, mental anguish, permanent injury, as well as any future elements of these harms if they are present. There is no magical formula to determine how much your case is worth. Every case is different and depends on the facts.
If your case is an accident or injury case, we will represent you on what’s called a “contingency” basis. In that type of arrangement, we do not charge you anything for the time we spend on your case. Instead, our fee is calculated as a percentage of any recovery that we make for you.
For example, let’s say we are representing you in a car accident case on a 1/3 contingency. Up until the point where we make a recovery for you, you do not owe us anything for our work on your case. Let’s say we negotiate a settlement of $30,000 for your case. Of that recovery, $10,000 (1/3 of the $30,000 recovered) will be the attorney fee.
Contingency fees are particularly helpful in injury cases because most people dealing with injuries from a car accident, trip and fall, etc. are already dealing with financial stress as a result of missing work, doctor’s bills and the other financial strain that an injury brings to their lives. Adding regular expensive attorney bills to that strain would just makes things worse. In other words, contingency fee arrangements allow us to help out clients no matter what their financial situation.
Another benefit to contingency fee arrangements is that we are taking the risk right along with you and have the same interest in making a recovery that you do. In other words, you don’t have to worry that we are going to take your money up front and then not really worry about the outcome of your case. We have a clear financial interest in getting you the best possible result in your case.
On worker’s compensation cases, the percentage is capped at 20% by statute. Car wreck cases usually involve a 1/3 contingency. Premises liability cases (because they are among the most difficult types of cases) are typically a 40% contingency.
Other types of cases will typically vary between 1/3 and 40% depending on the complexity of the case, the likelihood of success, etc.