Minnesota attorney Aaron Hall explains some of the common misconceptions surrounding contingency fees and outlines when contingency fees are typically available.
People who haven’t worked with attorneys before often have their impression of attorneys set by TV and especially commercials. They see that free consultations are available. They see that attorneys, at least at certain law firms, don’t get paid unless you get paid. In other words, the fee for the attorney is contingent on the outcome achieved by the attorney. People often wonder is that available in all cases? The answer is no. Generally, a contingency fee is going to be available for a personal injury or a serious accident where there was physical bodily harm. A contingency might also be available in other circumstances, but generally they’re reserved to accidents like car accidents, boating accidents, work accidents, and the reason is the attorney knows that somebody was seriously hurt, somebody is going to pay, and there’s probably an insurance company with deep pockets who can make that payment. The whole issue is whether the attorney can get that payment and how much it will be. In a lot of other cases, for example, a legal question that you may have for an attorney, the attorney realizes that there’s no work involved after that legal question is answered, so you’re not going to be able to get a contingency fee on that. There are also contingency fees prohibited under Minnesota ethical rules and ethical rules in most states if you’re proceeding with a criminal matter, a divorce, and potentially other types of law.