What Is a Contingency Fee?

In the majority of law practices, attorneys receive compensation for the legal services they provide. It’s a business, just like a local restaurant, but what happens if you find yourself in need of legal representation and without the money to pay for it?

Contingency Fees

A contingency fee is a payment to your attorney that only occurs when you receive some kind of monetary recovery in your case—whether you settle or win your case at trial. It is a fee that is paid contingent upon money being awarded. Contingency fee agreements are popular because they give injured people the chance to try to recover money damages for their injuries without having to pay attorney’s fees up front.

Your attorney takes an agreed-upon percentage of your recovery, which is often 1/3 or 33% of the total you win. The exact amount your attorney gets paid depends on a variety of factors, including:

  • the complexity and risk involved in your case
  • who pays for litigation costs and when

Complexity and Risk

The more risky or complex a case is, the higher contingency fee percentage your attorney is likely to request. A riskier or more complicated case may require you to pay a higher percentage of the recovery, such as 35% to 40%. On the other hand, a relatively straightforward case may result in a lower contingency fee percentage, perhaps 20% or 25%.


If you win your case, you usually have to pay for court and filing fees, discovery, expert witnesses, obtaining evidence and overhead/incidentals. However, whether your attorney takes the contingency fee percentage before or after these costs are paid can make a significant difference in how much you and your attorney ultimately receive.

If you have been arrested, are dealing with a personal injury case or have family law matters to iron out, please contact our Reno lawyers at Viloria, Oliphant, Oster & Aman L.L.P. today. Call (775) 227-2280 or contact us online.

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