Aviation Accident Attorneys: How Are They Compensated?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Are you debating whether to contact a lawyer regarding an aviation accident because it may be too costly? If so, it’s important to understand that most aviation accident lawyers work on a contingency fee basis – meaning that they don’t get paid unless and until you recover.

The contingency fee arrangement

To explain the contingency fee arrangement, we contacted Larry Goldhirsch, a New York plaintiffs’ attorney with 38 years of experience whose practice represents aviation accident victims. He told us:

In almost all accident cases in the United States, most lawyers work on what’s called a contingency fee arrangement which means – and this varies state to state – that a state usually has a set fee for lawyers who work on contingencies in accident and wrongful death cases. In many states, it’s one third of the recovery. In other states it is less and some states allow 40 percent of the recovery.

Some states deduct expenses from the recovery and then calculate the fee while other states calculate the fee and then deduct expenses from that. It works different ways, but they’re all generally the same in that the client pays nothing until the case is settled. If the case is settled to the benefit of the client, then the client will pay a percentage of the recovery to the attorney that recovered the amount of money, plus expenses, if that’s called for in the retainer agreement, which is what a contract with a lawyer is called.

Who pays the upfront costs?

The costs of a negligence case are undertaken by the firm and the costs are not recovered unless the firm wins or settles the case for the person. Goldhirsch continued, “Some states require the passenger to be responsible for the costs of the lawsuit, even if the case is lost. However in an airplane case, they’re generally not lost and most lawyers do not require clients whose cases are lost to reimburse them even if the retainer agreement is required by law to contain such a provision.”

Who pays for expenses?

While it varies state to state, most firms will undertake the expenses. Again, Goldhirsch explained, “As you can imagine in a major airline crash, the expenses can be quite expensive in some aspects. The retaining of experts to investigate the accident, because we don’t only rely on the NTSB report, is quite expensive, as is travel to and from the jurisdiction where the case is being litigated.

“There are also major expenses involved in flying the passengers to the courthouse of the litigation for depositions, which are usually taken before trial. Sometimes the court requires the passenger to fly to the jurisdiction where the case is being heard. Other times, the court permits the deposition to be taken in the home state of the passenger.”

What about costs and expenses when more than one plaintiff is involved?

There are fairly large amounts of expenses involved when more than one plaintiff is involved in the litigation. Goldhirsch says that some are for the benefit of the entire group of people, which are common benefit expenses. He explained, “Some expenses are case specific where you would have expenses related to one particular case. At the end of the case, all of the expenses are added up and they’re divided amongst the passengers who recover monies in proportion to the recovery.

“So if a passenger is going to recover $100,000, he would not pay the same percentage of disbursements or expenses as would someone recovering a million dollars. The judge oversees who pays what expenses and in what proportion.”

So, if you’ve been injured in an aviation accident, costs, fees and expenses should not be an issue. Contact an experienced lawyer whose practice focuses in this area of the law to discuss your situation by clicking here. Consultations are free, without obligation and are strictly confidential.

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