If you speak to a personal injuries lawyer, then you’ll most likely find that almost all personal injuries claims in Queensland are conducted on a no-win, no-fee arrangement.
However, not all no-win, no-fee arrangements are the same.
Firstly, the hourly rate of the lawyer or firm could be very different. For example some firms charge paralegals at upwards of $300.00 per hour and other firms might charge Associate level lawyers at a similar rate. Be careful to think that a higher rate necessarily reflects skill or expertise. It may simply be a reflection of the firm’s costly overheads in flashy marketing, numerous offices and human resource costs.
Secondly, some firms charge for overheads, like phone calls, photocopy pages, faxes and postage whilst some absorb that.
Thirdly, some law firms charge a premium on top of their rate called “uplift fee”. Most firms in the big end of town charge up to 25% on top. This means you’ll actually be paying 125% of the total time spent plus GST for your services. Whilst the firm may explain that this reflects the risk and time of the work, a client can certainly benefit from doing some homework as not all lawyers charge for this.
Fourthly, even after comparing the lawyer’s fees, its important to check the other costs.
Much like buying a house where money will be spent on title searches, council rates searches etc, conducting a personal injuries matter involves fees to collect evidence, brief a doctor and sometimes a barrister.
It is important to have a discussion with the lawyer about what the likely “disbursements” or “outlays” will be at the outset so that you are not taken by surprise, for example when the lawyer “parachutes” a barrister into your matter when you could have gone with a more experienced lawyer to start with and saved that money.
Of course, there are many complex cases or cases involving serious injury where the expertise of a barrister is beneficial, but the tip here is to engage a lawyer who has the foresight to identify that early on.
It is important to discuss how these costs will be funded. Some firms will fund the costs and some firms will pass the costs to a lender with interest costs. Each approach has certain advantages and disadvantages.
Then, after all that, the question needs to be asked, “is this the lawyer who will do everything to maximize my claim?” It is important that you trust and are comfortable with the lawyer representing you.
As to whether the costs charged by the lawyer is reasonable or not is largely dependent on the type of case.