By Jedidiah McKeehan

If you’ve been involved in a car wreck and decide that you would like an attorney to represent you, you may be concerned about how you will afford to pay the attorney to help you with your case.

That is an excellent question, let’s walk through how that works.

In Tennessee, the normal personal injury attorney rarely receives any money directly from the client.  Usually this is only done if the client is helping the attorney cover some of the upfront expenses related to the case.  Instead, the attorney works for the client on a contingency basis.  That means that the attorney’s fee is contingent upon the client receiving a favorable result.  If the client receives no money, then the attorney gets no money.

When most people think of a personal injury case they think of a car wreck.  The normal fee that an attorney will take on a car wreck case is one-third, thirty-three percent, of any amount the client is awarded or offered as a settlement.  As an example, if the client is offered a settlement of $100,000.00, from that settlement, the attorney will receive $33,333.33 and the client will receive $66,666.67.

Besides the attorney’s fees, the attorney will typically be reimbursed for any expenses they paid out during the case for the client.  If the attorney paid a filing fee, which is typically a few hundred dollars, then the attorney will also be reimbursed that amount at the end of the case.  So, the client’s $66,666.67 may be reduced to $66,366.67 after the attorney is reimbursed for their expenses.

A one-third contingency of any recovery is the standard rate of compensation for attorneys for personal injury cases across the state.  If a personal injury case is a slip and fall case or a case where getting the client a positive result is considered more difficult then an attorney may charge the client a higher percentage, such at forty percent.

There are a couple of types of cases that are similar to personal injury cases where the compensation for attorneys is slightly different.

If the client is seeking social security disability benefits, then the attorney is working on a contingency but their compensation is capped at twenty-five percent of the client’s backpay or $6,000.00, whichever is lower.

Similarly, in a Tennessee worker’s compensation case, the attorney is representing the client on a contingency basis. In those cases the compensation for the attorney is capped at twenty percent of whatever the client is awarded.

Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties.  He works in many areas, including personal injury, divorce and custody, criminal and landlord-tenant law. Visit