According to the New York City Bar Association, a contingency fee is only paid to an attorney when a case is won. This is the kind of fee charged by most personal injury lawyers in New York. It means that if you lose your case, you will owe no attorney's fee.
Advantages of Contingency Fee System
There are some definite advantages to this type of fee arrangement. First, if you find a lawyer who will take your car accident or other personal injury case, you can be assured that he or she thinks there is a reasonable chance of succeeding. Most attorneys do not accept cases that they think will lose - they won't get paid!
It also means that the other side in a personal injury case - an insurance company, an individual or institution - will be more likely to settle than if you had approached them directly. Once you have an attorney who is willing to work on a case, the other side knows that that your legal representative thinks there is a chance of winning. This means that the other side is more likely to make a fair settlement offer.
An important feature of this fee system is the way it allows people who could otherwise not afford an attorney to take legal action when they have been wronged. Contingency fees expand access to the civil justice system.