As a general rule, all Utah personal injury cases are taken on a contingency fee basis. Further, nearly all Utah PI cases request a trial by jury. Not a judge, or bench trial. The jury right is endowed in the Federal and State Constitutions.
A contingency fee is where the lawyer only gets paid if the client receives compensation. Personal injury cases use contingency fees, but other types of litigation also use contingency fees. Further, the attorney only gets paid at the end of the case (if they win), which can take years sometimes. The average turn cycle on many PI cases is 6-8 months. A turn cycle means start to finish of a personal injury case. It is like working for Ford Motor Company, but only getting paid every six months to a year, instead of biweekly. This long turn cycle is one reason why the personal injury attorney requests a 33-40 percent contingency fee. Another reason for the percentage fee is because the risk of losing will leave the attorney without any payment for his year long services.
The contingency fee increases access to the American civil justice system. It has been called the “keys to the courthouse.” The civil justice system attempts to replace the sword and fists as a means of resolving disputes. So many other countries resort to “might makes right” and the minority, whether by race, disability or economics have less civil rights. Or rights that are hard to enforce. Without the contingency fee most people would effectively be barred from the American civil justice system because they could not afford the attorney fees up front. Only the wealthy, or corporations would have access to justice leaving the vast majority of people without redress for wrongful acts. The contingency fee levels the playing field between large corporations, big government and the average, ordinary person.
“Trial by jury is part of the bright constellation which leads to peace, liberty and safety.” Thomas Jefferson, (1801). The jury, like the contingency fee is a great check against inequality permeating further the American civil and criminal justice systems. The contingency fee, coupled with courtroom democracy–called juries, helps ensure that all people are treated equally under the law.
Attorney Jacob S. Gunter helps people injured in car crashes and has 13 jury trials as the lead attorney and 100 bench trials or evidentiary hearings. In his 13 years of practicing law he has made nearly 1,000 court appearances.