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How Wrongful Death Attorney Fees Work - The Larsen Firm
An image of a gavel and a law book, with the text "what should you know about wrongful death attorney fees?"

How Wrongful Death Attorney Fees Work

The moments after a tragic loss can be incredibly stressful. It’s no replacement for the person, but you can file a wrongful death lawsuit to recover damages from anyone who caused your loved one’s death through their negligence or misconduct. Our The Larsen Firm are top-rated and ready to uphold your rights against those who have caused you pain. To prepare you for hiring an attorney, let’s talk about what you can expect regarding attorney fees in a wrongful death case. 

Your Wrongful Death Attorney Can Charge You in Many Ways

An attorney has multiple options for how to charge wrongful death attorney fees, including: 

  • Fixed fees,
  • Retainers,
  • Hourly fees, and 
  • Contingency fees.

Whichever payment option your attorney uses, they must put their fee agreement in writing if your case will likely cost more than $1,000 to litigate or settle. As a plaintiff in a wrongful death case, your costs are highly likely to be more than $1,000. In fact, wrongful death litigants often need to hire expert witnesses. Hiring an expert witness alone typically costs more than $1,000.

Fixed Fees

In a fixed fee case, an attorney charges a flat rate for their work. What kind of services they do and do not include in the fixed fee varies. Your attorney should be clear about any services they don’t include in their fixed fee. Wrongful death cases are complex, so it’s difficult for attorneys to charge fixed fees for these kinds of lawsuits. 


You can pay your attorney a retainer to remain available to you for future legal issues. Or you can pay your retainer as an advance for an attorney’s work. 

If you pay a retainer as an advance, your attorney subtracts money from your retainer as they earn it. Anything your attorney doesn’t earn must be returned to you, and your attorney can charge you more money if the value of their work exceeds the retainer amount. Your attorney should let you know how and what they will charge you if the value of their work exceeds your retainer.

Hourly Fees

An attorney can charge you by the hour (or each fraction of an hour) for their representation. The hourly rate they charge can vary depending on the complexity of your case and your attorney’s experience and caseload. 

Contingency Fees

Contingency fees are popular in wrongful death and other personal injury cases. With this fee structure, you pay your attorney a percentage of what you win. You don’t have to pay your contingency fee attorney for their work unless they win or settle your case. But you might still have to pay court costs and administrative fees whether you win or lose. 

In California, your attorney can typically take up to 40% of your trial award or settlement as their fee. Your attorney should let you know whether they take their percentage before or after subtracting court and administrative costs. 

What Are the Average Attorney Fees for Wrongful Death Cases?

A shelf of law books, with the text "an attorney's fees must be fair."

There is no average amount that attorneys charge for their services in wrongful death cases, but their fees must be “conscionable.” This means an attorney’s fees must be fair. In general, an attorney’s fees are fair if

  • Their rates fairly reflect the attorney’s experience, reputation, and skill level; 
  • Their rates fairly reflect the complexity and demands of your case;
  • The attorney was truthful about how much you would likely be charged when negotiating the fee;
  • The attorney gave you all the material facts about the fee agreement and what services you would and wouldn’t receive for your payment;
  • The attorney was clear about the fee structure they would use for your case;
  • The attorney was clear about how much time and labor your case would likely need;
  • The attorney was clear about how they would collect or request payment for your court and administrative fees; and
  • You gave informed consent for the fees. 

Any attorney you speak to should be able to give you a written fee agreement to review during or soon after your initial consultation. An attorney should also give you adequate time to review and get legal advice about the agreement before you sign. 

Our Attorneys Are Ready to Help

Our wrongful death attorneys at The Larsen Firm can give you undivided attention and award-winning guidance after you suffer a loss. We also get results. We have recovered over $950 million for wrongful death plaintiffs and have a 99% success rate. We are standing by when you need effective legal counsel to help hold wrongful actors accountable. Of course, we want you to feel comfortable with your choice of attorney, so give us a call at 1-855-508-9565 or contact us online for a free consultation.

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