How Much Does a Personal Injury Attorney Make in San Diego, CA?

Lawyers earn a comfortable living. In the U.S., lawyers earn a median annual wage of about $128,000. The mean annual wage is slightly higher at $148,000, which means that some lawyers make much more than the median annual wage.

Many of these lawyers get paid based on the number of hours they bill. Others receive a steady salary from the companies that employ them regardless of how much they work. 

By contrast, personal injury lawyers get paid based on how much they win for their clients. This means that a highly-paid personal injury lawyer has had a lot of success helping clients recover injury compensation.

Read on to learn how contingency fees work and how much a personal injury attorney makes in San Diego, CA.

How Personal Injury Lawyers Get Paid for Services

Lawyers typically charge three types of fees:

Flat Fees

Lawyers usually charge a flat fee for predictable work projects. A lawyer might charge a flat fee to write a will or create a corporation. 

These projects usually require the same amount of work every time, so a lawyer may quote a flat fee for them. When a lawyer charges a flat fee, the lawyer gets paid based on the amount of work the lawyer performs.

Hourly Fees

Lawyers charge an hourly fee for ongoing work. When a work project has an unpredictable amount of work involved, the lawyer might quote an hourly fee rather than a fixed fee for the entire project. When a lawyer charges an hourly fee, the lawyer gets paid based on the time the lawyer works.

Contingency Fees

Injury lawyers usually charge a contingency fee. The lawyer calculates the fee at the end of the case based on the outcome the lawyer obtains.

Lawyers quote contingency fees as a percentage. When the case ends, the lawyer receives the quoted percentage of the client’s settlement or damage award. For example, suppose your injury lawyer settles your car accident case for $50,000. If you agreed to a contingency fee of 35%, the lawyer will receive a fee of $17,500 (65%).

As a result, the amount of money a personal injury lawyer will earn varies widely. A successful personal injury lawyer who wins or settles valuable cases could earn a lot of money. A lawyer who does not win cases will earn nothing.

Estimating How Much a Personal Injury Attorney Makes

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) collects salary data for various occupations. Using its data, the BLS calculates that lawyers in California earn an annual mean wage of $176,610. This compares to the annual mean wage for all Californians of $68,510.

The Silicon Valley market skews the average wage for California lawyers. Lawyers in the San Jose/Sunnyvale/Santa Clara market earn an average salary of $231,200, making them the highest-paid lawyers in the nation.

Lawyers in San Diego earn an annual mean wage of $165,480. Although lawyers in San Diego earn a good living, they earn an average salary less than lawyers in Silicon Valley, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

The average salary numbers from the BLS give a starting point for estimating how much a personal injury attorney makes in San Diego. 

While many factors go into choosing a practice area, many injury lawyers would practice a different field of law if they earned substantially less than other lawyers. Similarly, if injury lawyers made substantially more than other types of lawyers, more lawyers would go into personal injury law.

Factors that Influence How Much San Diego Personal Injury Lawyers Earn

A lawyer’s success rate has the biggest influence on how much injury lawyers earn. Unlike other lawyers, personal injury lawyers who charge a contingency fee only get paid when they win or settle cases

This means that successful lawyers could earn more than the average lawyer salary in San Diego. It also means unsuccessful lawyers could earn less than the average lawyer’s salary.

Experience also affects an injury lawyer’s earnings. Inexperienced lawyers cannot charge the same fees as those with more experience. An experienced lawyer might charge a contingency fee of 40%, while an inexperienced lawyer might only charge a 30% fee. 

Thus, an experienced lawyer will earn more from exactly the same size settlement as a lawyer without the same amount of experience.

Name recognition can affect how much a San Diego injury lawyer makes. Lawyers often work on several cases simultaneously. This ensures they have a steady stream of revenue coming into their firms. 

Lawyers who pick up a lot of cases to keep their pipeline of work full will earn more than lawyers who only sporadically pick up new cases.

The size of the firm can influence a lawyer’s earnings. But the effects can vary depending on the firm. On the one hand, larger firms have greater overhead expenses. They have more staff members and rent larger offices. As a result, more of the revenue in big firms will go toward paying costs, and less will go toward paying the lawyers.

On the other hand, smaller firms cannot perform as much work. In a large firm, lawyers might always have a steady stream of work available since lawyers will share cases as they come in. 

In a small firm, a lawyer might spend as much time marketing to new clients as they spend on working. The small firm lawyer might earn less with fewer clients and less time spent working.

How Much Does a Personal Injury Attorney Make in San Diego, CA?

You can assume that an injury lawyer with an average number of clients who wins or settles an average number of cases will earn an average salary. In San Diego, this average lawyer would earn about $165,000 per year.

But to earn this salary, the lawyer will probably work long hours, weekends, and holidays. According to one survey, the average lawyer works almost 50 hours per week.

And injury lawyers only get paid when they win or settle a case. This means that they earn their fee when their clients receive money. 

As a result, injury lawyers earn substantially less than their clients receive. So while injury lawyers earn a higher salary than the average Californian, they perform a vital service and deliver much more to their clients than they charge.

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