While the U.S. legal system was recently found to be one of the world’s best in the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index 2011, the same study also determined that “millions of Americans can’t use the fine system because they can’t afford it.” The U.S. ranked 20th of 23 high-income nations surveyed in regards to accessibility of civil justice. With no affordable assistance within reach, 30% of low-income individuals were found to take no legal action to pursue money they were owed. In many areas of the law, the U.S. legal system’s high marks for guaranteeing civil liberties and remedies should only be comforting to the wealthy.
In the area of personal injury, however, the contingent fee has proved useful as a way to provide access to the system for injured persons who would otherwise be excluded because of cost. Most persons can’t afford the hundreds or even thousands of hours of legal work necessary to prepare a complicated matter for trial, as well as the expenses of hiring experts and the litigation process. The contingent fee provides that injured persons only pay fees if they are successful, placing a risk of loss on attorneys who must believe in the client’s case and be successful in order to be paid.
For more information on the World Justice Project’s report, see: https://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/unequal_justice_u.s._trails_high-income_nations_in_serving_civil_legal_need/