The crunch of twisting metal in an accident heralds expensive repairs to your vehicle. Worse, in many cases, it can mean substantial injuries for you. And with them, costly medical treatments and an assortment of life difficulties.
Worried about how you’ll pay for a lawyer to get you compensation for those damages? Don’t be. Car accident lawyers structure their fees to make it possible for you to hire them for no money upfront and to pay them nothing unless they win for you. Regardless of your financial situation, you can afford a car accident lawyer. Here’s how it works.
Car Accident Lawyer Fee Guide
The Nuts and Bolts of Contingent Fee Arrangements
Here’s how contingent fees work in practice. At the beginning of a representation, a car accident lawyer and client enter into a written agreement that spells out exactly how the lawyer will get paid. The agreement usually says that the lawyer will work without upfront payment and, in exchange, will get to keep an agreed percentage of the money collected in the case.
The Lawyer’s Percentage
The percentage the lawyer gets to keep as a fee varies from case to case. In certain cases, a law or regulation might require a certain percentage. But most often the only limitation on what percentage the lawyer and client can agree is that the fee has to be reasonable, taking into account the amount of work the lawyer performs and the risk the lawyer takes of potentially not getting paid if the case doesn’t succeed.
Sometimes, a lawyer and client will agree on different percentages based on when or how the case resolves. For example, the agreement could say that the lawyer’s fee is less if the case settles favorably within a month or two but higher if the case lasts longer or has to go to trial. Or, they might agree on different percentages depending on how much money the lawyer recovers for the client.
The agreement between the car accident lawyer and client also spells out who will pay the costs of pursuing the case and how they’ll be reimbursed. In the typical car accident claim, those costs might include expert witness charges, travel expenses, or court filing fees.
Some car accident lawyers will agree to cover those costs for their clients and to be reimbursed for them out of any money recovered. But clients can also cover those costs if they have the means to do so. Or the lawyer and client can come up with a hybrid arrangement.
If the car accident lawyer gets the job done and secures money for the client, the funds secured are usually paid to the lawyer’s client trust account (a bank account, separate from a lawyer’s general business account, where the lawyer keeps funds in which clients have an interest).
From those funds, the lawyer deducts the percentage fee as agreed and any reimbursed costs. Then the lawyer sends the remaining money to the client or to others as the client directs. The lawyer also typically sends the client a written summary of the work done, the total amount of money secured, and the fees and costs deducted as the lawyer’s share.
When a Lawyer Will Accept Your Claim on a Contingent Fee Basis
You will need to start by getting a lawyer to accept your case on a contingent fee basis. Most personal injury lawyers know all the challenges that can accompany a car accident and the costs that may come up, so they will generally set up a payment that way. However, you may need to meet the lawyer’s criteria for the lawyer to accept your case.
Lawyers often choose their cases based on the obvious: the likelihood that they will win. An experienced lawyer will examine several elements of your case to determine whether he wants to take it.
1. Does the Lawyer Handle Car Accident Cases?
Some personal injury lawyers focus heavily on handling car accident claims in their local area. They understand the ins and outs of car accident claims in court and primarily accept those cases. Other lawyers may focus on other areas of personal injury law.
When it comes to your car accident claim, you need a lawyer that accepts car accident cases: one that understands the local court system, that knows what it takes to get a car accident claim through the insurance company, and that has the skill and knowledge necessary to handle your claim. Without those key elements, a lawyer may turn down your claim and encourage you to find another lawyer.
2. Does Evidence Show That the Other Driver Caused Your Car Accident?
To file a car accident claim, you will need to show that the other driver caused your car accident. Car accidents can occur for many reasons, from distracted driving or speeding to driving while intoxicated.
To put together your claim, your lawyer will look for evidence that will help clearly establish that the other party behaved negligently in some way:
- Driving above the speed limit
- Running a red light
- Swerving through traffic
- Slipping out of his assigned lane, for example
Sometimes, you may have clear evidence of the other driver’s negligence: dash cam footage, footage from a nearby security camera, or even witness statements. Sometimes, the driver that caused the accident may even admit liability for the accident, which can save a lot of trouble. You may even have a police report showing that the other driver caused your accident.
That evidence can prove essential to recovering compensation for your injuries. If you do not have that evidence, on the other hand, a lawyer may decline to take your case.
3. Did You Suffer Damages in the Car Accident?
For a car accident lawyer to take your case, you may need to show evidence that you suffered some damage due to your car accident. If you did not suffer damages in the car accident, you might not have the right to file a compensation claim. Your lawyer will help you look at all the elements of compensation you may deserve.
Car accidents frequently result in substantial property damage. Even what seems like a minor accident can result in thousands of dollars in damages, which you may not have sitting around to take care of car repairs.
Fortunately, most of the time, auto insurance will take care of that property damage. Make sure you talk to your lawyer about all the property damage you may have sustained because of the accident, including car seats you may have had to replace or electronics in the vehicle that suffered damage because of the accident.
When you suffer injuries in a car accident, you will likely find yourself dealing with heavy medical bills after the accident. Unfortunately, medical bills often rise much higher than people expect.
Not only do you have to take the cost of emergency medical care, including that ambulance bill, into consideration, but you may also need to make sure that you consider costs like long-term hospitalization, surgery, and follow-up appointments with your care providers. Furthermore, you may have ongoing physical or occupational therapy costs, especially if you sustained severe injuries in your car accident.
Discuss all of your medical costs, including future anticipated medical expenses, with your lawyer. Often, a lawyer can use that information to determine what compensation you may have the right to claim after your car accident. A lawyer may also use that information to help him decide whether or not he wants to accept your case based on the full extent of the damages you may have sustained.
Did your car accident injuries interfere with your ability to go in to work? Depending on the injuries you sustained and the time you had to miss, you may have ended up with substantial lost income from the accident. With that lost income, you may be unable to pay your regular medical bills, which can mean considerable losses.
Talk to your lawyer about what time you had to miss at work because of your car accident, including both the time you may have had to cut immediately after the accident while you recovered from your injuries and any time lost to other needs, including follow-up appointments or procedures.
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering in a car accident claim can prove tricky. You deserve compensation for all your losses because of your car accident injuries. You need a lawyer who will help fight to get you compensation for the non-financial damages—the suffering you faced because of the accident, but which may not have a direct financial component—and the financial damages associated with the accident.
What Suffering Did Your Car Accident Cause?
Of course, you will want to discuss the physical pain you had to deal with due to your car accident injuries with your lawyer.
You may also want to cover other critical issues:
- How the loss of independence impacted you.
- How much those injuries prevented you from engaging in your usual favorite activities.
- Even how your injuries may have affected your relationships with loved ones, including your spouse and children.
By incorporating all those elements into your claim, you can often increase the compensation you can recover.
4. Can the Lawyer Benefit From Your Case?
When a personal injury lawyer considers whether he will take a case on a contingent fee basis, he will look closely at what benefit he can bring to the table. If, by some chance, the insurance company has already offered you maximum compensation for your injuries based on the insurance policy terms, a lawyer might decline to take the case because you have already received an offer that contains the most you can get.
Most of the time, however, insurance companies do not make the process that smooth.
In fact, insurance companies often throw barriers in the way that make it very difficult for you to get the full compensation you deserve. The insurance company might start with a low settlement offer: one that completely ignores the damages you really sustained in the accident. Sometimes, the insurance company might put a lot of pressure on you to accept that offer. However, you may know that you deserve additional compensation. A lawyer can help you fight for it.
In other cases, you might have difficulty getting the insurance company to contact you as you try to move forward with your car accident claim. A lawyer can help streamline that process.
Some people may not even know how much compensation to expect for a car accident with injuries or how to move forward with a claim. In those cases, a lawyer can prove invaluable.
A lawyer will often look at all of those elements, including what benefit he can offer your case, to determine whether he wants to accept your car accident case.
After Your Car Accident: Getting in Touch With a Lawyer
After your car accident, you may want to work with a lawyer who will accept your case on a contingent fee basis. By finding a lawyer who will take your case on those terms, you can often feel more confident that you will recover the compensation you need and deserve.
Most car accident lawyers do accept cases on a contingent fee basis. However, as you decide how to handle your claim, you may want to take several key steps to make sure that you have selected the right attorney.
1. Check the Attorney’s Website
Often, attorneys make it very clear that they accept clients on a contingent fee basis. By looking over the website, you can get a better idea of what you can expect from the attorney.
2. Select an Attorney That Understands Car Accident Claims
When you select an attorney, you want to ensure that the attorney understands car accident claims and has considerable experience dealing with them. Check the results page on the attorneys’ website. While no attorney can offer you guarantees about the compensation you can recover for car accident injuries, you can use that information to better understand what you might expect as you move forward with your claim.
3. Schedule a Free Consultation
You can use a free consultation to get a lot of information about what working with a specific attorney will look like. During the consultation, look at how much compensation the attorney feels you can get.
Ask about legal fees. The attorney will then let you know whether he accepts clients on a contingent fee basis. You can also ask more questions about what fees, including filing or court fees, you may have to pay upfront to include them in your budget. State law may determine what fees you have to consider.
4. Establish the Contingency Fee
Contingency fees usually name a percentage of your eventual settlement or court award that the attorney will claim in compensation for helping you fight the insurance company after a car accident. Ensure you know the contingency fee amount and what it covers.
Get Car Accident Lawyer Today
If you suffer injuries in a car accident, a personal injury lawyer can help you fight for fair compensation. Contact a car accident lawyer who takes cases on a contingent fee basis so you can better understand what compensation you can expect.