People usually don’t think much about hiring a personal injury lawyer… until they wind up in an accident and really need one! Unfortunately, a lot of people who truly need a lawyer hesitate to hire a Houston personal injury attorney, or even speak to one, because they don’t think they can afford it.
That’s a big mistake, and we’re here to debunk the myths surrounding this issue. Here are three facts you need to keep in mind:
- Personal injury lawyers like us offer a free consultation, so you have nothing to lose in talking with us about how you got hurt and who might owe you money for causing your pain. These consultations are risk-free and you are under no obligation to partner with any lawyer you speak to.
- Personal injury lawyers work on contingency, meaning that they only get paid if and when you get paid. Hiring an attorney to represent you in a personal injury case costs you no money up front.
- Waiting to hire a lawyer could cost you money in a personal injury case. Important evidence can be lost with the passage of time, and statutes of limitations apply. The sooner you hire a personal injury attorney to work on your case, the better your chances of getting every dollar you deserve for your injuries and losses.
In other words, the answer to the question in the title of this post is: nothing. A personal injury lawyer consultation fee in a personal injury case costs you zero dollars and no cents.
When to Consult a Personal Injury Lawyer
Personal injury lawyers work to recover monetary damages for people who have suffered injuries due to someone else’s careless, reckless, or intentionally harmful actions.
While people can get hurt in just about any scenario imaginable and we see plenty of “freak accidents,” the majority of the work personal injury attorneys do relates to incidents such as:
- Motor vehicle accidents involving:
- Pedestrian and bicycle accidents
- Boat and airplane crashes
- Slip and fall incidents
- Swimming pool-related drownings and other injuries
- Dog bites and animal attacks
- Catastrophic failures of defective consumer products, automotive products, and dangerous medications
- Medical errors and medical malpractice
- Nursing home abuse
- Construction site accidents
- Workers’ compensation disputes for those injured on the job
The National Safety Council reports that accidental injury has now become the third leading cause of death in the U.S., making the services of personal injury lawyers in more demand than ever before. No matter how you or a loved one got hurt, if it happened because someone else made a dangerous decision or engaged in foolish, harmful actions, you have legal rights. You could receive compensation for your injuries and losses, and you should consult a personal injury lawyer right away to learn more.
What Happens at a Lawyer Consultation
Think of a consultation with a lawyer like a job interview, where you’re the boss! You should feel comfortable and confident when you make the decision to team up with a personal injury lawyer.
Your initial consultation serves two key purposes:
- It’s an opportunity for the injured person to learn about the lawyer’s TRAINING, EXPERIENCE, LOCAL EXPERTISE, and UNIQUE APPROACH TO PERSONAL INJURY CASES, in order to get a sense of whether or not the lawyer feels like the right fit.
- It’s an opportunity for the lawyer to learn about the fact and circumstances of the personal injury event, and to give the injured person their opinion on the strength of the case and whether it is worth pursuing.
With those two purposes as its focus, a consultation proceeds as you might expect. First, the injured person tells the lawyer what happened and why they think they need legal help. Then the lawyer asks questions and shares their viewpoint about whether the injured person might have a case. If so, the lawyer explains how they might help and answers the injured person’s questions.
Ultimately, of course, the injured person gets to decide whether or not to hire the lawyer. Consultations come with no obligation and no risk, and are also 100% confidential.
Do All Lawyers Offer Free Consultations?
Whether or not a lawyer offers a free consultation depends on their practice area. Nearly all personal injury lawyers offer free consultations – ourselves included! We believe people in need shouldn’t have to pay a lawyer just to sit down for a chat or assessment.
However, other types of lawyers do sometimes charge for initial consultations. These lawyers usually work in areas of law where it is standard practice to bill clients by-the-hour, such as business or family legal matters. So, if you’re reaching out about a personal injury claim and a lawyer quotes you a charge for sitting down with you for the first time, that’s a good indication the lawyer does not work in personal injury law enough to feel confident in taking a meeting with you for free. In other words, move along.
So does this mean injured people can shop around for lawyers expense-free? Yes, that’s exactly what it means. As a result, personal injury lawyers have to bring their A-game to a consultation to convince a potential client to hire them. A little competition never hurt anyone, and you have the right to compare lawyers. In fact, top personal injury lawyers welcome it, as a way to showcase their skills. After all, if a lawyer can’t convince you to hire him, how good will he be at convincing an insurance company or a jury that you deserve to get paid big bucks?
Bottom line: never pay a personal injury lawyer for an initial consultation.
If a lawyer tries to charge you for one, walk away. Any self-professed personal injury lawyer who wants to charge you for time spent in an initial consultation is not worth your time.
Contingency Fees, Explained
Not only can you obtain a free consultation with a personal injury lawyer, but when you decide to hire the attorney, it costs nothing up-front! Virtually all personal injury lawyers work for a contingency fee. This means the lawyer earns a fee contingent on achieving a successful outcome for you. The more money the lawyer gets for you, the more money the lawyer earns. On the flip-side, no money for you also means no money for the lawyer. This is a risk personal injury lawyers are willing to take, and it’s why they fight so passionately for satisfactory settlement awards.
Lawyers and clients agree to the terms of a contingency fee at the beginning of their relationship, usually by signing a fee agreement. This is sometimes called a retention agreement or agreement for legal services. Not all contingency fee agreements are the same, and lawyers and their clients are free to negotiate the lawyer’s percentage. Lawyers and clients often agree to a sliding scale of percentages based on amounts of recovery and/or how much work it takes for the lawyer to bring the case to a successful outcome.
Why do personal injury lawyers get paid this way? Two words: access and incentives.
When people are injured through no fault of their own, they deserve access to top-quality legal services that they could never afford to pay-for up-front, out of their own pockets. Contingency fees give them that opportunity.
Contingency fees also give personal injury lawyers the same incentives as their clients: to obtain the most money possible, as quickly and efficiently as possible. Personal injury lawyers invest their skills and resources in their client’s cases, which means what’s good for their clients is also good for them. This is how a strong lawyer-client relationship is built.
One final note on the topic of contingency fees: some lawyers may ask their clients to pay-as-they-go for incidental and administrative expenses related to a case, such as document copying costs, travel and lodging, court filing fees, and expenses for services like court reporters or expert witnesses. If a client does not pay these miscellaneous expenses as they arise (in other words, if the lawyer fronts those costs), then the lawyer will often ask the client to agree that the expenses will get reimbursed via a deduction from any financial recovery the lawyer obtains for a client.
No matter how the lawyer wants to deal with case expenses, they must disclose their process clearly in the contingency fee agreement. Most lawyers will explain these to you straight-out, in the interest of clarity and honesty. Just to be safe, however, make sure to read the contingency fee agreement carefully before you sign it, and ask about how the lawyer wants to deal with expenses. It also never hurts to ask for a ballpark estimate of how much those expenses will amount to.
Isn’t It Just Easier – and Less Expensive – to Represent Myself?
Nope. Frankly, that’s a terrible idea that will cost you far more in money and headaches, every time.
Remember, personal injury lawyers recover money for injured people for a living. Personal injury lawyers know all about how to defeat the sneaky tactics defense lawyers and insurance companies will use to prevent you from getting paid. Personal injury lawyers have legal degrees, years of experience, and the knowledge to navigate the court system.
Besides, we’ve just explained how you can receive a free consultation and hire a lawyer without paying a penny upfront! Why not test the waters?
Let’s illustrate why you need a personal injury lawyer to represent you. Imagine you get hurt in a car accident, and a few weeks later an insurance company representing someone else involved in the accident contacts you and offers you what seems like quick, easy money as a settlement. You think to yourself: “Hey! Free money! And I don’t even need to share it with a lawyer!” Without talking to an attorney, you take the money and think all is well.
…Then reality sets in…
Before they’ll give you a check, the insurance company asks you to sign a bunch of papers that you didn’t really read, and that you probably wouldn’t totally understand even if you did. Months go by. You spend the money you got from the insurance company on something nice for yourself, and use the rest to pay bills that piled up after your accident. The money runs out faster than you thought it would.
Then, one day, you start to have all sorts of odd health complications. You go to the doctor, who tells you that you suffered an internal injury in the accident that went undetected. Now you need emergency surgery and maybe even an organ transplant, all of which your health insurance won’t even begin to cover.
You go back to the insurance company that paid you and explain, “I need more money to pay for this surgery!” They inform you the documents you signed have released them and their client from all liability to you in the future. Legally, they don’t owe you a penny, and now there isn’t a lawyer in the world who can help you get it from them.
That’s why you need a personal injury lawyer from the get-go: to help you avoid making mistakes that could leave you empty-handed when you need money most.
Seasoned personal injury attorneys know how to evaluate a claim to make sure you pursue, and obtain, an amount of money that accounts for the full scope of your injuries and losses. Personal injury lawyers know how to negotiate with insurance companies and defense lawyers to prevent them from pulling underhanded tricks like offering you quick money or dodging the true cost of your legal claim.
Take Advantage of Free Consultations and Contingency Fees
Don’t let a nightmare scenario like this happen to you. Take a personal injury lawyer up on the offer of a free consultation. Shop around, if you want, until you find a lawyer who feels right. Then, reap the benefits of a lawyer working for a contingency fee. Wield the power and prestige of a top-quality law firm, without spending a dollar up-front.
To get started, contact a skilled personal injury lawyer today.
Since starting his firm in 1999, Stewart J. Guss has had the honor of representing clients from all over the world, helping them recover from even the most catastrophic injuries.
Today, thanks to a strong belief in those values of compassion, respect, and approachability, the firm has grown to employ over 120 legal professionals in numerous offices across 4 states, with nationwide reach.