After a car accident, you may be facing medical bills and expensive car repairs. You may be unable to work due to your injuries.
When these pressures are weighing you down and you need legal help, the last thing that you should have to worry about is how much a lawyer costs.
Luckily, you don’t have to.
While there is no set amount that a lawyer charges in a car accident case, it may cost you nothing out of pocket to hire a lawyer.
Reputable personal injury lawyers charge for their services on a contingency fee basis. A contingency-fee arrangement is a common method of payment in personal injury cases that allows you to get legal representation without paying any legal fees upfront. You can find out more about how contingency fees work during a free, no-obligation consultation with a lawyer, or read on below for more.
The Basics of Contingency Fees for Personal Injury Lawyers
When a car accident lawyer and a client have a contingency-fee arrangement, the client only pays legal fees if the case is successful.
In other words:
- If you win your case, legal fees come out of a set percentage of the monetary award that you receive.
- If you lose your case, you receive no money, but your attorney collects no legal fees, either.
This contingency-fee arrangement works the same whether you settle your case with the insurance company or go to trial.
If you settle through negotiations, you receive a lump-sum payment of damages. Your legal fees then come out of the settlement that you receive.
If you win your case at trial, you receive a damages award that the jury or court determines. Again, legal fees come out of those monetary damages at the end of your case so that you need not worry about paying them upfront or out of pocket.
Law Firms Offer Free Consultations and Contingency Fees
Along with contingency-fee arrangements, law firms also offer free consultations to their prospective clients. These meetings provide you with a chance to talk about your case so a lawyer can get a better sense of your story. You can ask questions and learn about the law firm — with no obligation or commitment on your part.
Discuss your case with no added financial or other pressures. The fast, free, confidential consultation process allows you to evaluate the firm, and it also allows them to assess your case for any legal claims that you may have.
This no-risk consultation is a good way for both of you to get to know one another and get the information necessary to make all-important decisions about your case and your right to pursue compensation.
Finally, you will both decide whether to move forward in pursuing your legal claim. You can choose whether you are comfortable with the law firm representing your interests. Based on your circumstances, the firm can determine whether they can be of service to you.
Advantages to Contingency-Fee Arrangements in an Auto Accident Case
Finances often are a concern for victims of car accidents and their families. You might be out of work temporarily or even permanently due to your injuries. Your main objective may be to just stay afloat, keeping your existing bills paid until you can return to work.
At the same time, you likely are experiencing an influx of unexpected medical bills that you may be unable to afford. Even though you may know that you want legal help with your case, coming up with a large sum to hire a car accident lawyer may seem next to impossible.
This is why a contingency-fee arrangement has distinct advantages, such as:
- You can devote what financial resources you have to paying your household bills while you are injured and unable to work.
- You have one less financial worry during a challenging time in your life.
- You need not come up with a large lump sum to pay a retainer fee.
- You do not have to agree to pay high hourly fees.
- You can get legal help with your case right away.
- A lawyer is motivated to help you, as their financial goals are aligned with yours.
- A personal injury lawyer can connect you to resources you need, like medical care, therapy, rental vehicles, and more. (All at no upfront cost!)
Contingency-fee arrangements also make it less risky for you to get legal help. With other fee arrangements, you can pay an attorney thousands of dollars and still lose your case. It’s a grim gamble. However, in a contingency-fee arrangement, you pay no legal fees unless you win your case.
The amount you pay depends on the amount that you win, so:
- You risk nothing by hiring a lawyer to help with your case.
- If you receive a lower settlement than expected, you pay lower legal fees.
- If you do not receive a settlement or damages award at all, you do not pay legal fees.
Other Fee Structures Used by Personal Injury Lawyers
When you hire a lawyer after a car accident, you typically must hire that lawyer by paying them through one of several fee structures. These include:
Retainer fees function as a kind of deposit that is held in a trust account when you begin your case. Depending on the fee arrangement of the firm, you may also need to supplement the retainer with hourly fees after the initial payment is exhausted.
This is a fixed rate that you can expect to pay based on the number of hours a lawyer works on your case. In addition, you may also need to pay for administrative fees such as filing fees, photocopying, and more.
In contrast, you do not pay a retainer fee or an hourly rate when you hire a car accident lawyer through a contingency-fee agreement. Instead, you agree to pay your legal fees from the monetary settlement or damages award that you receive when you resolve your car accident case.
With a contingency-fee arrangement, the amount that a lawyer charges for a car accident case does not depend on how much time the lawyer spends working on the case. Instead, the fees come as a fixed percentage of the monetary damages that you receive for your injuries as a result of the accident.
Other Case-Related Fees and Expenses in Car Accident Cases
Beyond legal fees, car accident cases usually involve other fees and expenses. For instance, to file a lawsuit in court, you must pay a court filing fee. The amount of the court filing fee varies based on jurisdiction.
In addition to court filing fees, the various costs of your case might include:
- Fees to obtain copies of medical records
- Fees to obtain court records
- Police report fees
- Expenses for expert witnesses
- Court reporter and deposition transcript fees
- Copying and postage costs
These can add up fast. Depending on the details of your lawyer’s fee arrangement, you may either be expected to cover these costs yourself or they could be included within your contingency-fee agreement. Clarify what expenses you must pay along with an estimate of these charges if your contingency-fee agreement does not include them.
The Value of Hiring a Lawyer for Your Auto Accident Case
You may wonder if hiring a lawyer for your car accident case is worth it. This question is valid and common, especially when you depend on a financial recovery to support yourself and your loved ones.
The bottom line is that although you can represent yourself in a car accident case, it is not advisable to do so.
There are serious hurdles in any injury case, such as understanding what your case is worth, anticipating important laws that may impact your case, and dealing with stubborn insurance companies. A lawyer will handle all of these things so you don’t have to, including:
Understanding the Full Value of Your Case
After a car accident, you may be feeling the challenges of dealing with your injuries while being out of work — and you may wish to accept an early settlement offer to relieve your financial burdens. However, one advantage of working with a law firm is that they will evaluate the full value of your damages (including past, present, and future losses) and advise you accordingly before you accept a settlement. You may be able to secure thousands more than you expected!
A car accident lawyer will calculate the value of your case based on damages such as:
- Medical bills
- Property damage costs
- Lost wages
- Reduced earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Reduced quality of life
- And more
In other words, they can ensure that the full range of your losses are accounted for when you seek a settlement, including estimated future medical costs.
For example, if your symptoms are still developing and your doctors are not yet sure of your long-term prognosis, they will advise you to wait before accepting an offer so that your injuries are better understood. This way, you won’t be left with a settlement that doesn’t cover your long-term bills — and you won’t be stuck paying out of pocket for your future medical care.
Dealing With the Insurance Companies
When you are involved in a car accident case, you will be going up against a large insurance company that represents the party liable for your accident. The only objective of the insurance company is to minimize its payout to you as much as possible. Their goal is to make a profit, not to fairly compensate you for your losses.
Insurance companies often will contact you immediately after an accident, hoping to talk you into a quick settlement before you can get advice from a lawyer. If they can get you to accept a low settlement, you will waive your rights to seek any further damages. Don’t fall for it! Stay cautious and do not sign any paperwork from the insurance company until you learn more about your case’s true value.
The insurance company will do everything possible to avoid paying you what your claim is truly worth. Their tricks could cost you thousands of dollars. Don’t miss out on the compensation for which you’re eligible. Insurance companies handle car accident cases every day, whereas you may have never handled a car accident claim before. Why enter the battle alone? A car accident lawyer will bring their experience with these types of cases to accurately value your case and negotiate a settlement.
Handling Court Rules and Anticipating State Laws
The court will hold you to the same standards as a lawyer. The problem is, while lawyers have gone to school for years to learn about gathering evidence and trial practice, you have not, which can make it difficult for you to pursue your case. Another disadvantage to attempting to handle your car accident case on your own is the many laws, court procedures, and rules that you must follow.
For instance, you may face court rules and state laws such as:
- Statutes of limitation, which restrict your time to file a lawsuit
- Laws regarding fault and liability
- Damage caps and insurance policy limits
You also may be up against experienced insurance company lawyers who have handled hundreds of car accident cases in their careers. Trying to recover from your injuries while simultaneously handling the complexities of a personal injury case can be overwhelming. These circumstances make success all the more challenging.
If you make one wrong move, the judge could dismiss your case. If you miss the lawsuit filing deadline, you might lose the chance to get any compensation at all for your injuries. With this in mind, it’s well worth the investment to hire a car accident lawyer to represent your interests and advise you throughout your case.
Call an Injury Accident Lawyer for Your Free Consultation Today
It’s important to know how much a lawyer costs when making decisions after a car accident. You have the right to understand how contingency-fee arrangements work and how you will pay legal fees if you get compensation for your injuries. Due to the contingency-fee structure, you are free to pursue a financial recovery for your injuries and other accident-related losses without paying legal fees upfront.
Call a lawyer today to find out more about your legal rights after a car accident.
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.