What Percentage Do Car Accident Lawyers Take in Louisiana?

What Percentage Do Car Accident Lawyers Take in Louisiana?
Stewart J Guss, Injury Accident Lawyers, New Orleans Office 400 Poydras Tower Poydras St Suite 1975 New Orleans, LA 70130

How Much Should a Car Accident Injury Attorney Charge in Louisiana?

When you’re injured in a car accident in Louisiana caused by someone else’s negligence, everyone is quick to tell you to hire an attorney. But that might sound easier said than done. The first question most people in your position ask when they’re told to hire a lawyer is: Sounds great, but can I afford it? The answer, dear reader, is an emphatic yes, you can afford it! Louisiana car accident injury lawyers work on a contingent fee basis, which means you only pay them if they get you results. Here’s how it works.

Contingent Fees Explained

A contingent fee is an arrangement where your lawyer represents you in exchange for a percentage of the money recovered in your case. Think of it as the legal world’s version of doing a job on spec. The lawyer only gets paid by securing money for you through a settlement, court award, or similar payment. No recovery, no fee.

Benefits of Contingent Fees in Car Accident Cases

Contingent fees usually work to everyone’s benefit in a Louisiana car accident case. Accident victims—who often face financial strain as a result of their injuries— like them because they make lawyers affordable. When a car accident lawyer works for you on contingency, you pay nothing up front, nothing as your case goes along, and nothing unless the lawyer wins for you. Lawyers like them because they give the lawyer skin in the game. The more money the lawyer gets for you from the at-fault party or an insurance company, the more the lawyer earns as a fee. And by agreeing to work without any upfront payment from accident victims like you, car accident lawyers expand their pool of potential clients to anyone who might need their services. All reputable car accident lawyers in Louisiana represent crash victims on a contingent fee basis. If a lawyer tries to charge you upfront or hourly fees to handle your car accident claim, it means the lawyer doesn’t think much of your case or doesn’t handle accident claims very often. Either way, that’s probably not the right lawyer for you.

How Contingent Fees Work in Practice

Because contingent fees are standard among car accident injury lawyers, they’re not some special service you have to request. Here’s how it usually works. Once you decide on the car accident attorney to handle your claim, the attorney will ask you to sign a fee agreement (also known as a retention agreement or fee letter). This is a written contract between you and the lawyer that lays out the terms on which the lawyer will work for you. It describes in plain English the legal services your attorney will provide and when, how, and how much the lawyer will get paid if you win. Once you and the lawyer sign the letter, the lawyer starts working on your case. You won’t once get a bill while the lawyer investigates your claim, gathers evidence, communicates with defense lawyers, negotiates with insurance companies, files your claim, appears in court, and gives you progress reports. Those are the sort of services the lawyer does on contingency. If the lawyer does a good job and things go your way, eventually, your case will end in a settlement or a court award, giving you money for your injuries and losses. When that happens, the at-fault party or insurance company will send your attorney the required amount. From that money, your lawyer will pay any medical liens (amounts medical providers agreed to receive out of your settlement or award) and will deduct the percentage you agreed to as the lawyer’s fee. The rest of the money goes to you. Infographic What percentage do car accident lawyers take in Louisiana

Standard Contingent Fee Percentage in a Louisiana Car Accident Case

The percentage of your settlement or award that a Louisiana car accident attorney keeps as a fee can vary. It’s usually around 33 percent (or one-third) of your recovery, but fees ranging from 25 percent to 40 percent aren’t unusual. Regardless, the percentage your car accident lawyer proposes to get will be spelled out in the fee agreement presented to you at the beginning of your case, and you can always ask the lawyer to negotiate it. Fee agreements will sometimes spell out different percentages depending on when and how your case gets resolved. For example, an agreement might give the lawyer 33 percent of any settlement achieved before trial, but 40 percent of any trial award, to account for the extra time and effort it takes to win in court. Most personal injury claims (around 95 percent) settle out of court, however, so the percentage you agree to as the attorney’s cut of a settlement is usually (though not always) what you can expect the attorney to get when your case ends.

Will an attorney working on contingency pressure me to settle?

No way. Your car accident lawyer has an ethical obligation to serve your interests, not his or her own. You can always count on your lawyer to give you a clear, honest assessment of whether it’s in your interest to accept or reject a settlement offer, regardless of what it means for the attorney’s bottom line. You, and you alone get to decide whether to agree to a settlement of your claim.

What happens if I lose?

If your attorney can’t get you an acceptable (to you) settlement or a win in court, you don’t owe the lawyer a fee. That’s the risk your lawyer takes by working on contingency. The lawyer shares in the upside of a big victory but agrees not to get paid for a loss.

Who pays the costs of the case?

Good question! That’s up to you and your lawyer to decide. A lot of car accident lawyers will agree to pay for the running costs of your case, like court filing fees, expert witness charges, and travel expenses. When that’s the deal, the fee agreement should explain clearly whether the lawyer gets reimbursed for those costs out of your portion of the award or whether the lawyer’s percentage covers them. That’s important because expenses can eat up a substantial portion of what you or your lawyer take home if you’re not careful. Alternatively, you can agree to pay running costs yourself as the case goes along. If you take that route, it might convince the lawyer to agree to a slightly lower percentage as a contingent fee (since you bear the risk of costs running high). Just be sure to ask the lawyer for an estimate of how much you’ll have to front, and plan to have enough of a financial cushion to cover unexpected costs too.

Does the lawyer get a big fee even if it hardly takes any work to get a settlement?

It depends on what you mean by big. Generally speaking, a contingent fee can be higher than what the lawyer might have earned by charging you by the hour, because the lawyer took the risk of not getting paid at all if your case didn’t pan out. But the amount your car accident lawyer gets from a contingent fee can’t be totally unreasonable, either. Louisiana’s legal ethics rules bar lawyers from charging an unreasonably large fee when compared to the amount of work required and the difficulty of the case, among other factors. Talk to your lawyer if you think the fee in your case seems way too large. More often than not, you’ll find out the lawyer has been doing a lot more work for you than you realized. And if yours is one of the rare situations where a fee really is unreasonable because, for example, a huge settlement fell into your lap before anyone lifted a finger, your lawyer will probably want to work with you to make sure the payment is fair for everyone.

Is hiring a car accident lawyer worth it?

Hiring an attorney absolutely is worthwhile, particularly since you don’t have to pay the lawyer anything unless and until you get paid yourself. Here are just some of the benefits you get by trusting a skilled car accident lawyer in Louisiana to handle your claim.

Understanding of the Law

Car accident law is anything but simple, and it isn’t something you can learn on the fly. Getting money for your car accident claim requires the resources and know-how of someone familiar with court procedures, rules of evidence, insurance practices, negotiation strategies, and trial work. You don’t have those skills, and even if you did, you’d know all about the old legal saying that goes: Those that represent themselves have fools for clients.

Protection Against Missing Deadlines

Nothing—absolutely nothing—dooms your car accident claim faster than missing the deadline for filing your claim (the statute of limitations). Depending on the facts of your case, you might have just months—and at most one year—from the time of your Louisiana car accident to begin pursuing legal action against at-fault parties and insurance companies. At most, you have just If that deadline passes without you having taken the necessary steps, it’s game over for your right to seek compensation. Hiring a lawyer protects from that kind of catastrophic mistake. Your attorney takes care of keeping your case on track and on time. That protects your rights and gives you peace of mind.

An Experienced Team to Do the Work

The last thing you need while dealing with the hassle of a car accident injury is more work to do! Hiring a lawyer takes all the effort and stress of enforcing your legal rights off your shoulders. A whole team of legal professionals takes over, and, not for nothing, does the hard work far better than you could ever hope to.

Refuge From Insurance Companies

Getting hurt in a car accident inevitably means dealing with insurance, both your own and the at-fault party’s. Your own auto and health insurance may cover some of your immediate expenses, like medical care and vehicle damage. And the at-fault party’s liability coverage should then step in and pay for your damages. Every insurer that has a stake in paying for your accident will assign an adjuster to review your claim. And there’s a good chance each adjuster will want to talk to you. But wouldn’t it be nice if someone else could handle those insurance conversations, just to make sure you don’t say the wrong thing or agree to something you shouldn’t? Well, a lawyer can do that. Once you hire a car accident attorney, the insurance companies have to deal with them, not you. Your phone will stop ringing, and you can feel confident that your rights to insurance benefits will stay protected.

Full Valuation of Your Damages

Last but certainly not least, by hiring a car accident lawyer you ensure that no money you have the right to receive gets left on the table. The damages you can often obtain through a settlement or court award in a car accident case cover a lot more ground than you might imagine, including:
  • Your medical and other accident-related expenses;
  • Your past and future loss of income due to your injuries;
  • Your physical pain, emotional suffering, and day-to-day inconvenience;
  • Harm done to your personal relationships; and
  • Your overall loss of quality of life.
Attorneys who represent crash victims like you investigate and add-up all of those damages, to make sure your claim demands the maximum amount you have the right to receive under Louisiana law. After all, when your lawyer works on contingency, they share your interest in making the most of your case!

Contact a Louisiana Car Accident Lawyer Today

If you’ve been injured in a car accident in Louisiana, don’t spend time worrying about how much a lawyer will cost. Experienced, skillful attorneys handle cases like yours on contingency. You pay them nothing upfront, and nothing unless they win for you. For a free consultation about your car accident case, contact a car accident lawyer in your area today.
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