Steven A. Bagen | August 17, 2023 | Car Accidents
A car accident may have caused physical injuries, emotional trauma, and a pile of unexpected bills. If you’re considering legal action to cover the costs and damages, you’re probably wondering how much it will cost to hire a car accident lawyer. It’s not as much as you might think.
Getting the help of an experienced car accident lawyer is, in fact, downright affordable because most personal injury lawyers take cases on contingency.
While the media often portrays lawyers with high hourly rates, this isn’t typical of personal injury lawyers. A car accident lawyer has the knowledge and skillset to recover the highest possible amount in damages and only receives payment if they succeed.
What Is a Contingency Fee?
Understanding the cost of a lawyer might be confusing, especially when you hear about contingency fees. A contingency fee is a payment to a lawyer contingent on or dependent on the successful resolution of your case. Your car accident lawyer will only receive compensation if and when they win your case.
This practice might sound risky, but it’s a common practice among personal injury lawyers and offers several benefits for their clients, including:
No Upfront Costs
Hiring a lawyer doesn’t require you to delve into your savings or take on additional debt. There’s no retainer to pay nor hourly billing to keep up with. This fact can be a significant relief when dealing with a loss of income due to injuries and mounting medical bills. This provision also ensures legal representation is accessible to everyone regardless of their financial situation, thus ensuring a fair chance at justice.
With contingency fees, you know the potential costs from the outset. You will not pay hidden fees or unexpected charges. Your lawyer discusses and agrees on everything with you beforehand based on the potential settlement, providing a clearer understanding of the financial aspects of your case.
A Common Goal
This arrangement ensures that your lawyer commits to your case as much as you do. Because they only receive payment if they win the case, they have the motivation to secure the best possible outcome. This means your lawyer will work hard and put in their utmost effort to win your case. With this shared motivation, a client can have the assurance that their lawyer is doing their best to be successful.
Potential for Higher Settlements
With a contingency fee arrangement, the attorney aims to achieve the highest possible settlement, as their payment is a percentage of this amount. Attorneys will use all their skills and resources for a favorable outcome, leading to higher settlements than one would achieve alone. They also strive to resolve your case quickly to receive their payment sooner. This alleviates prolonged periods of anxiety and uncertainty for their clients.
Minimal Financial Risk
If, for some reason, things don’t work out in your favor, you won’t have to face a mountain of legal fees. This makes hiring a lawyer on a contingency fee basis a safe option. You can pursue justice without the fear of losing everything and fully place your trust in your lawyer as a partner in your legal battle.
Why Would a Lawyer Take a Case for Free?
The truth is, they don’t take a case for free. Lawyers who accept cases on contingency take a calculated risk that their legal knowledge and relevant experience will win the case, securing both your compensation and their fees.
Lawyers often offer a free initial consultation to evaluate your case and its viability. Chances are that if a lawyer does take on your case, they believe they can attain a successful outcome.
Average Contingency Fee Structures
Understanding the contingency fee structure is key to getting a grip on what your lawyer will cost and when you need to pay. The percentage a lawyer charges for a contingency fee can vary but generally ranges from 25% to 40% of the total recovery, whether you obtained this through a settlement, trial, or appeal.
Here’s a brief overview of how these fee structures commonly work:
Standard Contingency Fees
This structure is the most common form of the contingency fee arrangement. The attorney takes a predetermined percentage of any settlement or court verdict. This percentage typically falls around 30%. It can fluctuate, however, according to various factors, including the complexity of the case, its stage, and the anticipated amount of work.
Sliding Scale Contingency Fees
In a sliding scale arrangement, the percentage your attorney receives adjusts according to certain criteria typically, the settlement amount. The fee might increase if the case goes to court, for example. This sliding scale accounts for the extra work that going to trial entails.
Negotiated Contingency Fees
There may be situations where the contingency fee is negotiable, although this is less common. It largely depends on the details and complexity of the case, the lawyer’s assessment of risk, and their confidence in a successful outcome.
Have an in-depth discussion with your attorney about their contingency fee structure. Place any agreement in writing that clearly details the percentage, when you have to pay fees, and whether you must pay any legal costs if you fail to win your case. You may need to pay some administrative fees if your case does not end in a successful outcome.
Other Fees That Might Apply to Your Case
Insurance claims and legal cases involve a lot of paperwork, different types of filings, and even experts who can testify on your behalf. These accrue additional costs for which you will generally receive separate bills.
These costs can include:
- Filing fees: Courts generally charge a nominal fee to file paperwork, which is usually your responsibility.
- Expert witness fees: Your case may require the help of an expert witness, who will charge for their time. You will often have to pay this fee.
- Medical records: Doctors and hospitals charge fees to copy and send your medical records to your attorney.
- Postage: Although it may not seem much, the cost of mailing documents can accumulate.
Clarify the handling of these costs with your attorney. Most attorneys will subtract these costs from your final settlement in addition to their contingency fee.
Recoverable Damages After a Car Accident
Car accident costs are considerable. The insurance company will do everything in its power to compensate for the bare minimum and ignore the expenses and consequences that extend beyond hospital bills and property damage.
With the help of a lawyer, you can recover money for all sorts of damages, including:
- Medical expenses: These include not only your initial costs but also future medical expenses relating to your injury.
- Rehabilitation costs: These include the costs of physical therapy and other rehabilitation measures necessary to help you recover from your injuries. Whether it’s ongoing physical therapy, occupational therapy, or another form of rehabilitation, these expenses can mount up over time and should be a factor in your settlement.
- Loss of income: If your injury keeps you out of work, you can receive compensation for lost earnings.
- Pain and suffering: Courts also take into account the emotional and psychological impact of your accident.
- Property damage: In addition to personal injuries, you can also receive compensation for damage to your car or other property.
- Loss of enjoyment of life: This term refers to your diminished ability to enjoy day-to-day activities, hobbies, exercise, and other activities that you engaged in before your injury. If you can no longer enjoy certain recreational activities or experience enjoyment in life due to the lasting impact of your injuries, your compensation could account for this intangible loss.
- Legal fees: If you win your case, you may be able to recover attorney’s fees as part of your compensation. While your attorney will take some of this as their contingency fee, your damages award may include additional legal costs, such as court fees and expert witness fees or costs for obtaining medical records.
- Punitive damages: The court might award punitive damages to punish the defendant’s particularly reckless or egregious actions in addition to compensatory damages.
How Long Will a Personal Injury Case Take?
A common question people ask when hiring a car accident attorney is how long the case is likely to take. This can be tough to answer because every case is unique and may vary depending on factors such as the complexity of the case and the insurance company’s willingness to settle.
A case can sometimes conclude within a few months. This typically involves straightforward claims with clear liability and minimal injuries. Cases involving severe injuries or disputed liability, however, may take longer to resolve, especially if they go to trial.
An experienced attorney will, nevertheless, prioritize negotiating a fair settlement rather than rushing to close a case, and their contingency fee agreement incentivizes them to do so. They understand that it may take some time to accurately understand the full extent of your injuries and other damages to enable them to negotiate for the highest amount possible.
Be sure to discuss this with your lawyer during your initial consultation. This will give you a clear understanding of the process and timeline so you can make an informed decision about pursuing your case.
Is a Car Accident Lawyer Worth the Cost?
The answer is a resounding yes in most cases. Remember that insurance companies have legal teams who work to minimize the amount they pay out, but having a strong legal team behind you can mean the difference between receiving a fair settlement or facing bills to pay.
An experienced car accident lawyer can negotiate on your behalf and ensure you get the best offer to compensate for your injuries and damages.
Your Initial Consultation Is Free
Almost all personal injury lawyers offer a free initial consultation in which they will evaluate the strength of your case. This is not only an opportunity for the firm to vet your case but also for you to better understand your rights, legal position, and financial risk.
Use this no-obligation opportunity to ask about the lawyer’s relevant experience, fee structure, and confidence in bringing your case to a successful conclusion.
Let a Personal Injury Lawyer Fight for Your Rights
After a car accident, you need someone on your side who understands the legal landscape and can fight for your rights. You deserve the peace of mind that an experienced lawyer can bring, knowing that you don’t need to file paperwork or keep track of statutes and deadlines.
Most personal injury lawyers will agree that you should focus on your physical and mental well-being instead of trying to fight injustice while injured.
A contingency fee frees you to work with an experienced personal injury attorney in Gainesville, FL who can fight on your behalf. Don’t let your fear of exorbitant expenses keep you from calling an experienced lawyer.