When faced with the aftermath of an auto collision, you are given the opportunity to decide if the consequences of the accident are being properly addressed. For some, this is a resounding negative. In cases where one driver sues the other for personal injury, lawyers are a source of expertise and consult. However, many individuals are not aware of the different factors that dictate how much a lawyer costs, and whether they could afford one at all.
Most lawyers take on personal injury claims cases by utilizing something called a contingency fee. This entails the lawyer receiving compensation only if the insurance company or court awards their client money after the case is closed. In this case, the lawyer will be paid a percentage of the compensation that the client is awarded.
Contingency fees are generally between 25% and 40% of the claim award, but lawyers commonly ask for 33%, or one-third, of their clients’ compensation. The percentage shifts depending on the details of the case. For example, the percentage is lower in cases where both parties agree on a settlement before they make it to court. But the percentage is higher if the defendant challenges the case, and the claim makes it to court – it really depends on the amount of work each case demands of the lawyer. No matter the situation, though, the contingency fee is always negotiable.
One important detail about contingency fees is that they only apply to the driver who is not at fault in the accident. The at-fault driver’s liability insurance typically arranges for a lawyer to defend them, but not all at-fault drivers have insurance. In these cases, if the defendant requires an attorney or lawyer, they must pay out of pocket. This could cost the defendant a couple-hundred dollars per hour of service.
Personal Injury Case Fees
Claimants may be required to pay for court fees and other expenses related to the case, including medical records, police reports, and expert witness fees. Many firms do require their clients to pay for these types of fees and will not continue their services unless the plaintiff clears each fee. Other larger firms will cover these costs up front but are paid on the back end once the case is over, and their client receives a settlement. It is important to establish that a lawyer should take their own fees from the settlement after they account for court expenses. Not doing so increases the lawyer’s payout and decreases your own.
Medical bills and other personal injury-related costs also fall onto the claimant, but via your settlement. Car accidents typically award up to $30,000 in settlement, but this varies based on the damages incurred due to the accident. One way that lawyers calculate the total compensation demand of the claimant – including pain and suffering – is by taking the total cost of their medical bills and multiplying that figure by a number between one and five, dependent on the severity of injury. This number is the base compensation from which the claimant will pay their medical bills and all other resulting fees from the incident. The final figure, after subtracting lawyer fees, medical bills, and miscellaneous expenses, is the claimant’s final payout.
Other Fee Schedules
Some firms offer alternative fee schedules for their clients dependent on their unique situations and cases.
- Hourly – An hourly fee is a fixed rate, typically between $100 and $500 per hour, that the client agrees to pay their lawyer no matter the outcome of the case. This fee schedule is common in car accident cases.
- Flat Fee – A flat fee is a set price that a lawyer charges for completing specific tasks. For instance, a claimant could pay a lawyer just for helping them write a demand letter to their insurance company adjusters.
- Retainer Plus Contingency – This option requires the claimant to pay both a fee up front (a retainer) and a contingency fee if they win the case. The retainer fee is subtracted from the total amount of the contingency fee – this reimburses the claimant for their initial, out of pocket, fee.
Lawyers are worth hiring when filing a personal injury claim that results from a car accident. Their know-how and consultation smoothly navigates their clients through the court process. The negotiability factor of contingency fees prevents a lawyer from taking an unfair portion of any compensation awarded through the claims process. Even if a plaintiff only needs help completing specific tasks, hiring a lawyer based on a flat fee system is wise because it comes with knowing that each document the lawyer helps prepare is valid and thorough.