If a motorist causes a car accident and hurts you or damages your property, you have legal rights. In most states, you can recover compensation for property damage and for personal injury losses including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and even emotional harm.
While the at-fault driver’s insurer will typically offer you a settlement if they accept responsibility, this may not be enough to fully compensate you for all your damages. If fault is disputed or if you sustained serious damages and don’t believe you’re being fairly compensated, it’s a good idea to hire an attorney for help.
An experienced car accident lawyer will fight on your behalf to help you obtain the full amount of money possible either through a negotiated settlement or a court judgment. While you may have to pay car accident lawyer fees for their services, it’s often well worth hiring an attorney who knows the ins-and-outs of the law and who can help you maximize the money you receive.
Car Accident Settlements and Judgments
Car accident cases are typically resolved in one of two ways:
- The victim of the crash accepts a settlement from the insurance company representing the at-fault driver or, in some states, from their own insurance company.
- The victim of the crash pursues a court case and a jury determines how much money should be awarded.
A skilled auto injury lawyer can help with both types of cases. And car accident lawyer fees vary depending on which approach is ultimately taken.
Lawyer Contingency Fees
In almost all car accident cases, auto injury lawyers charge clients on a contingency fee basis. This means victims of a crash will not pay attorney fees unless their lawyer helps them to recover money for their losses.
When car accident lawyer fees are charged on a contingency basis, they are charged as a percentage of the compensation the victim receives.
The specific percentage can vary depending whether the case is resolved by a settlement or it goes to trial. It is usually between 25% and 40% with most attorneys charging around 33%. An attorney may charge 25% if the case settles quickly, for example, or as much as 40% if a long trial is required due to the complexity of the case or because the defendant appeals the decision.
If you were awarded $250,000 in your case, this could mean you end up paying as little as $62,500 if your case is resolved quickly or as much as $100,000 if a prolonged trial is necessary.
These costs are for legal fees alone–expenses are an additional cost and are charged separately.
Note that all reputable lawyers provide you with a written contract for their services that spells out their fees and what you are required to pay. If you are not given a written contract, ask for one.
Expenses and Contingency Fees
While car accident lawyer fees are contingent on the outcome of a case, there are costs associated with pursuing a personal injury claim after an auto accident. In some cases, but not all, clients are expected to pay these fees regardless of the outcome. So if you are hiring a car accident lawyer, you will need to find out their policies with regard to legal expenses.
These expenses can include things like:
- Expert witness fees
- Court filing fees
- Court reporter fees
- The cost to obtain police reports and medical records
Some large personal injury firms cover these expenses during the case and simply deduct the money from the settlement when it is received. Other auto accident attorneys require clients to pay these fees as they are incurred.
Other Payment Methods
While a contingency fee is the most common way that car accident lawyer fees are charged, it is not the only model for paying an attorney to help with a motor vehicle accident case. There are also other payment structures as well, including a flat fee, an hourly fee or a hybrid arrangement.
If you pay an auto accident lawyer an hourly rate, your attorney will keep track of the time spent handling the case and you will be charged an hourly rate. You should agree on the rate up front and should request a good-faith estimate of how much time the attorney will spend on the case.
Paying an hourly rate could be the best route if you just need a little bit of assistance, such as help from an attorney in reviewing a settlement offer made by the at-fault driver’s insurer.
A flat-fee arrangement occurs when a car accident attorney charges a set amount to represent you during the entirety of the case. You can arrange to pay the fee on a payment plan, but will often have to make an initial payment.
Some car accident attorneys will require you to pay a set amount up front called a retainer fee. Usually this means you pre-pay for a certain amount of hours and then are billed if more time is needed. This could be followed up by additional payments contingent on the outcome of your case.
A hybrid arrangement means there is a combination of payment methods. For example, an attorney may collect a flat fee up front to begin your case and then may receive a percentage of the damages you receive contingent upon the successful outcome of your case.
Do You Need an Attorney in a Car Accident Case?
Hiring an attorney is important after a car accident case in order to protect your rights and ensure you receive the full amount of compensation that you deserve following a crash.
A Martindale-Nolo survey revealed that 74% of car accident victims with an attorney recovered compensation from the at-fault driver, while just 54% of people without an attorney were paid damages. Victims who had an attorney also received an average of $44,600 per accident case compared with $13,900 for those who did not hire an attorney.
Remember, insurance companies have the goal of paying as little money as possible–and they have legal professionals representing them who know the law and who are fighting for their interests.
You deserve to have a professional in your corner who can help you get the compensation you need. Car accident lawyer fees are generally well worth paying to get the funds you deserve and eliminate the stress of trying to navigate the post-collision claims process on your own.