If one other driver is to blame for your vehicle accident, you'll probably be able to hire your own injury attorney on a "contingency fee" basis. Find out when it's worth the cost.
If you've been in a vehicle accident, and it's pretty clear that one other driver was to blame, you will be buying plaintiff's car accident lawyer (one who represents anyone filing your own injury lawsuit, when a case makes it to court). But how much will you need to pay for?
Most car accident attorneys charge for his or her services in a reasonably unique way—as opposed to the hourly fee that numerous firms charge in other types of cases. The normal car accident lawyer will charge a "contingency fee" to take on a personal injury case. A contingency fee implies that the firm will not receive money any attorney's fees unless you recover money in your case. The lawyer or law firm will get paid a percentage of money received from any car insurance settlement or jury verdict (if the case goes all the best way to trial).
In this article, we'll have a closer look at how contingency fees work and what you can get if you decide to hire a lawyer to take care of your vehicle accident case.
The Contingency Percentage
The percentage that the personal injury lawyer can receive in a contingency fee agreement varies, but typically ranges from 25 to 40 percent, and 33 percent (or one-third) is pretty standard. So, when you yourself have a 33% contingency fee arrangement and you recover $90,000 in your vehicle accident case, your attorney will receive around $30,000.
A contingency fee percentage may vary based on whether your own injury lawsuit has to be filed against one other driver (the defendant). If the case settles before it would go to court, the percentage may be on the low side.
However, if settlement occurs after suit is filed and following the defendant has served an official response to your complaint—or if the case proceeds to trial and a jury verdict is reached, the attorney's share may increase to 40 percent.
For instance, suppose your lawyer sent a demand letter to one other driver's insurance company in your case, and you quickly reached a settlement for $90,000. In this situation, the attorney would again receive $30,000 (33%). However, suppose that the case instead ended in a jury verdict of $90,000 and your agreement (and/or the law in your state) allows the attorney for 40% of a recovery following the complaint is answered. In this situation, the attorney can recover $36,000.
It is definitely vital that you speak along with your attorney in regards to the contingency fee and to carefully review your contract for legal services. If you don't understand the fee arrangement as stated in the contract, ask your attorney to describe it to you.
Also, just like everything in a contract, the fee is negotiable. If yours is a "cut and dry" case—fault for the vehicle accident and your damages are clear, the defendant has plenty of car insurance, and there's ample evidence copying your claims—you can certainly negotiate a lower contingency percentage. You do not need to stop a third of your compensation mainly because you need the leverage of experiencing a lawyer on your own side.
Fees and Expenses
With respect to the lawyer and your contract for legal services, you may or may not be responsible for upfront court fees and other litigation expenses, just like the cost of obtaining medical records and police reports, court reporter fees, and expert witness fees.
Many personal injury firms require the client to pay for the above-mentioned fees while they become due. If your contract states that you're accountable for these costs, you can expect your own injury firm to call you and seek payment since the fees become due. If you fail to pay these fees, your case will probably not proceed until there is a payment.
Other personal injury firms (typically large firms), will cover all fees and expenses. However, the fees and expenses will be deducted from your settlement or final judgment. Let's say you settled your vehicle accident case for $100,000. This time around, your contract stated that costs and expenses would be deducted from the settlement. Your attorney incurred $10,000 in costs and expenses. In this situation, your attorney would receive $10,000 as reimbursement for the expenses and expenses, and $30,000 for legal services. You would wind up receiving $60,000 as a final recovery ($100,000 - $10,000 - $30,000 = $60,000).
Make sure that your lawyer takes their fee out of the "net settlement"—that is, the total amount left after case expenses are deducted. This arrangement is typical. However, some law firms may try to increase their pay by taking their money out first. Let them realize that you won't accept that, and if it becomes a deal breaker, it's probably best to get another lawyer.
Other Fee Arrangements
Not all cases calls for a pure contingency fee arrangement. Lawyers may collect an original retainer to begin your case and also collect a contingency fee at the conclusion of your case. However, in the event that you recover money, the total amount already paid to the attorney should be subtracted from the percentage because of the attorney at the conclusion of the case. For example, in the event that you paid $2,000 to the attorney as a retainer and recover $90,000 in a settlement, the attorney will receive $28,000 from the settlement ($30,000-$2,000 = $28,000).
Most car accident cases will not involve a set fee payment for legal services. Flat fee arrangements are normally reserved for less-complex cases. A law firm may charge a set fee where in actuality the legal representation is limited to drafting and answering a demand letter. In that case, the fee may range between $300 to $1,000.
Is just a Car Accident Lawyer Worth The Cost ?
The general rule is this: The more serious the injuries, the more the worth of hiring a lawyer. If you're in a minor fender bender with little if any injuries, you can probably negotiate your own injury settlement with no lawyer. On one other hand, if you're injured and needed any significant medical treatment, the worth of your case rises quickly. What this means is the insurance adjuster works to minimize your damages and try to have you to just accept a very low settlement offer—they are available of making money, not spending it, after all. In that situation, having a skilled lawyer on your own side becomes essential.