How Much Do Car Accident Attorneys Cost?
Faced with medical bills and expensive car repairs, concern about launching a costly legal battle might seem like one more headache. It might seem like a good idea to accept an immediate settlement from the insurance company, rather than worry about the cost of hiring an attorney for a car accident.
It is understandable that a car accident victim would be anxious to put the incident behind them. And luckily, most cases settle out of court without needing to file a lawsuit. But trying to negotiate with the insurance company without an attorney often leaves money on the table.
Let’s take a look at how much car accident attorneys cost, and why they are worth it.
It Shouldn’t Cost a Cent to Discuss Your Case
Most attorneys, including Hipskind & McAninch, do not charge anything for an initial consultation. This is a meeting where the victim can sit down with a lawyer and explain the details of their car accident. The attorney will ask questions until they fully understand what happened.
The attorney will determine whether or not the victim has a good chance of getting compensation for their losses from the crash. Reputable lawyers will be honest when they feel the victim does not have a valid claim. There could be several reasons for this—for example, if it is impossible to prove that the other driver was at fault, or if it is not clear that the person’s injuries actually resulted from the crash.
If they agree that the case has merit and is winnable, the attorney will draw up a contract for the victim to sign. Fee information for their work going forward should be laid out clearly in that contract. Some types of lawyers might charge for an initial consultation, but for personal injury attorneys, this first meeting should not produce yet another burden for you. It should be free.
What Exactly is a Contingency Fee?
In most cases, a car accident attorney’s cost is contingent on the amount of the victim’s settlement. Their contingency fee is a percentage of the total amount awarded by the insurance company or by a judge or jury if the case goes to trial.
One third (33%) of the settlement is the typical amount of compensation for a personal injury attorney for a car accident, but the fees can range from about 25% or 40%. The exact percentage may depend on how much work the attorney expects to do to win the case. For example, if a case is clear-cut and they feel that a reasonable settlement can be reached with a simple demand letter, they may charge less. If, however, the case is likely to go to trial, go on for a long time, and require extensive research and investigation, the fee is likely to be at the higher end.
An attorney with a 33% contingency fee would receive approximately $20,000 (one-third) of a $60,000 settlement, with the remaining $40,000 going to the victim.
It might seem to some that these percentages take an unreasonable chunk out of the money they can receive. But it is important to remember that car accident cases can be extremely time-consuming and complex. Personal injury attorneys have the expertise and resources to gather the necessary evidence and experience in dealing with insurance companies and arguing cases in court. The average individual does not necessarily know all of the expenses that can or can not be claimed, or how to calculate things like lost future earnings or suffering and mental anguish. This knowledge invariably results in a more thorough—and larger—demand for the compensation that the victim deserves.
In some cases, the contingency percentage is negotiable. A victim can ask an attorney to explain how they calculate their fee and if there is anything they can do to reduce it.
Most importantly, an attorney only receives a contingency fee if they win the case. Any percentage of zero is zero—which is what the attorney will receive if the claim is denied or they lose in court. This means that personal injury attorneys are motivated to work hard for their clients.
Handling Retainers and “Out of Pocket” Expenses
Personal injury attorneys who work on a contingency like Hipskind & McAninch, typically do not require a retainer, or upfront payment. If a lawyer does ask for money upfront to pay for initial expenses, this amount would be deducted from the amount they receive from the settlement. In our example from above, for example, let’s say the attorney asked for $2,000 upon signing the contract. Their final payment would be $18,000 ($20,000 minus $2,000). Note that it is very important to read the details of the contract to find out if the amount will be refunded if the case is lost.
Depending on the attorney and the details of the case, a victim may be responsible for some additional expenses. The law firm might present a bill for services such as getting copies of medical and police records, court reporting fees, or payment for expert witnesses. These amounts are then usually deducted from the final settlement before the attorney’s contingency fee is calculated.
Read and Understand the Contract
The details of a car accident attorney’s costs should be spelled out completely in the contract the victim signs when hiring them. It is important to read and understand how their fees are calculated and what extra expenses the victim might owe. If anything is not clear, just ask. A reputable attorney will be happy to answer all questions and explain any legal terms that may be confusing.
Why Car Accident Attorney Costs Are Worth It
Most people who have had the misfortune of a personal injury will agree that the cost of hiring an attorney for a car accident is well worth it. Victims of a negligent driver deserve compensation for their injuries and losses.
There are many services included in a personal injury attorney’s fees in a car accident case:
- Collection of evidence
- Calculation of expenses (medical bills, future costs, lost wages)
- Determine non-monetary losses (pain and suffering, mental anguish)
- Filing of insurance claims and all legal paperwork—correctly and on time
- Insurance company negotiations
- Filing a lawsuit if necessary
- Standing by your side and fighting to win your case
Car accident cases are complicated, and often overwhelming for a victim who is trying to recover physically from their injuries. A skilled attorney is a victim’s best chance at getting a full and fair settlement. Contact Hipskind & McAninch to discuss your case.