Car accident lawyers work on contingency. For the client, this means paying nothing upfront or out of pocket. Contingency fees allow injured parties to seek justice in court without going broke in the process. Because contingency fees prevent insurance companies from forcing low settlements, they are one of the great equalizers in the legal system.
What Is A Contingency Fee?
Contingency fees are agreements between clients and lawyers that state the fees depend on collecting. If no money changes hands, then the client owes nothing. Most contingency fee arrangements cover additional expenses, such as expert witness remuneration, court costs, and filing fees.
Contingency fees apply only to plaintiffs who stand to gain a financial benefit. They are the norm in certain types of law, such as personal injury, worker’s compensation, wrongful death, disability, employment law (especially discrimination), and other cases involving potentially large settlements or awards.
Contingency fees help clients afford the astronomical cost of litigation. Most lawyers charge well over $200 per hour, resulting in thousands of dollars for just a few billable hours and tens to hundreds of thousands for cases that extend far into the litigation process.
In addition to making a lawsuit affordable, contingency fees align your interests with your lawyer’s. The law firm gets paid only when you collect. This incentivizes attorneys to work towards a high settlement or verdict on your behalf. If you collect twice the money, they make twice the fees.
How Much Is a Contingency Fee?
The typical contingency fee for personal injury cases stands at 33% to 40%. Where your case falls in that range depends on the law firm, the attorney, the complexity of the case, and how far into the process the case must proceed. For instance, fees may differ for a case that settles before filing a lawsuit and one that goes through depositions, trials, and appeals.
Most personal injury attorneys offer free initial consultations. During this session, the attorney listens to your story and reviews any pertinent documents. He may also pose some questions regarding the incident.
The goal of the initial meeting is to assess whether you have a solid prospect for a lawsuit. Attorneys must consider the facts of the case, the potential damages, and the prospects of collecting from the defendant. Since insurance applies to most car accident cases, you should have little trouble finding an attorney to handle your case on contingency.
Accidents With Uninsured Drivers
If an uninsured driver hits you, you may still need to hire an attorney to handle your case on a contingency.
Your insurance agent probably recommended selecting uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. If an uninsured or underinsured driver hit you, you’re glad you did.
Uninsured motorist coverage pays your damages if an uninsured driver hits you, eliminating the possibility of receiving no compensation because the defendant lacks the resources to pay a settlement or judgment.
However, your insurance company may only automatically pay some of the damages. For instance, the claims adjuster may offer to pay just your current medical expenses and property damage. But what about future medical bills and lost income?
Your policy likely covers these up to your policy limit. If your insurer insists on paying you less than the total value of the claim, contact a personal injury attorney for a consultation.
Accidents with Underinsured Drivers
Underinsured motorist protection kicks in when your damages exceed the at-fault driver’s policy limits. Many drivers carry only the minimum coverage to stay legal. As a result, an accident with expensive property damage and severe injuries often exceeds the policy limits. In this case, you could be stuck with all the expenses above minimum state coverage.
Underinsured motorist coverage solves this problem by paying the difference up to your policy limits. However, that does not automatically mean you receive everything due. As with uninsured motorist coverage, your insurer may offer a settlement that excludes some damages, such as future medical costs.
Contact a personal injury lawyer for a consultation if an underinsured driver has hit you. You want to receive all of the compensation to which you are entitled.
Disadvantages of Discount Contingency Fees
As with most other services, you get what you pay for when engaging a lawyer. Contingency fees discounted heavily below the standard percentage usually require giving up some service in exchange for the lower fees. In high-stakes litigation, this rarely makes financial sense. The result is a lower settlement that wasn’t worth the discount.
Discount attorneys depend on case volume. They hope to settle many cases quickly because they are paid less for their time. This means putting fewer resources behind your case and exerting less effort. This hurts because it means less case preparation and a desire to end settlement negotiations early. Without strong evidence and a willingness to take the case as far as it needs, the defense will offer a low settlement.
The last thing you want is the defense to realize your law firm wants to avoid a trial. In that case, they have the upper hand in negotiations.
Other disadvantages of discount car accident lawyers include the following:
- Many offer a cut rate because they handle only the injury portion of your claim, leaving you on your own to collect for property damage. This sets you up to lose thousands of dollars in damages.
- Discount personal injury lawyers may decline to negotiate prices with medical providers. The goal of a car accident lawsuit goes beyond maximizing the topline settlement or award. You also need to maximize the amount of money you keep.
- Cheaper personal injury attorneys tend to have less experience or poor track records. More experienced and better-established attorneys perform more effectively in depositions, trials, and appeals. As a result, they win more often and use their reputations to negotiate higher settlements.
How Do Contingency Fees Work?
Lawyers who work hourly require a retainer before engaging a client. Attorneys representing individuals usually require a $5,000 retainer in the neighborhood, though some lawyers demand much more, especially for complex cases.
The law firm places the retainer in a client trust account. As the lawyer works, he tracks his hours and bills his client. The lawyer subtracts the billable hours from the retainer until the trust account is empty. The client receives a bill for the difference when the charges exceed the retainer.
For instance, a lawyer may charge a $5,000 retainer and $300 per billable hour. If the lawyer works 10 billable hours during the first month, the client receives an invoice showing that $3,000 has been deducted from the trust account.
Should the lawyer work 10 billable hours the following month, he removes $2,000 from the trust account and bills the client for the additional $1,000. The client continues to receive monthly statements for all billable hours.
As litigation progresses, the client incurs additional fees, such as court costs and expert witness expenses. When billed hourly, clients see these fees deducted from their retainer and receive them as additional costs on monthly statements.
For most injury victims, paying their lawyers hourly presents an unscalable obstacle to litigation. Even in the best circumstances, most households can ill afford legal bills of thousands per month for one to three or more years.
Worse, personal injury accident victims often face intense financial pressure because of the accident. Costs for medical treatment frequently exceed the client’s means, and they may lose income simultaneously from being temporarily or permanently disabled.
Contingency fees solve this problem. Instead of paying a retainer, clients obtain representation by agreeing to share a portion of any settlement or award with their attorney. As a result, they face no out-of-pocket expenses. Additional fees, such as for expert witnesses and court costs, also come out of the award of settlement.
Without funding an expensive lawsuit up front, clients are free to focus on healing and managing their current expenses and work situation.
How to Know If a Car Accident Lawyer Is Worth the Cost?
Car accident lawyers are worth the cost if they have an excellent reputation, are expert litigators, and are willing to focus on your case for the time needed to achieve the best outcome. A strong trial lawyer is always beneficial, even though most personal injury cases settle out of court. Many cases merit trials, especially when the defense asserts factual inaccuracies. In addition, the reputation of a killer trial lawyer compels many defendants to up their settlement offers.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Handle My Car Accident Claim?
Having a reputable and skilled lawyer on your side makes the difference between winning or losing a claim and settling for a low amount or the actual amount you deserve.
According to Nolo:
- 74 percent of respondents who had a car accident lawyer on their side received at least some compensation in their car accident claim, while only 54 percent of those handling their claim saw a payout.
- Respondents with a car accident lawyer received an average of $44,600, compared to a $13,900 average payout for self-represented claimants.
What Is the Average Settlement for a Car Accident in California?
The average settlement for a car accident in California comes at $21,000 as of 2022. However, many serious car accidents settle for much more. Though they are in the minority, many cases are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars or seven figures.
Why Should I Choose Shamon Law for a Car Accident Claim?
Shamon Law’s car accident litigation team treats each client like family. We understand that receiving the compensation you need for your injury is paramount. Your family’s future may depend on it.
Our skilled trial lawyers build incontestable cases and negotiate with insurance companies based on the strength of the evidence and our reputation. We never give up until our clients receive the compensation they deserve.
Contact a Car Accident Attorney for Help with Your Injury Lawsuit
Contingency fees make it possible for car accident victims to focus on recovering while their attorneys deal with the insurance companies. Financial considerations would force many injured people to accept low- or no compensation without contingency fees. Shamon Law proudly represents car accident victims on reasonable terms that foster success.