As a personal injury firm, one of the most common questions we get is, “How much will it cost to retain a car accident attorney?” This is a simple question, but the answer depends on numerous factors–here are some things to note from the start:
- The majority of car accident attorneys operate on a “contingency fee” basis, meaning that they only take their fees out of any settlement or judgement that they recover for the client.
- Most cases will have additional costs and expenses, so make sure you understand the terms of the agreement completely before signing.
- Having a good attorney in your corner can dramatically change the outcome of your case and improve the chances of success.
Accident Attorneys and Contingency Fees
As mentioned above, most car accident attorneys are paid through contingency fees, which essentially means that they will not receive payment unless they recover a settlement or judgment in favor of the client. You may have heard firms advertise with a phrase like, “You don’t pay unless we win,” or something like that. However, one thing to keep in mind is that no two settlements are the same, therefore every fee will be different. For the most part, there is no plain answer as to how much an attorney will cost, because it depends mainly on the amount of the settlement they recover. It’s still in your best interest to thoroughly read any agreement, because the percentage of the settlement that they take will differ.
Attorneys are free to choose which percentage they take for their fee, but it will typically range from 25 to 40 percent. 33 percent is widely considered to be the industry standard. For example, if you arrange a 33 percent contingency agreement and your attorney recovers $30,000 overall for your claim, they would then take about $10,000 for their fee.
Claimants must note that if a lawsuit has to be filed against the defendant, that may increase the attorney’s fee percentage, because it’s more work. In the event that 1) settlement takes place after a suit has been filed and after the defendant has formally answered your complaint, or 2) the case goes all the way to trial and a verdict is reached in your favor, the attorney’s fees will typically increase to about 40 percent. So, let’s say that your attorney recovers $30,000 for your claim, just like our first example. However, in this instance the money came by way of a jury verdict rather than a settlement outside of court, so instead of taking 33 percent as before, he or she would instead take 40 percent, which is $12,000 compared to the original $10,000. If you are unsure about this arrangement, be sure to fully discuss it with your attorney before signing an agreement.
Claimants Do Have Leverage Too
It may not feel like it, but potential claimants do have leverage when it comes to negotiating a fee agreement. When you think about it, car accident attorneys need your case to get paid, so if your case is especially attractive, you can use that to negotiate a lower fee. There are a few different instances where a case may be desirable, and the two main examples are “cut and dry” accidents and accidents that resulted in severe injuries or death. If an accident is “cut and dry,” that means that the liability is clear, the defendant has ample insurance coverage to draw from, and there is plenty of evidence to back that up. In such a case, the attorney doesn’t have to work very hard, therefore the fee percentage can be reduced.
Similarly, if you suffered major injuries, that means the damages and potential settlement will be large, resulting in a nice payday for the attorney. If they are smart, they will recognize a serious case when they see one, and work with you to form an agreement you are comfortable with.
Considering Costs and Expenses For Auto Accident Cases
Two words that every claimant should remember when retaining an accident attorney are fees and expenses. Depending on the firm, you may be responsible for the litigation expenses and court fees related to your claim, if it proceeds that far. This includes the costs of obtaining records and reports, court reporter fees, and costs related to expert witnesses. Some large-scale firms may cover these costs, but most do not. So, if your case moves to litigation, be prepared to pay these costs if you want to move forward on schedule. Make sure to read your agreement carefully, as sometimes the costs must be paid upfront and other times they can be taken from the end settlement.
As a final note, always make sure that your prospective attorney is taking their fees out of the net settlement, or in other words, the amount that is leftover once case expenses are paid. This is also pretty standard, but some firms may try to maximize their payment by taking their fee out of the overall settlement, which is obviously larger. To be clear, you should never accept this type of arrangement.
In Need of Experienced Car Accident Attorneys? Contact Van Law Firm
If you have further questions about retaining a car accident attorney, or would like to schedule a risk-free consultation, simply call Van Law Firm as soon as possible. Our knowledgeable and diverse legal team will work with you to formulate a plan of action that will maximize your compensation and get you back on the road. Call our office nearest you today for more information about how VLF may be able to help.