When making an auto accident claim, the most important decision you will have to make is whether or not to hire an attorney. This is crucial and it will have a huge bearing on the amount you can recover. There are many things that you will need to consider when choosing an attorney, but the price isn’t as crucial as you think, especially if you consider that most car accident lawyers work on a contingency fee agreement.
What is meant by the contingency fee arrangement?
This is a kind of understanding in which the auto accident attorney agrees to represent a client and the agreement is that the lawyer will get a fee if the client wins the case. The client will receive either a court judgment in their favor, usually after a lawsuit, or a settlement (from the insurance company of the at-fault driver).
In other words, the fee of the attorney is dependent upon a successful ending to the case.
How “Costs” are handled
Under the contingency fee arrangement, you essentially don’t pay in case you don’t win. But this is not always true, technically. It’s important that you read your contingency fee agreement carefully, and know who will be responsible for any costs related to your case. These usually include things such as the cost of photocopying, filing fees, and expert witness fees among other things.
In the majority of contingency arrangements, costs are usually absorbed by the lawyer as and when they arise. In case you get a court award or a settlement, the costs are subtracted from the final figure, and this is on top of the contingency percentage that you agreed upon. You should ensure that you are not obligated to shoulder these costs even if your case flops.
The Contingency Percentage
The percentage due to a personal injury lawyer varies and can be anywhere from 25% to 40%, although 33% or two-thirds seems to be pretty standard. This means that if you agreed on a 33% contingency fee with your lawyer and you recover $150,000 in your auto accident case, the lawyer will take $50,000 and you remain with $100,000.
This percentage, however, could vary based on whether a lawsuit had to be filed against the at-fault driver. The percentage is typically lower for cases that settle out of court.
But for settlements arrived at after filing of the suit, and after the defendant replies to your complaint, the lawyer’s share may jump to 40%.
It’s advisable to always talk to your attorney with regard to the contingency fee and to review your legal services contract carefully. In case the fee arrangement is unclear for you, ask the attorney to clarify.
Besides, the fee is negotiable, just like everything found in a contract. If your case is pretty straightforward—the defendant has lots of car insurance, there is sufficient evidence to back your claim, and you have clear damages—you can negotiate with your lawyer for a lower percentage. The fact that you need a lawyer doesn’t mean you just give up 33% of your compensation.
Generally, the more grave the injuries, the more the value of getting a lawyer. In case you are involved in a minor accident with no major injuries, you may want to negotiate a settlement even without a lawyer. However, if you sustained serious injuries that require significant treatment, your case’s value jumps up quickly. It implies the insurance adjuster will do everything to reduce your damages and attempt to convince you to take a ridiculously low settlement offer. After all, insurance companies exist to make money, not spend it. In this situation, it becomes crucial to have a lawyer by your side.