Generally, a car accident lawyer costs you nothing upfront. Instead, personal injury lawyers, such as those who handle motor vehicle accidents, typically work on a contingency-fee agreement. Under this pricing arrangement, attorneys only charge if they obtain financial compensation on their clients’ behalf. That means if they don’t win, you don’t pay.
Some firms refer to contingent fees as a no-win-no-fee or a no-fee guarantee. You’ve probably seen a version of this phrase on television or the internet. Attorneys’ fees and additional expenses come out of your final settlement or court award. This usually consists of a predetermined percentage ranging from 33 percent to 40 percent of the overall amount.
The specifics will vary by the law firm, but you will always know the percentage your legal advocates should receive ahead of time. As the client, you can accept or reject the fee and shop around for other firms to find the best fit. It may sound odd that lawyers would charge you no money upfront to take your case, but it is a standard practice in personal injury law.
Why Don’t Car Accident Lawyers Charge Fees Upfront?
Car accident lawyers operate on the understanding that victims who have been injured most likely do not have the financial ability to pay for legal aid out of pocket. In addition, many suffer from serious physical pain and cannot work because of their injuries. You can’t charge clients the money they don’t have.
So, it makes sense to work out an arrangement allowing the law firm to receive a portion of the compensation they secure instead of an upfront payment. A contingency fee can work best for the following reasons:
No Need to Come up With the Money
A contingent fee eliminates clients’ undue stress as they attempt to come up with the money for a retainer or while billable hours rack up.
Access to Justice
Perhaps most importantly, the contingency-fee arrangement provides access to justice that you might not get without legal help. For example, obtaining a lawyer for a car accident means that victims have someone to fight for them when they cannot fight for themselves.
It equalizes the playing field as lawyers have the financial resources, the legal experience, and the network to build a compelling case and go toe-to-toe with insurance giants that tower over the little guy. Insurance companies can bully victims, but they have a harder time beating someone armed with the knowledge of the law and backed by a budget that can sustain the costs of going to trial.
Immediate Access to Resources
When you get legal help based on contingency fees, the attorneys representing you in your car accident case get to work immediately. They don’t have to wait for the money to start without the financial barrier. As a result, you have instant access to your attorney’s time and resources as he or she begins putting your case together. That often means immediate access to medical experts, treatment specialists they work with, and paralegals and assistants who can support and guide you through various aspects of your case.
The Incentive to Maximize Results
Under a contingency price structure, clients can feel confident that their attorneys work hard to obtain results. The outcome of your case and the payment the law firm receives depends on your lawyer’s performance. If your attorney drops the ball, you aren’t the only one who loses. A low settlement means the law firm loses money and no financial recovery means the firm won’t get paid.
Your car accident lawyer has a strong incentive to handle your claim thoroughly and pursue the maximum compensation. Their success directly depends on yours.
How Do Contingency Fees Work?
The details of a contingency-fee arrangement vary by the law firm. Some firms that operate on contingency fees reserve their attorneys’ fees for the settlement but expect clients to cover incidental costs in the case. This may include the costs of postage, copying, or fees for obtaining records as they come up. Others will cover these costs as a compliment with no expectation of reimbursement. Most firms cover these incidental costs upfront and then collect them from your financial recovery later.
In addition to administrative expenses, court costs, and attorney fees, the costs of litigating your car accident case come from your compensation. Experts witnesses that provide testimony, medical professionals that agree to treat you, and court reporters who document depositions for your case receive payment from your settlement or court award.
What Does a Car Accident Lawyer Do?
A car accident lawyer exists to protect your right to compensation. Attorneys serving clients in the personal injury field take on a host of responsibilities to do that. The cost of a car accident lawyer likely pales in comparison to the benefits you receive from having one. While the specific duties vary by the law firm, car accident attorneys usually fulfill the following roles as they handle your car accident claim:
Investigating Your Claim
To prove you have a right to compensation, your accident lawyer must investigate the car crash. An investigation entails reviewing the crash report, interviewing witnesses, obtaining evidence from the collision to determine the cause, and establishing negligence from the at-fault party. Many law firms work with trusted accident reconstruction experts and investigators who can reliably help build your case.
Securing Medical Treatment
Personal injury lawyers may help their clients get the medical treatment, physical therapy, or chiropractic care they need. Some law firms arrange treatment with qualified healthcare providers. They either have an existing network of providers or can work out a mutually beneficial agreement that allows their clients to obtain immediate medical help at a discounted price.
Receiving medical care can prove paramount to obtaining adequate financial compensation, as the damages you recover should include the cost of treating your injuries. Further, you should first get an accurate prognosis of your recovery to determine what future care needs you may have. You should factor these ongoing or future healthcare expenses into your compensation amount.
Gathering Medical Records and Proof of Losses
The attorneys representing you should evaluate the injuries and losses you suffered. To do this, they can gather and review your medical records, obtain a doctor’s report explaining your condition, and gather photos of your injuries. These records are essential to proving the severity of your injuries to the insurer. Additionally, they help to support any claim for pain and suffering damages.
Your car accident lawyer can also compile documentation of your financial losses. It’s imperative that your insurance claim addresses the economic strain imposed by your motor vehicle accident. Therefore, you need someone to track and calculate your financial losses.
That usually means gathering:
- Medical bills
- Work schedules, timesheets, and paystubs indicating lost income
- Vehicle damage estimates
- Diminished value estimates
- Rental car or other transportation costs
- Hotel bills for necessary accommodations related to your accident
- Bills, receipts, and bank statements demonstrating expenses for required goods and services related to your car accident
As your legal representative, your attorney can act as a go-between for you and the other parties in your car accident case. The lawyer can speak to other parties, such as defendants, insurance agencies, doctors, witnesses, and service providers on your behalf. They coordinate appointments and meetings, request and provide documents for you, answer questions on your behalf, raise your concerns, and advocate for your interests.
You won’t communicate with the insurance company alone unless you desire to. Your injury lawyer handles emails, phone calls, conference calls, and in-person meetings for you. This is usually a relief to clients who would rather preserve their mental well-being as they heal.
Calculating the Value of Your Car Accident Case
A lawyer for a car accident can calculate the total value of your case. This can prove essential for recovering proper compensation. They can work to see this amount in your final settlement or court award. Your compensation should result from your economic and non-economic losses. The total value of your financial losses hinges on your expenses incurred due to your accident.
Your lawyer can aggregate your economic losses to determine the damages you should receive. Economic damages compensate you dollar-for-dollar. For example, if you experienced $30,000 in economic loss, you could recover $30,000 in damages from the liable party under state law.
Any additional compensation usually comes from the non-economic losses an injury victim suffers. These are intangible and do not have a direct monetary value. For example, say you lost mobility in your neck or suffered anxiety attacks since the car crash. These losses should constitute part of your case’s value. However, since they do not have a financial value on their own, your attorney and qualified experts would give them one. A proper valuation of your case should consider present and future economic losses and pain and suffering.
Negotiating an Appropriate Settlement
A car accident attorney can negotiate with the insurance company to obtain a just and proper settlement. Your lawyer should know of your desires, the value of your case, and the insurance agency’s negotiation practices to effectively advocate for a fair settlement. They want to ensure you do not accept lowball offers and sign away your rights to full compensation. They can provide legal guidance, but as the client, you can accept or reject any offer you deem fit.
Filing a Lawsuit and Fighting for You at Trial
If negotiations with the insurer do not yield the positive results you and your attorney expect, you have the option of filing a lawsuit. If going to trial offers a viable option in your car accident case, your attorney can file a civil suit in court against the at-fault party. At that point, if the case goes to trial, a judge or jury will decide the outcome.
Your car accident injury lawyer can work to build a strong case that can stand scrutiny at trial. Strategic litigators begin preparing a case for trial long before it gets that far, knowing it could occur. Insurance companies often want to avoid court costs and potential loss in a jury trial. As a result, many choose to settle at this point in the process. Whether your case settles or goes to trial, it’s your lawyer’s job to fight for every dollar you deserve.
Given that the attorney does not charge upfront, it brings into perspective just how much work lawyers do on behalf of their clients with no guarantee of payment.
Many Car Accident Law Firms Provide Free Consultations
In addition to legal services with no upfront charge, many car accident law firms provide free consultations. This initial meeting or discussion consists of a case review or evaluation. It can take place over the phone or via video call.
During the consultation, you will tell the representative your story, providing pertinent background information for them to understand the situation. In return, they can discuss the next steps, explain how a lawyer can help, and walk you through the basics of the process.
A free case review also offers an opportunity to ask questions about the law, the attorney’s qualifications, and their methods. For example, this offers a good time to ask how much it costs to hire a personal injury lawyer for a car accident and nail down details about their contingency fees. You can ask the representative to tell you if they charge for incidental costs before you receive a settlement or if they only charge a contingency-fee rate.