After an accident and injury, you’re likely facing significant financial pressures and the last thing you want to do is pay out of pocket for legal help. That’s why many injury lawyers work based on contingency fees. With a contingency-fee arrangement, you only pay a portion of any compensation you receive in the case. This portion depends on many factors unique to your situation.
Talking to a personal injury lawyer can also prove equally affordable. Often, injury law firms offer free case reviews. So, getting legal help can come with no upfront costs. Read on to learn more about the costs and financial factors involved in a legal case.
How Contingency Fees Work When You Hire a Lawyer
Contingency fees help people get legal help contingent upon the outcomes of their cases. In other words, they only pay if the lawyer can win or get a result in their favor. Of course, every law firm has a unique approach to contingency fees.
However, working based on contingency generally means that:
- You don’t need to pay a retainer or hourly legal fees.
- At your case’s end, a pre-arranged portion of your settlement goes to the law firm.
- The law firm finances your case’s obligations.
So, contingency fees generally mean you don’t have to pay for a lawyer until the end of your case. The law firm may pay for any major case costs in the initial stages, such as paying expert witnesses or accident reconstruction experts.
Some law firms that work based on contingency will ask clients to pay incidental fees along the way, such as document processing or court fees. Be sure to ask the law firm to explain the details of its fee structure before you agree to work together.
What Determines a Lawyer’s Contingency-Fee Rate?
Not all law firms charge the same contingency-fee rate.
Many factors affect how much a lawyer asks for, including:
- The complexity of a case
- The time and resources the case may require
- How much you may receive from a settlement or award
- The amount other lawyers charge in the area
- Their experience and record of past results
- Their abilities and skills
- The timeline of a case
When you hire a lawyer, you may be tempted to seek out the lowest possible contingency-fee rate. But, of course, keep in mind that this may not prove the best approach. As mentioned, a lawyer’s contingency-fee amount stems from their experience handling cases like yours. So, a lawyer who charges more may be more likely to win the results you need or even get the best possible settlement available. As a result, you could receive more money, even when factoring in legal fees.
Generally speaking, state bar associations say that contingency fees should be fair and reasonable while considering the above factors. However, if a fee arrangement seems unreasonably high, you may want to take this as a sign to avoid working with the law firm.
Benefits of Contingency-Fee-Based Representation
Contingency fees come with many potential benefits. First, this means that the lawyer’s interests are aligned with the client’s. A lawyer will not make money unless they get compensation for the victim. The lawyer should then have a strong motivation to see the case through to a positive outcome.
Also, contingency fees make legal representation possible for many people who could not hire a lawyer otherwise. Since injury victims may face medical bills while being unable to work, the aftermath of an injury accident can leave victims struggling to meet their financial responsibilities. A contingency-fee agreement allows victims to get started on their cases without taking on any major financial risk.
Your Case’s Worth Determines How Much You Pay for a Lawyer
So, you may still find yourself wondering exactly how much a lawyer costs. Because their legal fees come from your final settlement or award amount, your total compensation determines how much you’ll pay for a lawyer.
Also, how much you could receive for your losses depends on:
- How seriously you were injured
- If your injuries seriously affect your everyday life, career, and relationships
- The total cost of your past, present, and future medical treatment
- The liable party
In other words, the more significant your injury and the losses you faced as a result, the more you could argue for in a settlement or award.
Let’s review some possible scenarios to understand this better and see how a victim’s compensation affects their legal fees.
Car Accident Settlement Valued at $175,000
Let’s say that you were in a car accident that left you with a broken leg and a bad case of whiplash. You work at a warehouse and couldn’t go to work for two months. You also had to work on light duty for several additional weeks, and the whiplash left you with chronic headaches. The liable party’s insurance company agreed to a $175,000 settlement.
You hired a lawyer with a 34 percent contingency fee. That means that you will pay the lawyer $59,500 and take home $115,500.
Truck Accident Settlement Valued at $550,000
Here’s another scenario. You were involved in a truck accident that left you with a major neck and back injury that left you out of work for three months. You also went on to face significant trauma from the severity of the crash. The trucking company shared liability with the truck driver, so your attorney sought compensation based on a higher corporate liability policy. Your total compensation came to $550,000.
The lawyer had a 36 percent contingency-fee arrangement for this case. It cost $198,000 to pay for the attorney. You received $352,000.
Is it Worth it to Hire a Lawyer for an Injury Case?
At this point, you might be wondering if it’s worth the cost of hiring a lawyer. After all, looking at the numbers, you may doubt whether you want to pay an attorney $198,000, like in the trucking accident case. Keep in mind that the amount you receive in a settlement or award depends not only on the merit of your case, but your ability to make a strong claim for compensation. And building a solid case can prove complex.
If you represent yourself, you may lack the experience and resources needed to convince the liable party to pay what you’re due.
Your case may suffer if you:
- Fail to gather crucial evidence, such as company logbooks or records of past safety violations
- Miss important deadlines to file a lawsuit
- Don’t know how to take your case to trial with confidence
- Face unfair or bullying insurance tactics
- Don’t know how to use negotiation tactics
For instance, imagine that you represent yourself in a trucking accident case. You could encounter many possible challenges. The trucking company might not want to admit liability for your accident. Even if you say that you were seriously hurt because of the driver’s carelessness, it may find ways to downplay your case. It may argue that you had a pre-existing condition, and the accident only made it worse.
If you don’t know how to fully take advantage of your legal options and present a lawsuit before a jury, you may find yourself unable to convince the liable party to pay what you deserve. In other words, your attorney’s legal experience can make a difference in the outcome of your case. While hiring a lawyer will cost money, not hiring a lawyer could end up costing you more than you can afford to lose.
How a Lawyer Comes Up With Your Settlement Amount
Consider a few methods and resources an attorney uses to fight for everything you’re owed.
- Hire expert witnesses to prove your injuries and demonstrate the value of your losses
- Determine a fair value for your damages based on similar cases
- Consider your pain and suffering and future medical costs when asking for compensation
- Subpoena or request crucial evidence to show that the other party bears liability
- Negotiate with the other party’s lawyers using compelling evidence
- File a lawsuit and take your case to trial if the liable party will not offer a fair settlement
- Ensure that you comply with any state laws or necessary procedures in the legal process
A lawyer’s experience can help you get all the damages you deserve. They can also provide you with many important resources, such as the ability to pursue a lawsuit, which can also make a difference in your case’s outcome.
Other Benefits of Hiring a Lawyer
One of a lawyer’s main jobs is to fight for the highest possible financial recovery available in your case. However, you may want to think about the many other benefits of hiring an attorney.
Essentially, a law firm should handle all the legal tasks of your case. They may:
- Communicate with your case’s involved parties
- Advise you on your legal options and next steps
- Ensure that you hold any and all liable parties accountable
- Use its knowledge of the courts and injury law to help you navigate the legal process
- Handle the day-to-day details of your case
- Advocate for a smooth, timely legal process
When you’re suffering from serious injuries, hiring a lawyer can provide much-needed relief. They can focus on your claim or lawsuit while you focus on your recovery.
A Free Case Review Lets You Contact a Lawyer at No Charge
Another significant question for injury victims is how much they can expect to pay to contact a lawyer. Generally, most personal injury law firms offer free case reviews. So, this consultation should not cost anything.
When you start thinking about your options for hiring a lawyer, research several possible law firms to call. Find at least three lawyers in your area who provide case reviews and help clients with your accident type. You may also want to look at the law firm’s case results, testimonials, and any awards or accolades it received. This can give you a sense of whether a team of attorneys could be a good fit for your case.
Then, take advantage of any free case reviews that these prospective law firms may offer. Read on to find tips on maximizing the value of this call.
How to Make the Most of Your Free Case Review
A case review offers a chance to get to know the law firm and assess how much it may cost to work with a lawyer. It pays to prepare for this conversation. Gather any relevant files or documents you may have regarding your injury case. That way, if the law firm’s representative has questions about your case, you’ll have answers.
Of course, this also offers a chance for you to learn about the law firm. Consider asking questions like:
- Do you work based on contingency fees? What portion of a settlement or award do you take?
- Do you require any other incidental fees during the case, such as filing fees?
- Has your firm successfully represented cases like mine? What settlement or award amounts can you share?
- What types of damages could I seek in my case?
- Will the lawyer take my case to trial if necessary?
The answers to these questions will determine how much it may cost to hire a lawyer.
Other Types of Fee Arrangements Lawyers Use
You should know that lawyers could work based on other types of fee arrangements. While contingency fees constitute the most common fee structure for injury lawyers, other attorneys may opt for flat fees, retainers, hourly rates, or other fee structures.
Lawyers who require these types of fee arrangements represent people in cases involving:
- Criminal law
- Real estate law
- Bankruptcy law
- Corporate law
No matter what type of case you have, make sure that you verify a lawyer’s fee structure before you agree to hire them. As you can see, a lawyer’s services may prove invaluable, but you should know what to expect from the outset of your case.