If you are involved in an accident, you can suffer various kinds of injuries — both physical and emotional. The accident might also leave you incapacitated for several months, resulting in loss of wages along with significant medical expenses, including treatment costs and hospitalization bills which are known as economic damages. There are several other damages as well which is why you want the help of a personal injury lawyer to obtain compensation for all of your losses. You can rest assured that the attorney will take all the responsibility off your shoulders while determining the exact value of your personal injury claim but at the same time, you might be wondering how much the lawyer will charge for his or her services and whether it is worth retaining a personal injury lawyer at all.
Let us tell you that there is no standard fee that a lawyer can charge you. However, most accident lawyers work on a “contingency fee basis,” meaning they don’t get paid unless you win your case! Their payment comes out of your final settlement claim, which is often around one-third of your settlement or 33% prior to filing a lawsuit, and 40%-45% after a lawsuit is filed. In some cases, lawyers do charge more if the matter proceeds to trial given the amount of time and costs involved in prosecuting a personal injury case through trial.
We will give you a breakdown of various aspects of settlement claims, how contingency fees work, how much percentage a lawyer charges, “sliding case” fees, etc. before you decide to hire a lawyer to fight for your rights.
As already mentioned, there is no set formula or insurance settlement calculator that can estimate the exact compensation for your case. This is because each and every car accident is unique and therefore, your damages and suffering are also different from the rest. However, the US legal system ensures that juries monetize injuries.
So the final settlement claim is essentially the sum of your past and future medical bills, property damages, lost wages, pain, and suffering, etc. Your attorney quantifies all your losses based on your economic damages (i.e. lost wages, past, and future medical expenses) and general damages (e.g. the emotional distress arising from your injuries).
Settlement with insurance companies
At times, you and your lawyer can agree on a settlement claim with the insurance company and you don’t even have to go to trial. However, you and your attorney need to be aware that insurance companies often undervalue your losses even though they might say they are offering $30,000 more, which is 3 times the medical expenses and your lost wages. This is because there is no set formula to determine your emotional distress losses and your claim generally. So you have to make informed decisions because your lawyer’s fees will be deducted from the settlement amount.
As explained earlier, personal injury lawyers have a different fee structure as compared to other types of lawyers. On most occasions, they work on a contingency fee. While this means that you don’t owe your lawyer a penny until they win your case, it is essential that you understand the intricate details of contingency fees for paying your lawyer.
A contingency fee is a fixed percentage sum of the total settlement or verdict amount which has been agreed upon by you and the lawyer or the law firm before the latter begins fighting for your rights. The fee, typically 33% prior to filing a lawsuit and 40%-45% after a lawsuit is filed, is deducted from the final settlement amount, which will be decided either by a jury at trial or through an agreement between the two contesting parties.
Contingency fee arrangements are the prevailing way to pay a personal injury lawyer but there are other common costs that are also deducted from your net settlement amount AFTER attorneys’ fees are deducted which should also be factored in if your lawyer is advancing the costs on your behalf which is common. They include:
- Getting medical records
- Obtaining copies of police reports and transcripts
- Witness fees
- Deposition fees
- Expert Costs if your matter is more complex and/or has proceeded closer to the trial date
- Mediation costs if there is a mediation to obtain to resolve your claim
- Payment to investigators
- Trial exhibits
How Contingency Fees Work
The single major benefit of the contingency attorney fee method is that you don’t have to pay fees upfront which gives you access to the civil justice system and the ability to hire a lawyer that you might not otherwise have if you had to pay lawyers at an hourly rate. In fact, your lawyer can start working on your case immediately while you need not even be concerned about paying him or her. In essence, your financial interests are directly proportional to your lawyer’s financial interest so your lawyer will have every reason to work hard in order to maximize your recovery since that will also result in the maximum amount of attorneys’ fees as well.
Contingency fees, thus, can be summed up in the following four points:
- You only pay if your lawyer wins the case
- You don’t have to pay your lawyer’s attorneys’ fees if you lose but note that in some circumstances you may have to pay for your lawyer’s costs depending on your agreement with your lawyer even if you lose and sometimes the other side’s cost if you lose at trial based on the law.
- There are no hidden costs and you only pay the percentage which has been agreed upon
- You don’t pay anything out of your pocket
Where does the settlement check go?
The settlement amount or check will be sent to your accident lawyer directly. This is to ensure that your lawyer gets his or her dues before the amount gets credited to your account. The lawyer should provide you with a list of all deductions and their contingency fees. However, it is a good practice to discuss with your lawyer how long your check will take to be credited to your account.
In conclusion, the contingency fee is one of the best ways to receive legal services since the percentage of the attorneys’ fees is known upfront with no hidden massive attorneys’ bills received from paying a lawyer by the hour, your attorney is incentivized to maximize your monetary recovery since that will also result in a higher fee for the lawyer and it provides access to the justice system to people who otherwise could not afford a lawyer.
If you've been injured in an accident you should speak to an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. You can contact us online or call our office directly at 310-634-1316 to schedule your free consultation with one of our semi-truck attorneys. We have been helping car accident victims since 2013 and serve clients throughout Southern California. You can also request our free Your Personal Injury Guide: 10 Things You Should Know About Your Personal Injury Case guide to learn more about your accident case.