How Much Does an Attorney Cost? Car Accident Lawyer Fees Explained
The cost of an injury attorney typically equates to 33% to 40% of a car accident victim’s total settlement amount. Most injury attorneys operate under a contingency fee agreement, which means they’re only paid if a victim wins a settlement.
Even with a contingency fee agreement, car accident victims may still incur additional car accident lawyer fees.
Fees are often the last thing on an accident victim’s mind after being involved in a crash. Between mounting medical bills and increasing time out of work, victims rarely consider how an attorney will be paid for a personal injury claim, let alone how much it will cost. Fortunately, most injury attorneys only get paid if you receive a personal injury settlement.
If the cost of car accident lawyer fees has been stopping you from seeking an attorney, rest assured that legal counsel is still possible even if you don’t have payment upfront. Every accident victim should know how much they may pay out before working with an attorney, so take a look at how personal injury lawyers get paid and how it could impact your compensation.
How Your Lawyer Gets Paid After a Settlement or Verdict
Who pays for the attorney after a car accident? In short, the plaintiff or car accident victim is the individual responsible for paying a car accident lawyer. However, most accident attorneys do not ask for payment from the plaintiff upfront. Instead, they get paid after a settlement or verdict.
When an accident claim is settled, a personal injury lawyer is paid from the settlement amount provided by the at-fault driver’s insurance company. An insurance adjuster typically mails the settlement check to the attorney, who then takes their percentage and forwards the rest to the accident victim.
When a personal injury lawsuit is taken to court and a verdict is handed down, a lawyer is paid from the settlement verdict assigned by the judge or jury in the injury case. The legal counsel for the at-fault party is typically responsible for mailing the settlement check to the winning attorney, who then takes their percentage and provides the rest to their client.
You might be wondering what “percentage” injury lawyers take from a victim’s total compensation. This percentage is known as a lawyer’s contingency fee, an agreed-upon amount assigned to the lawyer if they win an injury case.
Let’s take a deeper look at how contingency fees work.
What is a Contingency Fee?
A contingency fee is the percentage amount a personal injury attorney will receive if they successfully obtain a settlement for a client. If a client does not receive compensation, the attorney will not get paid for their legal services.
There is no standard amount for a contingency fee arrangement. Most personal injury attorneys have, on average, a contingency fee of 33%-40%. The total amount attorneys earn will vary depending on the verdicts each client receives.
If an attorney has a 35% contingency fee agreement with a client who recovers $30,000 in their car accident claim, the attorney will be paid roughly $10,500. If an attorney has a 35% contingency fee agreement with a client who recovers $90,000 in their car accident claim, the attorney will be paid roughly $31,500 for their legal services.
What is the Typical Contingency Fee?
Contingency fees will vary based on the complexity of the case. In less complex cases, a client may attorney closer to a 25% fee. More complex or prolonged cases may incur a 40% fee.
To some individuals, a 40% contingency fee basis sounds astronomical. If a personal injury attorney offers 40% as their initial contingency fee agreement, it’s wise to seek consultations from additional attorneys. However, if your personal injury claim goes to trial and your attorney must represent you before a judge or jury, 40% may be appropriate.
Other Fee Arrangements
While contingency fee agreements are most common in personal injury law, a few alternative fee arrangements are available. In rare cases, a personal injury attorney may offer a client a flat fee, retainer fee, or hourly fee. These pricing structures are uncommon in injury claims.
- Flat Fee: One set payment for the entirety of an attorney’s legal services—can be structured as a payment plan but will still incur one set fee.
- Retainer Fee: One set payment upfront with a contingency fee collected once the case is closed—if the plaintiff wins the case, the initial payment is deducted from the contingency percentage taken from the total settlement amount.
- Hourly Fee: One set payment charged per hour depending on the schedule of the car accident attorney and how much they handle—wages are agreed upon upfront.
More often than not, lawsuits and personal injury claims for auto accidents will be paid by a contingency agreement. If the initial attorney’s fee seems too high upfront, an injury victim can negotiate the percentage with the lawyer. However, the possibility of negotiation does not guarantee a lesser fee.
How are Costs and Expenses Handled?
Several costs and expenses will arise as an attorney investigates and builds a strong car accident case. A standard car accident claim may incur expert witness fees, accident reconstructionists costs, and court fees. A personal injury attorney will cover these costs upfront throughout the case, so an injury victim doesn’t need to pay out of pocket.
An attorney can help arrange payment for other expenses an injury victim is struggling to pay upfront, like medical bills. The defendant or at-fault party cannot be held responsible for these expenses during the case. An attorney can work with local medical providers to offer treatment on a lien while the victim waits for compensation from the defendant.
A medical lien infers that the total cost of medical treatment will be taken from the injury victim’s settlement amount. Once a defendant is ordered to pay the injury victim, and an attorney is paid their legal fees, the medical bills are taken from the remaining settlement. If a victim does not win their case, the lien will be paid by the victim’s health insurance company over time.
Other Costs Lawyers May Charge in Accident Claims
In addition to expert witness fees and court fees, personal injury cases can incur several additional costs. Most personal injury attorneys will pay these costs upfront, so an injury victim does not scramble for resources throughout the case. In these instances, the repayment of expenses is agreed upon in the contingency fee arrangement.
Other costs and expenses lawyers may seek repayment for in accident claims include:
- Filing fees
- Fax charges
- Postage costs
- Legal research
- Travel expenses
- Copying charges
- Deposition costs
- Mediation expenses
- Investigator costs and time
- Medical or nursing consultations
- Costs of obtaining police reports
- Expenses for obtaining copies of medical records
- Out‐of‐pocket expenses incurred on the client’s behalf
- Telephone charges for speaking with an insurance adjuster
When selecting an attorney for your personal injury case, determine if litigation expenses will be taken out of your total settlement or your “net settlement.” The “net settlement” is the amount left over after attorney’s fees are deducted.
How Are Litigation Costs and Fees Calculated?
A car accident victim is often unsure how litigation costs and fees are calculated in personal injury cases. Typically, an accident attorney will receive your settlement check once your injury case has reached a verdict. Next, they will provide you with an itemized list that breaks down attorney fees, litigation costs, and medical expenses incurred throughout the case.
Some injury attorneys will take their contingency fee from your total settlement amount. This means they will use the largest number possible to calculate their total payment. Other attorneys will utilize your net settlement, or what’s remaining after litigation expenses and medical bills are paid, to calculate their total payment.
Ideally, you should work with an attorney who deducts their legal fees from your net settlement. While this practice will still net your injury attorney their standard contingency fee, it also means that you may have more leftover from your settlement to account for additional personal costs, like lost wages or future medical treatment.
How to Know if a Car Accident Lawyer is Worth the Cost
Generally speaking, a car accident lawyer is always worth the cost—especially if an accident victim is forced to negotiate with the insurance company or argue their case in court.
An accident victim should still impose standards when it comes to how an attorney is paid. With so many attorneys working on contingency, hiring a car accident attorney who charges up front for their services is not worth your time.
Accident victims are better suited with a personal injury attorney who operates under a fair contingency agreement. At The Miley Legal Group, our law firm has a proven track record of success with insurance companies and in the courtroom. We work under a contingency fee basis and offer flexibility depending on the complexity of your case. Contact us today for a free consultation with a trusted personal injury attorney.