How Much do Accident Lawyers Charge and What Should You Pay

Personal Injury Guides

If you’re injured in a car accident that was the other driver’s fault, you should find an experienced plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer. The more experience the better. But, what will the best auto accident attorney charge? I don’t know if I can afford the best of the best.

What Are Contingency Fees?

While lawyers are expensive, even newer law school and new members of the bar who want to specialize in personal injury cases. Since most personal injury attorneys charge contingency fees, you won’t have to pay them until they negotiate a substantial settlement or win your case in court at trial.

Instead of charging for the hours they spend researching, talking to insurance companies, taking depositions, or updating you on your case progression, the fee is roughly the same, a percentage of your settlement amount or court awarded amount. This is called a “contingency fee.” Hence, personal injury lawyers wait to deposit their fee until you agree to a fair amount for your medical costs, loss of income, and a “pain and suffering” compensation.

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What Is the Contingency Percentage?

The contingency fee percentage can vary from around 25 percent to 40 percent, with 33.33 percent as the average around the US. Therefore, if you have a contingency fee agreement that stipulates that your lawyer receives the typical 1/3 of your award, and you receive $100,000 for your injuries.

In this hypothetical case, your attorney would earn $33,330. Should the other party (usually, the insurance company) not want to settle the case out-of-court and wins in the court trial, you often owe your lawyer nothing. Get your “math hat” on for a moment. 1/3 of $ zero dollars is still zero.

Some states also have graduated percentages depending on the different stages of your case. For instance, assume the other party settles your case quickly, offering a fair amount early on after your lawyer files suit. A state with this policy may reduce your percentage owed, to balance the amount of work the attorney did with the lawyer compensation.

Since you will have about the same contingency percentage with newer lawyers as with experienced personal injury attorneys, with an impressive track record of victories for plaintiffs (you), you might as well hire the best of the best. Some of the best personal injury lawyers are good, hard negotiators, while others are outstanding litigators (trial attorneys) and would rather convince a jury to award the most dollars to injured parties.

What About Other Fees and Expenses?

Depending on the contract you sign, you might still be responsible court fees if your case goes to trial. There may be other litigation costs for which you may be responsible if the contract you sign with your attorney provides for this. You should carefully read and understand the language in your contract.

For example, you want your lawyer out of the “net settlement,” which is the amount left after all case expenses are deducted, regardless of who paid them. If the lawyer you want to hire, says he/she wants to take their fee first, from the total settlement amount, tell him or her you cannot accept those terms. If the attorney considers this a “deal breaker,” tell the lawyer you’ll find a different lawyer.

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