Car accident victims often worry an attorney will be too costly to represent them in an insurance claim or lawsuit seeking financial compensation for their injuries. Victims are already under a severe financial strain, facing extensive medical bills and lost time at work. The last thing they need is to add a new expense to their mounting debt.
The reality, however, is that anyone can afford a car accident attorney, even victims who have no money to spare. This blog will help you understand how payment for legal services works in car accident cases. Hopefully, this will ease your mind about calling an attorney to help pursue the money you need to pay your bills and get back to living your life.
What kind of lawyer do I need after getting hurt in a car accident?
Attorneys represent clients in many different areas of law. Their specialization and experience in a particular area make them effective. When clients face a legal issue, they should hire an attorney who practices within that specific legal area.
If you get hurt in a car accident, you need a car accident attorney. Car accident attorneys work in an area of the law known as personal injury, which involves pursuing money for people who suffer injuries from accidents. A car accident lawyer should have experience taking car accident cases to court and negotiating with insurance companies to settle claims for the maximum amount available.
Some lawyers advertise themselves as jacks-of-all-trades. They do a little bit of criminal defense work, some real estate work, and a little bit of personal injury work. Some of these lawyers can undoubtedly do an excellent job for car accident victims. However, an attorney who may not know that area of the law well may not be able to get you every dollar you need after an accident.
A lawyer with significant, current experience representing car accident victims is likely to have the necessary skills to reach a favorable result. Look for a lawyer with the resources to handle even the most complicated matters and a long track record of getting top-dollar car accident case results in and out of court. By choosing a lawyer with a track record of success, you give yourself the best chance at a fair settlement.
How much will a car accident lawyer ask me to pay upfront?
In most instances, nothing.
Reputable car accident attorneys offer a free consultation to anyone who wants to learn about their rights and options after getting hurt in a car accident. If an attorney tries to charge you a fee to consult with you about a potential car accident case, move on. You should never have to pay a fee to consult with a car accident lawyer, even if you decide not to hire them afterward.
Additionally, you should not have to pay up-front if the lawyer agrees to take your case. Car accident lawyers virtually always represent their clients on a contingency fee basis.
What is a contingency fee?
Not all lawyers can accept payment on a contingency basis. However, car accident cases are the most common to use this payment arrangement in California. A contingency fee is when a lawyer agrees to represent you with payment contingent upon results. If you recover compensation in your case, your lawyer will receive a predetermined percentage of that amount for their legal services. However, you will not be responsible for paying your lawyer for their services if your case is unsuccessful.
Contingency fees may sound too good to be true, but they are not. They are a financial arrangement that makes sense due to the circumstances of most personal injury cases. Many people avoid contacting a car accident attorney because they fear they will accrue a debt if their case is unsuccessful.
Personal injury lawyers understand the difficulties and financial challenges that car accident victims face. Working on contingency allows a lawyer to help a client fight for the compensation they may be eligible for under the law without the client worrying about payment.
What will I owe my attorney?
The amount of compensation to your attorney will depend on the amount agreed upon in your agreement. A lawyer will set their own contingency fee percentages, meaning they may vary. While the law does not cap a lawyer’s percentage of compensation, the California code states that attorney’s fees cannot be unconscionable. Whether fees are unconscionable will depend on several factors specified in the rules on fees for legal services under The State Bar of California.
Contingency fees can vary widely depending on the case involved and other factors. The stage at which a case settles can influence how much you will pay in legal fees, while the complexity of your case and the total amount of compensation you receive may also affect the percentage owed. Knowing your contingency fee for legal representation should be an expectation. You must go over your contingency fee agreement to understand how much your lawyer will receive in payment and under what circumstances if and when your case resolves.
What is a contingency fee agreement?
In California, any parties that enter into a contingency fee agreement must do so in writing under the law. The law indicates that both an attorney and their client must enter into a written agreement that includes notice of the percentage of compensation an attorney will charge.
The agreement must also inform the client of any other payment for services not related to the attorney’s fees they may be responsible for in the case. Both parties must sign the agreement at the outset of the attorney-client relationship, and both must receive a fully signed copy.
Contingency fee agreements can be long and contain fine print. They will specify the scenarios that may arise in your case and the amount due in each situation where you receive compensation. It is important to take your time to go over this agreement before signing to make sure you understand the details and ask any questions to the attorney before you sign.
Should I try to settle an insurance claim without an attorney?
Taking the action of trying to resolve a car accident insurance claim without a lawyer is a considerable risk. The worst-case scenario is that you cannot recover any compensation in your case.
Even under better circumstances, you may not settle your claim for the total damages you are eligible for under the law. Insurers know that most consumers do not know their rights under a policy or the law. If they can deny your claim or reduce your damages to as little as possible, they will do so. Insurance companies will feel no obligation to you. Even with your own insurance company, in a car accident claim, you are at risk of losing money in damages or exposing yourself as liable for the accident and becoming ineligible for compensation.
After a car accident where you are the victim of another party’s negligence, consult with a car accident attorney to seek representation in your case. Do not give the insurance companies and at-fault parties the upper hand. Hiring a car accident attorney protects your rights and interests throughout an insurance claim. Your lawyer can also pursue compensation by filing a lawsuit if it is necessary against the insurance company or the party at fault for your damages.
Is it worth it to hire a car accident lawyer?
The decision to hire an attorney can make or break your car accident case. Without an attorney, you can lose out on damages that significantly reduce the compensation you will ultimately receive. You can also face a claim denial that leaves you scrambling for a lawyer after the fact with the hopes you can still salvage your case and get some money for your losses.
It is best to hire a lawyer from the beginning of a case. A lawyer can step in at any time, but if they are part of your case from the outset, your interests and rights are under consideration and protection every step of the way. It might be too late to undo mistakes when you delay hiring an attorney or wait until problems arise in your claim. Waiting to contact a lawyer can cause unnecessary complications that lead to a longer wait for resolution or a higher likelihood your case will have to go to court.
Experiences of car accident victims show that in most cases, when a lawyer represents a victim in a car accident, the outcome is better than victims that choose to represent themselves. Hiring a lawyer can mean faster resolutions, higher amounts of compensation, less chance of denial, and more transparent and direct communications about your claim from insurers and other parties.
An analysis of risk and benefit will clearly show that a car accident victim is better off hiring a lawyer for their case. You have little to lose by engaging with a lawyer, but much to gain. Although you will need to pay a lawyer for their services, if you win, you are also likely to get much higher compensation than without one.
What does a car accident lawyer do in a car accident case?
To realize the benefits of hiring a lawyer, you must understand the actions a lawyer will commonly take to represent a client in a car accident insurance claim or lawsuit. The time and effort it takes to prepare an insurance claim and ensure you have the evidence you need to prove your losses can be overwhelming. A lawyer has the resources, experience, and time to work on your behalf to get you the best resolution possible after a car accident.
The duties of a car accident lawyer while representing you can include:
- Gathering evidence to build an insurance claim and your case
- Investigating the accident and discovering all parties that may be at fault
- Speaking to your medical providers to understand your injuries and the consequences of those injuries
- Calculating your damages to account for all current and potential future losses
- Negotiating a settlement agreement with the insurance company
- Representing you through a lawsuit if needed
- Maintaining an open line of communication to help you understand the timeline of your case, expectations, and any changes to the status of your case
The benefit of having a seasoned car accident injury lawyer by your side far outweighs any foreseeable cost. Contact a lawyer no matter where you are in the process, whether just injured in a car accident or dealing with an insurance company. Let these professionals take the legal burden off your shoulders and give you a better chance at recovering your losses.