Finding yourself involved in a car accident can be scary, stressful, and overwhelming. The moments immediately following the crash are vital to any personal injury claim you wish to file against the at-fault driver.
One of the most important steps you can take following a car accident is to speak with a car accident lawyer. An experienced lawyer can make all the difference when fighting for compensation after suffering an injury. However, you might be concerned about the cost of hiring a lawyer. Explore that and more in today’s blog post.
What Steps to Take if You Were Involved in a Car Accident?
Getting into a any accident can be a stressful situation and you need to make sure you are getting what’s owed to you from your claim. Reaching out to an experienced car accident lawyer is a great first step.
Most Car Accident Lawyers Work on a Contingency Fee Basis
When you begin searching for a car accident lawyer, be sure you only consult with ones who work on a contingency fee basis. If a car accident that you didn’t cause injured you, a contingency fee agreement is strongly preferred and almost always in the client’s best interests. A lawyer should typically not ask you to pay an hourly rate or a fee upfront to secure the attorney’s services.
What Is a Contingency Fee?
You only pay a contingency fee to an attorney if your case recovers compensation. For example, you agree with the attorney when you sign them as your representative as to how much money they will get should you prevail on your claim. You agree on a percentage of the award you win via settlement or jury award if the case goes to trial, and the attorney gets that percentage of the total recovery.
Typical Contingency Fee Percentage
In many car accident cases, the contingency fee percentage ranges from 25 to 40 percent of the total award you receive. Most contingency fees fall at around 33 percent. This means that if a jury awards you $100,000, or you settle for that amount with the at-fault party, your attorney will receive $33,000, and you will receive $67,000 of the $100,000, though you may have to pay any outstanding liens, costs, or medical providers who have not yet been paid. These percentages vary, and a lawyer should explain how their fee structure works.
If that seems like a lot to pay a lawyer, consider that you are unlikely to get full value (or anything close) for your claim without the knowledge, expertise, and advocacy of someone who understands the industry and how much your claim is likely worth. In our experience, most insurance companies significantly increase their settlement offers once the claimant has an attorney. Having an attorney also helps you avoid being taken advantage of and accepting thousands less than your claim is worth. For those reasons, it is critical to have a personal injury attorney representing you in a car accident claim.
Request Clarity About the Contingency Fee
Be sure you request clarification from the car accident lawyer about the contingency fee if you are unsure how it works. Review the contract sent to you by the attorney and determine if the contingency fee is fair for you and your family.
You might negotiate a lower contingency fee percentage if the case is pretty cut and dried based on fault, the other driver has high auto insurance coverage levels, and plenty of evidence backs your claim against the other driver.
What Are The Expenses of a Car Accident Case?
Even though a contingency fee means you do not have to pay the attorney up front, you will still incur expenses when dealing with a car accident case. You might have to pay court fees and other upfront costs based on the lawyer you choose and the contract you sign with them.
Additional fees you might be responsible for:
- Court reporter fees
- Obtaining medical records and bills
- Acquiring the police report
- Postage fees
- Fees for photocopying documents
- Fees to retain expert witnesses
- Fees for creating trial exhibits
- Fees for transcripts and depositions
- Investigator fees
Some car accident lawyers require their clients to pay all of the above-mentioned fees out of their own pockets when they are due. If you cannot pay these fees, they may place your case on hold until you can pay the fees. However, Varner Faddis Elite Legal does not require clients to pay these costs up front from their own funds.
Some personal injury firms will cover the costs of these fees for their clients upfront. The firm will collect payment for these fees by taking it out of the award you secure from the jury or the settlement you agree to with the defendant.
Be sure to agree to terms where the personal injury lawyer takes the fees out of the net settlement. The net settlement remains after subtracting all the expenses for the car accident case.
For example, if your attorney accrued $5,000 in expenses and fees, they will bill this on top of the $33,000 they get from your award, for $38,000 total.
Other Car Accident Fee Arrangements
Some car accident lawyers will request a retainer at the start of the relationship and then a contingency fee percentage of your award or settlement. If this is the arrangement you agree to with your lawyer, the lawyer should receive the final cost from the contingency fee minus the retainer. So, for example, if they are to receive $33,000 from a $100,000 settlement and you already paid a $3,000 retainer, they should only receive $30,000.
The other fee arrangement available for a car accident case is that of the flat fee arrangement. The flat fee arrangement is uncommon except in simple cases. A simple car accident case involves one where your lawyer only has to send or answer a demand letter on your behalf. Fees for this type of car accident case typically range from $300 to $1,000 depending on locale and other factors.
What Is the Cost of Not Hiring a Car Accident Lawyer?
As you weigh the pros and cons of hiring a car accident lawyer, let’s explore the cost of not hiring a lawyer.
The most significant disadvantage of not hiring a car accident lawyer is that you typically receive far less money than if an attorney represents you.
Attorneys know the ins and outs of the law, how to secure evidence, which expert witnesses to testify on your behalf, and how to write demand letters that receive strong responses from the insurance companies. This usually results in higher settlement offers, and represented accident victims regularly take home more – even after legal fees – than those without attorneys.
You put yourself at a major disadvantage when you represent yourself in a car accident case. Lawyers know what it takes to get the most out of insurance companies and know the signs of their tactics when they make lowball offers to accident victims. It costs you nothing for an initial consultation with a car accident lawyer.
Do I Need a Car Accident Lawyer?
Yes, especially if you suffered severe car accident injuries – plus, you increase the chances of securing maximum compensation when you have a lawyer represent you following a car accident. Even if your injuries are minor, a car accident lawyer can make it easy for you to deal with the stress of a car accident so you can focus on recovering from your injuries, and can still often get you more money than you could have obtained on your own.
That the attorney can handle all communication with insurance companies, lienholders, the police, and other lawyers should make you want to hire one. Removing that stress from your life can make a world of difference as you fight to heal and for compensation.
When you have a car accident lawyer represent you, you will not have to deal with the insurance adjuster directly, and you ensure that you will not miss any important filing deadlines or need to deal with the defendant’s lawyer by yourself.
Ultimately, it is your decision whether or not you want a lawyer to represent you after being injured in a car accident. However, protect yourself and your rights by hiring an attorney so you do not miss out on full compensation for your injuries.
Questions to Ask a Car Accident Lawyer During an Initial Consultation
As you begin searching for a car accident lawyer, you need to ask the right questions. Be sure to consult with more than one personal injury lawyer so you can make an informed decision for your case.
The questions you must ask during the consult include:
- What information do you need from me?
- Are there deadlines to meet?
- How long will it take to resolve my case?
- How do you handle communication with clients?
- What can you do for me and my case?
- What are the damages that I can recover if I win?
- Can you assist in the recovery of future medical expenses?
- What should I do if the insurance company offers to settle with me?
- Will my car accident case wind up going to trial?
- What is the cost of hiring you as my attorney?
- What can I do to improve the chances of the success of my case?
- Will you be the point person working on my case?
- Do you believe that I have a strong case?
- What type of fee arrangement will you require?
Damages You Can Claim in a Car Accident Case
Damages refer to the monetary compensation you can recover in a car accident case.
Damages can encompass a multitude of compensation categories, including:
- Pain and suffering
- Medical expenses
- Rehabilitative expenses
- Lost wages and benefits
- Renovation expenses (if you have to make your home wheelchair accessible due to paralysis)
- Cost of a rental car
- Loss of earning capacity
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of the enjoyment of your life
- Loss of companionship
- Disability and/or disfigurement
Recovering Punitive Damages
Not every car accident case will result in the plaintiff recovering punitive damages. The law intends for punitive damages to punish the defendant in the case for their egregious actions or inaction that led to the accident and deter them from making the same mistake again.
Courts sometimes award punitive damages, which can be in the millions depending on the severity of your injuries and the circumstances of the case. A car accident lawyer can determine if the case can lead to punitive damages.
Filing a Car Accident Claim
Here are some of the main steps to take to start your claim.
Contact a Car Accident Lawyer as Soon as Possible
One of the first steps in filing a car accident claim after seeking medical care is contacting a car accident lawyer. You need to consult with a lawyer and choose one as soon as possible because you have a limited time to file a claim. You do not want to miss the statute of limitations. If you do, the court will likely dismiss your case and you will not recover compensation.
Document What Happened in the Crash
Do your best to document what happened in the crash.
To do this, you or your lawyer can:
- Obtain the police report
- Collect the name and contact information of the other driver
- Collect the names and contact information of all of the witnesses
- Take pictures of your injuries
- Obtain copies of your medical records
- Take pictures of the damage to your cars
Allow Your Lawyer to Conduct an Accident Investigation
A car accident lawyer should have no problem conducting an accident investigation, which will include:
- Interviewing witnesses
- Reviewing the police report
- Reviewing your medical records
- Estimating your economic damages
- Consulting doctors
- Developing a strategy for the case based on the facts and evidence available
Negotiate With the At-Fault Party for a Possible Settlement
The next step in the car accident claim process is for your lawyer to negotiate a possible settlement with the defendant. Experienced lawyers will do their best to reach a settlement agreement with the other party for their client. However, if the lawyer and the client are not satisfied with the amount of compensation, they will recommend going to trial.
Representing You in Court
Finally, the lawyer can represent you in court, arguing your case to a judge and jury so you receive the proper compensation.
Injured in a Car Accident? Call a Car Accident Lawyer Today
If you or a loved one suffered an injury in any car accident, it is in your best interest to speak with an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible. Securing legal representation increases your chances of recovering compensation for your injuries. Call a local car accident lawyer today for a free consultation about your case.