How Do I Pay a Car Accident Lawyer?
When a potential client visits a personal injury lawyer on an initial consultation, that attorney assesses the situation and seeks to identify three foundational elements that will contribute to the success of the case:
- Damages, and
If all three get checked off, there’s a likelihood of obtaining compensation for the client’s damages and a good chance that the personal injury lawyer will take that potential client’s case.
The Victim’s Dilemma
The average person involved in an auto, truck, motorcycle, bus, or pedestrian accident doesn’t ordinarily have a wealth of disposable income. In fact, many people involved in accidents are forced to stretch just to pay the out-of-pocket expenses such as insurance co-pays, prescription costs, health care provider visits, and alternate transportation. Beyond that, how is a seriously injured victim supposed to come up with a retainer fee for an experienced car accident lawyer when he or she is expected to be out of work for months after surgery and/or rehab? The solution to that potential client’s dilemma is a contingency fee agreement. If a car accident attorney sees liability, damages and insurance, he or she is likely to undertake the representation of an injury victim on a contingency fee basis whereby that attorney retains a percentage of any sums derived from a settlement or verdict. If no settlement or verdict results, the attorney earns no fee. That keeps an attorney motivated.
When a client retains a lawyer on a contingency fee basis, he or she signs off on a written retainer agreement that specifies the percentage to be paid. Different attorneys use different contingency fee percentages. Some will take 25 percent if litigation isn’t necessary. Others will take one-third, while some might go as high as 40 percent if litigation is required. Some contingency fees are even regulated pursuant to state statutes. Don’t always shy away from personal injury lawyers charging higher contingency fees. They may be worth the higher premium. Do your homework, though.
When the check from a settlement or verdict is written, both the attorney and the client will appear as payees on it. The client signs off on the check, and the attorney deposits it in his or her client trust account. When funds transfer from the insurance company’s bank to the lawyer’s bank, a separate check in the appropriate net proceeds amount from that bank is delivered to the client.
Another advantage for a car accident client who retains a personal injury lawyer on a contingency fee basis involves the costs of pursuing a claim or lawsuit. For example, it costs money to obtain copies of medical records, bills and reports. The filing fee alone for a lawsuit will be several hundred dollars. The attorney ordinarily advances such costs, and when the case is concluded, he or she is reimbursed from the settlement or verdict proceeds.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions during an initial consultation with your lawyer about how contingency fees and costs work, and don’t conclude anything on a handshake. You’re entitled to copy of any contingency fee agreement that you enter into. Be sure not to leave without one. A reputable law firm won’t ask you for a penny on a car accident case until such time as there’s a settlement or a verdict.Categories: