While getting into a car accident may be the last thing on your mind, it is the reality for thousands of Georgians each year. Of course, after a serious injury, your immediate concern is probably to receive appropriate medical care as quickly as possible. However, concerned family and friends might soon ask, “Have you contacted a car accident lawyer yet?”
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, the idea of hiring a lawyer can seem like only an additional stress and financial burden to add to an already challenging situation. But how much do car accident lawyers actually cost? Are they really worth it?
In short, you can receive legal services without any risk to you, regardless of your financial situation, thanks to the contingency fee arrangement many lawyers offer.
Why a Contingency Fee Arrangement Is Better Than Hourly Fees
Some lawyers charge an hourly fee for their work. As the hourly rate can be in the hundreds of dollars, such lawyers will often require a retainer to be paid before work is started.
For example, if a lawyer charges an hourly fee of $300, he or she may require an initial retainer of $3000 for the first 10 hours of work. This ensures that the client has the financial means to pay the lawyer for his or her services.
However, especially in the case of personal injury, using a retainer system would put injury victims at a disadvantage. For example, imagine a case that would require 100 hours of work where the victim would be required to pay $30,000 upfront before even recovering any amount of compensation for his or her injuries. This would put lower- and middle-income families at a disadvantage, with many being unable to afford quality legal representation.
Instead, most car accident lawyers work on a “contingency fee” basis. Instead of being charged upfront, the lawyer recovers payment at the end, once a settlement has been made. Often, this payment is a percentage of the final settlement, instead of a fixed amount.
Rather than adding more financial stress to a client who is likely already struggling, a contingency fee agreement enables him or her to hire an accident lawyer regardless of financial status. You should feel empowered, not burdened.
In addition, contingency fees are dependent on the victim recovering compensation. So the lawyer is only paid if and when a settlement is recovered for the client. If the case fails, there is no charge.
Additional Legal Fees and Costs Involved in a Car Accident Case
In addition to the payment a law firm receives for representing a client, there are a number of other legal fees that are involved in car accident cases. Many of these legal fees can vary depending on factors such as if the case goes to court, how complicated it is, and how many parties were involved.
The majority of car accident cases are settled before going to court. Court proceedings are lengthy and costly, and insurance companies will often settle in order to avoid going to court. However, if a fair settlement cannot be made and the case makes it to court, there may be some additional costs.
These court costs can include daily stipends for jury members, as well as any filing and documentation fees that may be charged by the court.
Expert witness costs
Your lawyer may determine that your car accident case would benefit from the testimony of an expert witness. This could be a medical doctor, accident reconstruction specialist, or another professional who can help strengthen your case.
The amount of expert witness fees will depend on who or how many are used, as well as how extensive a testimony is required.
Depositions are an important step in a car accident case. During a deposition, a legal team has the opportunity to learn the facts of a case and gather testimony that can strengthen the case before trial. Legal costs related to depositions can include the cost to record the session as well as travel expenses for those involved.
Many records that are necessary in a car accident case are not free to obtain. Administrative costs related to a car accident case can include the costs to obtain, print, and file essential documentation such as police reports or medical records.
Take the Time to Know Your Contract
Before signing any agreement with a potential car accident lawyer, take time to understand the contract thoroughly. Georgia has specific contingency fee laws specifying how payment must be arranged and what information should be involved in the contract.
Feel free to ask questions and make sure you understand what is and isn’t included in the arrangement, as well as what to expect of the legal process ahead of you. A good lawyer will not pressure you to sign anything which you disagree or do not understand.
Some questions that you can ask about the contract include:
- What is the contingency fee?
- Does the fee change if a settlement is not reached outside of court?
- What legal fees are not included in the contingency fee?
- Will I need to front the costs for any additional legal fees, or will the firm pay an advance?
- How will I be kept up to date on the amount of legal costs that are being incurred?
Asking these questions and any others you may have can help you feel at ease and comfortable, leaving no surprises for later.
Why Working With a Lawyer is Worth the Cost
While a contingency fee arrangement benefits a potential client, it still means that a portion of the compensation would be paid out to the law firm. The question arises, “Would I end up with a larger settlement amount if I saved the contingency fees and handled the case myself?”
With or without a car accident lawyer, it is impossible to guarantee what a final settlement amount will be. However, injury victims who work with personal injury lawyers recover a higher settlement amount than those who handle the case themselves, time and again. This becomes even more true with larger cases involving severe injuries.
Imagine an injury victim who chooses to represent himself and is able to recover a settlement amount of $20,000 from the insurance company. However, based on the circumstances of his accident and after examining all of his damages, a personal injury lawyer would have been able to recover a settlement of $40,000.
If the lawyer charged a contingency fee of 33.3 percent, the client would still net a larger amount by working with an attorney, without the added stress and time of handling the case himself.
Accident Victims and Car Accident Lawyers Are on the Same Side
While paying car insurance is mandatory, it is also something that gives us peace of mind. Even though we hope to never have to file an accident claim, knowing that we have coverage in the case of an accident helps us feel at ease.
Unfortunately, for most people who have made an insurance claim after suffering an injury in a car accident, recovering fair compensation is not as easy as they would like.
Insurance companies, like any other business, look for ways to reduce costs. For an insurance company, every dollar that is spent on a settlement is a cost that can be reduced. In reality, your best interests are often in conflict with the best interests of the insurance company.
A contingency fee arrangement means that car accident attorneys and injury victims are on the same side in two ways: (1) they want to settle as fast as possible, while (2) recovering the maximum amount of compensation available.
Recover a fair amount of compensation
The majority of car accident victims face mounting medical bills while being unable to work for an extended amount of time. Some cannot return to the same industry or to any profession from then on. All of this results in financial stress which should be compensated.
Since a contingency fee arrangement means that a car accident lawyer is paid a percentage of the final settlement amount, there is no incentive for a lawyer to settle a case for much less than the client is owed.
Resolve the case in a reasonable time
For many, a personal injury lawsuit is a necessary step in order to move on with their lives. While injury victims deserve to be compensated for their losses, cases that take years to resolve can tire out victims and their families while adding to the financial stress they are experiencing.
True, some cases take longer than others, depending on the specific circumstances. At times, however, when a lawyer is paid an hourly fee, there is the concern that he or she may spend more time than necessary on a case in order to increase the payment amount.
This potential conflict of interest is avoided with a contingency fee agreement. When working on a contingency fee basis, the final payment corresponds to the settlement amount, rather than the amount of time the case takes, removing any incentive for a car accident lawyer to drag out a case for longer than necessary.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, the team at Hoffspiegel Law is here to help. We want to see you get fast results and make use of our contingency fee policy. Call us at 404-760-8600 to schedule a free consultation.