The cost of hiring a lawyer for a car accident claim varies depending on the fee arrangement and the state where the case takes place.
Various fee arrangements include contingency fees, hourly rates, and flat fees.
- Contingency fees basis: With this arrangement, the lawyer does not collect their fees until they win your settlement. It’s the most common fee arrangement in car accident claims and is usually a percentage of the payout agreed on beforehand. In New York State, personal injury cases are always on a contingency fee basis.
- Hourly fee basis: An attorney may also charge you hourly, where the rate depends on their certification, skills, and experience on similar cases (car accident claims, in this case). Under this arrangement, you often pay a retainer, which is kept in a client trust account. Then once they start working, they deduct their fees for the hours worked from the retainer.
- Flat fee basis: It’s rare for a car accident lawyer to charge you on a flat fee basis because they cannot tell from the get-go how long they will need to work on your case. However, as the term suggests, the arrangement involves charging a flat or fixed fee, which could vary depending on the case type and the estimated time it might take to resolve. This is common among criminal defense, uncontested divorce, and estate planning lawyers.
Generally, most personal injury attorneys charge their fees based on a contingency basis. Remember, in New York, this is always the fee arrangement. One main benefit of a contingency fee is that you are not responsible for legal fees if you don’t make a financial recovery in the case.
Understanding a Contingency Fee Agreement
You’ve probably read or heard this phrase “If we don’t win, you pay nothing in attorney fees.” Essentially, that’s what a contingency fee arrangement is all about. If the lawyer wins a judgment or secures a settlement on your behalf, you pay them a certain percentage of the amount awarded; if they lose, you don’t compensate them for their services.
The percentage for contingency fees can vary. Standard personal injury cases are a fee of ⅓ in New York, but medical malpractice cases have a sliding fee schedule. But you agree on the figure before they start representing you.
No matter the structure, understand it before signing the agreement, so you know how much you’ll owe the lawyer by the end of the process.
Benefits of Contingency Fee Agreements
A contingency fee basis remains the most popular arrangement in personal injury claims as it offers clients great flexibility.
Some of the benefits a contingent fee agreement might offer include:
- No upfront costs for counsel: The contingency fee structure does not require the client to pay up-front fees to access an attorney’s services. Following an accident, the piling up of medical bills and possible loss of wages while recuperating plunge many victims into financial hardships. Offering legal assistance with no upfront costs provides great financial relief to clients.
- Incentive: The fact that the attorney does not get paid unless they secure compensation motivates them to devote attention to your case, working hard and doing everything in their power to secure the best outcome possible.
- Minimal loss: If things don’t turn out as expected and the claim is unsuccessful, you don’t have to compensate the attorney for their time. The only loss you may potentially incur in case costs, which are usually minimal compared to the hefty attorney fees you would have to pay if they were working on an hourly fee arrangement.
- Substantial case merit: While hiring an attorney does not necessarily guarantee a win, lawyers prefer to take up cases with substantial merit. This is their way of ensuring they only invest their time and effort on claims whose grounds necessitate a settlement.
- Justice for all: Since clients are not required to pay attorney fees unless they win the case, this arrangement opens the door to legal assistance even to individuals who might not have afforded to hire legal services if there were initial costs involved. Some attorneys usually advance funds to cover the administrative costs and then deduct the expense from the settlement, which makes justice even more accessible.
Once you consult a lawyer and they agree to represent you on a contingency basis, it gives you peace of mind, as you don’t have to worry about their payment. As a result, you can focus on getting better, confident all the legal intricacies of the process are being handled professionally.
Other Costs for a Car Accident Claim
Besides the attorney’s fees, other costs associated with filing the claim include:
- Investigator fees
- Photocopying fees
- Postage fees
- Medical record copy expenses
- Police report retrieval costs
- Expert witness fees
- Court filing fees
- Process servers for summons and subpoenas
- Deposition, transcripts, and trial exhibit expenses
Even if you get an attorney who covers the above costs, they’re not part of their fees. These are primarily the client’s responsibility. Firms are not legally required to advance the funds to clients to meet the administrative costs, so it’s not guaranteed that the one you work with will have the arrangement in place. But if they do, they deduct the amount from the settlement together with their fee and give you the balance.
Is a Car Accident Lawyer Worth Their Cost?
Yes. Working with an experienced car accident lawyer is far better than representing yourself, despite the perceived cost savings. While engaging a lawyer does not guarantee a win, their experience increases your advantage of securing a far better outcome. Having a car accident attorney doubles or triples the payout you would receive if you represented yourself.
To understand this, let’s look at some benefits of hiring a car accident lawyer.
Protects Your Rights
The fact is that insurance companies are in business, and minimizing their losses from claims is a priority. They won’t mind paying you a low settlement if you accept their offer.
On the other hand, an attorney experienced in negotiating similar claims knows how much your case is worth and how to go about winning, if not higher, at least a fair amount. You can rely on their expertise to counter the adjuster’s seasoned negotiation skills and get you the compensation you deserve.
A lawyer leverages their experience to win you the maximum compensation possible. They understand how to gather the necessary evidence to support your claim. Since they have dealt with insurance adjusters before, they know which negotiation tactics work best.
Lawyers are also experienced in computing damages and determining the right amount to demand to get you a fair payout after negotiation. If you have serious injuries that may require continuous treatment, they work with the appropriate experts to help them estimate possible future medical costs and loss of earning capacity (where applicable). In other words, once they take up your case, they do everything possible to get you the maximum compensation possible.
Builds a Strong Case
The evidence establishes the at-fault party’s liability. One of the lawyer’s duties is to present evidence that proves beyond reasonable doubt that the offending party is liable for your damages. From recording eyewitness testimony, gathering scene evidence, e.g., CCTV footage of the accident, requesting police reports, compiling medical records, and interviewing expert witnesses, a lawyer leaves no stone unturned to collect the needed evidence and build a strong case to support the claim.
Manages Your Case
After a car accident, one is preoccupied with treatment and recovery. Despite the piling financial costs, commencing the legal process is usually the least of a patient or family’s concerns. Besides, with the complexities that involve the process, one is likely to hold it until they’re in the right mental shape to handle it.
In other cases, some people delay filing a claim, especially where they have suffered serious injuries, and fear that a quick compensation might leave them to pay for future medical needs out-of-pocket.
Hiring a lawyer takes the load off your shoulders, allowing you to focus on your treatment and recovery while being confident that someone has your back and is working to fight for your right to compensation. A lawyer knows the best time to commence the claim process and what damages to include in the demand letter based on your condition. They work closely with your health provider to ensure any future medical needs are captured and fairly compensated.
In a nutshell, a lawyer takes up the responsibility of managing your case, allowing you to concentrate on your treatment and recovery.
Get Specific Information on How Much Hiring a Car Accident Lawyer Costs in Long Island
If you or your loved one require a Long Island car accident lawyer, one of the top concerns on your mind right now might be how much they’re likely to charge you for their services. Thankfully, the contingent fee arrangement ensures anybody has access to effective legal counsel, regardless of their financial situation.
Additionally, the percentage is often negotiable based on case complexity and the timeframe.