There is no set amount that a lawyer can typically charge for a car accident claim. However, it’s common for most personal injury lawyers to follow a similar fee structure when working a case.
If you were hurt in a car accident (or another type of accident) caused by someone else, having an experienced lawyer can help your chances of being awarded the fullest compensation possible for your claim. Scheduling a free consultation with an attorney, like our team at John Foy & Associates, can give you a good idea of how a lawyer works and what their fee structure will look like.
How Contingency Fees Work
Thankfully, most car accident lawyers work on a contingency fee when charging for their services. This is unique to personal injury lawyers and makes the situation virtually “risk-free” for the client.
A contingency fee means the lawyer will not get paid by the client until they recover money in the case. Then, if they do recover money for the client, the lawyer is paid from either:
- A percentage of the settlement from a car accident claim or
- A portion of what’s awarded by a judge or jury in court
Contingency fees can be very beneficial because they help ensure the lawyer has your (as the client) best interests in mind. Bringing a great outcome in the case helps both parties because you have a good chance of financial recovery and your lawyer has a good chance of getting paid a portion of what they win. The lawyer is literally “contingent” on a favorable outcome in the injury case.
Average Contingency Fees for Accident Lawyers
You might think this all sounds well and good, but you’re still wondering how much lawyers charge for accident claims. The standard contingency fee for a car accident lawyer is between 33.3% to 40% of the settlement. The fee will vary depending on the lawyer’s specific guidelines and quality of services.
Many attorneys will use a sliding scale for their contingency fees based on when they get the case resolved. For example:
- If the case is resolved before the client needs to file a lawsuit, the fee will be closer to one-third of the settlement.
- If the client does need to file or a lawsuit or mediation or arbitration is required, the typical fee goes up to 40% to account for the additional time, money, and resources required.
According to the American Bar Association (ABA), getting more involved in your case can sometimes help reduce your overall costs—but this is something to discuss with your lawyer directly.
Flat Fees and Retainers
Although it’s rare, some personal injury lawyers may follow a different structure than the contingency fee. The alternatives are usually:
- Collecting a retainer or
- Working on a flat fee
If the lawyer requires a retainer, they may ask for a certain amount of money upfront and then collect a contingency fee at the end. If they win you money, the amount you already paid should be deducted from the percentage they take out of your settlement or award.
Another alternative fee structure is the flat fee. This is common with other types of lawyers, but not personal injury attorneys. Flat fees involve one set payment for the lawyer’s services. Some lawyers may offer payment plans, but there is still one set fee required.
Cases with very low complexity may be the only situations where a personal injury lawyer works on a flat fee, but again, it’s rare.
Other Costs Lawyers May Charge in Accident Claims
Although most lawyers don’t charge you an attorney fee until it’s taken out of whatever they win you, there are other fees often associated with accident claims. Those can include:
- Filing fees
- Expert witness or investigator fees
- Photocopying fees
- Costs of getting copies of medical records
- Postage fees
- Fees associated with depositions, transcripts, and trial exhibits
You might worry about your lawyer charging you for these fees, as well. Thankfully, most personal injury lawyers do not charge for extra fees and expenses as they come. They may cover those costs at the moment, then deduct them from your settlement or award at the end (like with the contingency fee).
Additional fees tend to be higher the longer your case goes on. You should ask questions about these fees during the consultation with your potential lawyers. Find out how these fees are handled if your case isn’t successful—and whether or not you’ll still be on the hook for them.
Fees Taken from Your Net Settlement
You will also need to ask your lawyer about whether or not their fee will be taken from your “net settlement.” The net settlement is how much is left over after case costs have been deducted. Most law firms do this, but some may try to increase what they get paid by deducting their fee first—before taking out additional fees—which would make their pay higher.