Cost is always a concern when someone is looking for a lawyer. You want to claim the largest settlement possible, but what is the point if most of that goes to paying legal fees? Before looking for an personal injury lawyer for your personal injury claim, it is best to develop your understanding of how much it costs to hire a lawyer.
Personal Injury Lawsuits Are Complex
If you think you can handle your personal injury claim, you are wrong. Consult a personal injury lawyer. Anyone who has suffered severe injuries due to someone else's negligence should hire a lawyer.
Personal injury cases are very complex, primarily when multiple parties can be held liable. And, without a lawyer working the case for you, the chances of recovering the maximum possible settlement drop dramatically.
Do You Need a Personal Injury Lawyer?
In instances where another party’s negligence only caused you minor injuries or property damage, the thought of hiring a lawyer may seem unnecessary. In some cases, this is true. You do not always need a personal injury lawyer.
Whether you should hire one or not depends on your specific circumstances. For example, if you do not have the time to complete all of the legal activities involved with filing a claim, hire a lawyer, even for minor cases. Though, if you do not think you need to take legal action, you can just accept what the at-fault party's insurance company has offered you.
Either way, you can always benefit from sitting down with one or several lawyers to discuss the details of your case. They will let you know if they think hiring a lawyer is a good idea, but even if they suggest you hire them, you are not obligated to work with them if you do not want to. Just use the sit-downs as opportunities to learn more about your options and build a deeper understanding of the circumstances of your claim.
Most Personal Injury Lawyers Work On Contingency
Hiring a lawyer is not cheap, but you usually will not need to pay them upfront. This is because most personal injury lawyers charge a contingency fee. With contingency fee agreements in place, lawyers only accept payment if they successfully win you a settlement through the claim they file for you.
Contingency agreements are helpful because many people cannot afford to pay a lawyer upfront. Even paying lawyers hourly can be out of reach for the average American. When you think about the many steps involved in a personal injury claim and the potential that you may have to take the case to trial, contingency may be the only way you can afford legal representation.
How contingency fees work?
Contingency fees are usually a flat percentage of any settlement you win in your claim. The exact rate varies across law firms.
If your lawyer can win a much larger settlement, the cost of hiring them on contingency will pay off.
Sometimes lawyers will create fee contracts that offer different fees depending on when your claim resolves. This is a sliding scale contract. With a sliding scale option, the agreement will require you to pay less if your case reaches its resolution before costly interactions like negotiations or trials occur. For example, if you sign a sliding scale agreement and the opposing party settles after receiving the first demand letter, the lawyer did less work and may expect to be paid less.
Sliding Scale Options
The opposite also applies. If your case becomes complicated and you must go to trial, the lawyer may bump up their contingency fee to compensate for the additional time and work they need to put into the case. Make sure you know how the sliding scale works before you sign a contract specifying it. Otherwise, you may not get the compensation you wanted.
Is a Contingency Fee Worth It?
When choosing whether or not you should hire a lawyer on a contingency basis, you need to consider all of the factors at play. Of course, you can work on the claim yourself to save money, but will this result in your recovering the largest settlement possible? If the insurance company has already denied your claim, probably not. So it makes sense to hire a lawyer instead.
But then you need to think about the value of those legal services. Is it worth giving up 20 to 40 percent of your claim’s total worth? Usually, it is, but here is a little more reasoning and detail.
If a lawyer can boost the total compensation above the offer you received, hire them. For example, if your lawyer believes they can win you a settlement that is 30 percent higher than the offer you received and their fee is only 25 percent of the settlement, hire them.
You may negotiate with a lawyer to reduce their contingency fee, but this is not always an option. Still, consider asking them if you can pay hourly rather than on a contingency plan, and you may save on some costs. Of course, this is only an option if you have the funds to pay them for their services upfront.
Lawyers are often worth their cost, but you should not hire one if it does not benefit you. While it usually does, it is your responsibility to ensure that you are not engaging with a lawyer that reduces your total net compensation lower than what you will have gotten without a lawyer.
How Do Costs Relate to Lawyer Fees?
Costs are things that your lawyer must pay to progress the claims filing process. For example, if there is a fee to collect medical records, that fee is considered a cost. Likewise, hiring expert witnesses may come at a cost as well. These costs are often deducted from the total compensation before lawyers calculate their contingency fees, but if they are not, the entire settlement you receive will be lower, and the lawyer will collect more.
This is not inherently bad, but you should not go into a personal injury case not knowing this. Consider this example. A lawyer charges you a 40 percent contingency fee, and your case wins $24,000 in total compensation, but there were $4,000 in additional costs.
If your lawyer does not deduct these costs from the total, your lawyer will receive a $6,000 fee from your settlement, and you will get $14,000. The lawyer subtracting the expenses will result in them getting a $5,000 fee and you getting $15,000. But if the initial settlement offer was for $8,000 and your medical bills topped $9,000, your lawyer more than paid for themself.
More about costs
A lot of the time, standard costs will be stated in any agreement you sign with your lawyer. Often, court filing, long-distance calls, and copying incur additional fees. Other costs that can arise may not be as essential but still costly. Therefore, you must ensure your lawyer defines any costs you might need to pay throughout the trial. If you don't, you may be surprised when your final compensation is smaller than you expected.
What to Do Before Filing Your Claim?
If you have not yet filed your personal injury claim, speak to a lawyer to start organizing your claim. Even if the cost does not seem manageable upfront, many lawyers are willing to work with you on a contingency basis. This helps people who can otherwise not afford a lawyer because it allows them to pay the fees once the case is over.
Do not just let a lawyer file your claim without providing you with some information first, though. Have them assess the total value of your claim so you can understand how much money you can potentially win and how much of that money you will need to pay at the end of the process. Think about other factors, such as costs and sliding scale options.
Remember, the costs might come from the settlement before your lawyer assesses any fees, and that will increase the amount you get in total compensation. Yet, you can offset this increase if you signed up for sliding scale pricing and the case went on longer than expected.
How Do You Pay Contingency Fees?
You may think that you have to pay your contingency fees to your lawyer once the other party has settled the claim, but that is typically not how it works. Instead, your lawyer will collect a portion of your settlement directly from the insurance company or other defendant. After they do this, the lawyer should provide you with specifics about how much money they withheld and why they claimed the money.
If you feel something is out of place when you receive your final check, speak to your lawyer about it. If you think someone has cheated you, there are processes you can follow to rectify the issue.
Find Lawyers With Acceptable Fees
Find a balance between cost and effectiveness when choosing a lawyer. Sometimes you get what you pay for an incredibly cheap lawyer may not effectively handle your case.
On the other hand, more expensive lawyers may charge premiums because they know they can win large settlements. Yet, if they do, what they obtain for you may more than cover their contingency costs.
The best way to find that balance is to seek lawyers who provide transparent pricing and are upfront about their capacity. A well-priced, experienced, and established lawyer can help you achieve your legal goals. To speak to one today, use the contact form on this page.