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How Much Does It Cost to Hire San Francisco Car Accident Lawyers?

If you’ve recently been involved in a car crash in the Golden Gate City that was someone else's fault, it may be time to talk to an attorney, especially if you’ve been injured. But if you’ve never hired one before, it’s natural to be curious about how much a lawyer might cost you. This article will explain how San Francisco car accident lawyers bill for their time.

Several factors can impact how much your total legal bill will be, including:

  • The lawyer’s billing method
  • The billing rate
  • Whether you receive a financial award and the amount of that award
  • The amount of legal expenses outside of the attorney’s time you will pay
  • How long it takes to resolve your case

Billing Methods San Francisco Car Accident Lawyers Use

In general, San Francisco auto accident lawyers bill their clients in one of two ways: Either with a contingency fee or an hourly rate. A third method of billing is called a flat fee in which one price covers all of the attorney’s time spent on your case. However, flat fees are rarely seen in cases involving traffic accidents.

With a contingency fee, you don’t pay your attorney until your case is resolved. Instead, you pay your lawyer a percentage of any financial award you receive, either at the end of a successful lawsuit tried in court or from an advantageous settlement.

Oftentimes, if you are unable to clinch a financial award, you do not owe your San Francisco traffic accident lawyer anything. But be sure to ask about this before you agree to hire a lawyer on contingency.

An hourly rate, also called an hourly fee is just as it sounds: You pay your lawyer by the hour for his work on your case. You owe this money whether you win or lose your lawsuit.

With the hourly fee, the longer it takes to get a resolution to your case, the more you may owe your lawyer. However, a more expensive lawyer who is experienced and knowledgeable may be able to get you a satisfactory settlement quickly, and therefore minimize the size of your legal bill. So don’t necessarily count an expensive lawyer out.

Whether they are in North Beach or the Mission, most personal injury lawyers (car accident lawyers are a subset of personal injury lawyers) work on contingency. If you’ve spoken with a few lawyers who prefer contingency fees but who’d rather not take your case, it may be a sign that you are unlikely to win.

If you still want to go ahead and hire a lawyer by the hour, make sure you discuss any possible pitfalls in your case.

Other Legal Expenses

Paying for a lawyer’s time is just one part of the legal bill. Even if you hire a lawyer who works on contingency, you will likely have to pay for other related legal expenses. This may include:

  • Court filing fees
  • Photocopying fees
  • The cost of hiring a medical expert
  • Travel-related fees

Some Questions to Ask

The more questions you ask, the better grip you will get on just how much money your lawyer will cost. Most San Francisco car accident lawyers are willing to meet with you for free in a meeting called an initial consultation. You should take advantage of this opportunity to determine whether this is the lawyer you want to represent you and to get some details about billing.

You may be able to negotiate a slightly different billing arrangement – such as lowering the percentage a contingency lawyer charges or seeing whether you can pay a different percentage as the case moves from negotiation to trial. But you can only suggest such changes before you hire someone. Once you have hired a San Francisco traffic accident attorney, it is too late to renegotiate billing fees.

As you go about interviewing prospective lawyers, consider asking these questions:

  • Do you charge a contingency fee or an hourly fee?
  • If you bill on contingency, what percentage of my award would you take?
  • Do you charge a different percentage if the case goes to court?
  • If I don’t receive an award, do I still owe you money?
  • If you bill by the hour, what is your rate? Is it negotiable?
  • What forms of payment do you accept?
  • What other expenses might I be charged? Can you give me an estimate for them?
  • How long do you foresee my case taking to get a resolution?

Ask the lawyers you meet to pencil out a scenario of how much money you might be awarded minus the lawyer’s fees and expenses.

Once you have the answers to these questions, you will have a much better idea of how much it costs to hire a San Francisco auto accident lawyer.