How Much Do Atlanta Car Accident Lawyers Cost?
More than 40,000 people die in auto accidents every year. According to Atlanta auto accident statistics, in a typical year, more than 50,000 auto accidents occur in Fulton County alone. Whether you live in Buckhead, Castleberry Hill or Virginia-Highland, if you are involved in an auto accident, you will want to hire a lawyer. Car accident lawyers can represent you in the event you suffer an injury.
You are probably wondering how much auto accident attorneys cost. There are a number of ways attorneys bill for their services, and it is important that you have a general understanding of each method.
Billing Methods of Atlanta Car Accident Lawyers
The following are some of the most common billing methods used by car accident attorneys. Make sure you ask your prospective attorney what billing method he or she uses prior to hiring him or her to represent you in your Atlanta auto accident case. Remember that you can negotiate legal fees; however, this must be done prior to actually hiring the attorney.
One method that Atlanta auto accident lawyers use to bill clients is known as the hourly rate. With the hourly rate, lawyers charge clients an hourly rate for the actual time the lawyers work on the case. This means that whether you win or lose the case, you will pay the lawyer for the actual time put into working on your case.
Usually, time is billed in either six- or 15-minute increments. This means that you will be charged for every six minutes the Atlanta car accident lawyer works on your case. This can influence how much you pay for an attorney. For example, if an attorney charges $400 an hour in six-minute increments, you'd pay $40 if the attorney spends five minutes writing an email. If that same lawyer charges $400 in 15-minute increments, you'd pay $100 if the lawyer only spends five minutes writing an email.
Various factors affect the amount of a lawyer's hourly rate. If you want a lawyer with more experience or one who went to a very respected law school, you should expect to pay a higher hourly rate, though this is not always true. Likewise, if the lawyer has a really good reputation, he or she will probably charge more. Sometimes, location plays a role in cost. If your lawyer has offices in the Buckhead area, he or she may charge a higher hourly rate than a lawyer who has offices in Chamblee.
Also, be prepared to pay for the Atlanta car accident lawyer's expenses. For example, if the lawyer needs to send a letter or make photocopies, you will be charged for these costs. The lawyer may ask you for a retainer, or upfront deposit, and will expect you to pay your bills on a regular basis, usually monthly.
For Atlanta car accident lawyers who use flat-fee arrangements, clients pay an agreed-upon rate up front. This type of fee is most commonly used for legal work that is very predictable and does not entail a lot of variables.
If your prospective lawyer uses the flat fee billing method, ask if you will have to pay any additional costs on top of the fee. For example, some attorneys will also bill you for court costs, such as filing fees. Additionally, ask when the fee must be paid, if you can pay in installments and whether this fee is refundable if you end up changing accident attorneys.
A contingency-fee arrangement is the type of billing method most frequently used for personal injury lawsuits like car accident cases. In this type of arrangement, you pay your Atlanta auto accident attorney a percentage of any award settlement you receive plus expenses. You pay no money up front and no money if the attorney is unable to collect money on your behalf.
You should always ask a lawyer who relies on a contingency fee whether the fee is calculated before or after other expenses are subtracted from the award. Also, percentages for such fees vary from attorney to attorney, but you may find most Atlanta car accident lawyers ask for approximately the same percentage.
Fee Advantages and Disadvantages
There are benefits and weaknesses in each type of fee arrangement. Which type of fee arrangement you think is best for you will depend in part upon the details of your case as well as your personal preference.
Hourly rates can climb pretty high if your auto accident case ends up stretching on for a while. However, if it does not, your fees could be relatively small. Because of the nature of the hourly rate, the total price of your lawsuit may be unpredictable, so it is advisable for you to provide your lawyer with a budget so he or she can get an idea of how much you are looking to spend in total.
The main benefit of a flat-fee arrangement is predictability. You know from the start how much your lawyer's fees are going to be. However, you have to have the money up front to take advantage of this type of fee arrangement. Additionally, if your accident case becomes bigger than originally expected, you may be charged more.
Finally, the contingency fee arrangement is beneficial for those who don't have a lot of disposable income to spend on an Atlanta car accident lawyer. This way you can devote any funds you have to paying your medical bills instead of your lawyer's fees. However, if the case is resolved quickly, you may feel as if the lawyer is getting a bigger paycheck than he or she deserves. If a lawyer does decide to take on your case on a contingency basis, it usually means you have a strong case.
Questions to Ask Atlanta Car Accident Lawyers
When you have your consultation with an attorney, remember to ask the following questions to better understand how they charge for their services:
- What type of fee arrangement do you use?
- What is the specific fee? If it's an hourly rate, what's the rate per hour? If it's a contingency fee, what's the percentage?
- What costs are not included in the fee?
- What is the estimated total cost of my case?
- What methods of payment do you expect, and what are the payment terms?
Once you understand the costs associated with your case, you'll be in a better position to make a hiring decision.