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How Much Does a Car Crash Attorney Cost?

When you're injured in a car crash that's someone else's fault, it's natural to think about hiring a lawyer to help you recover money to pay for your medical bills, damage to your vehicle, and pain and suffering. But if you've never before hired a lawyer, you may be wondering how much a car crash attorney costs. This article explains how car crash injury attorneys bill for their time.

Two Types of Legal Fees

By far, most car crash lawyers charge their clients a contingency fee, which means you only pay the lawyer if you win a cash judgment or settlement. Some car accident attorneys, however, will charge an hourly fee for their time.

Contingency Fees in Car Crash Litigation

Personal injury lawyers who represent car crash victims most commonly charge contingency fees. When hiring a lawyer on contingency, there are a few things you should know:

  • You will pay the lawyer a percentage of any money he or she recovers on your behalf
  • Percentages vary from region to region, and you can try to negotiate a lower percentage before agreeing to hire a car crash lawyer
  • While working on your case, the lawyer will also incur other expenses; you'll reimburse him or her for these expenses if you get a financial settlement or judgment
  • You should find out whether the attorney's contingency fee comes from the gross award (i.e., before expenses are deducted) or the net award (i.e., after expenses are deducted)

There are a couple of advantages to contingency fee arrangements. Because a personal injury attorney also stands to benefit, he or she has an incentive to get the maximum possible award on your behalf. In addition, you will not have to pay any legal fees if your case is ultimately unsuccessful. (Most contingency fee attorneys will waive the expenses if they're unable to win your case.)

Hourly Fees in Car Accident Litigation

Although contingency fees are much more common in cases involving car accidents, attorneys may tell you that they will take your case for an hourly fee. In this case, you'd pay the attorney for every hour he or she works on your case, plus pay for his or her expenses, regardless of whether you win or lose the case.

If an car crash attorney offers to represent you on an hourly fee, you should take that as a sign that he or she doesn't think your case can be won or that your case would not be financially lucrative. In fact, you should feel comfortable asking, "Do you represent other car crash victims on contingency fee? Do you think I have a weak case?" The attorney's answers may cause you to think twice about your case.

Paying a Car Crash Attorney

Theres one thing that's important to remember when it comes to contingency fees or hourly billing rates. There is no guarantee that a lawyer will be able to get a settlement or judgment that meets or exceeds the cost of your medical bills and of repairing or replacing your car and that also compensates you for your pain and suffering. Even if the award is less than the total cost of those bills, you'll still have to pay your attorney's fees and expenses.

Before selecting a lawyer, ask him or her to walk you through a hypothetical settlement. How much could you reasonably expect to win or settlement your case for? How much would you pay in legal fees? How much would you pay in expenses? How much could you reasonably expect to be left with? You then need to decide if the attorney's estimates are reasonable and realistic.