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How Much Do Car Accident Attorneys Charge?

All personal injury lawyers-including car accident attorneys-generally charge clients in one of two ways: contingency fees or hourly billing rates. This article explains both of these fees.

Contingency Fees for Auto Accident Injury Claims

With a contingency fee, you only pay your auto accident attorney is able to get money on your behalf from the person responsible for the accident (or his or her insurance company). If the attorney cannot win or settle your case, then you pay no legal fees.

Contingency fees are usually calculated as a percentage of the total settlement or judgment. Some lawyers will take a percentage of the gross award (i.e., before expenses are deducted), others will take a percentage of the net award (i.e., after expenses are deducted).  Percentages vary from region to region, and you may be able to negotiate and get your car accident lawyer to accept a lower percentage rate. Any negotiations should take place before you agree to hire the attorney.

If you win money, you'll also be responsible for reimbursing your attorney for any expenses incurred on your behalf. Often attorneys working on contingency will waive expenses if they are unable to successfully settle or win your case.

The advantage of contingency fee arrangements is that you pay nothing if the attorney cannot win or settle your case. Since both you and your attorney will benefit financially, your attorney is also motivated to secure the largest possible settlement or judgment.

There is one primary disadvantage of contingency fee arrangements. If your attorney is able to settle the case with very little effort, you may feel as if the attorney did not completely earn his or her fee.

It's also important to remember that you'll be responsible for paying the lawyer's fee and expenses even if that ultimately leaves you with an amount that's less than all of your medical expenses and car repair or replacement costs.

Hourly Rates for Auto Accident Claims

Sometimes attorneys will offer to take an auto accident case for an hourly fee. This means you pay the attorney for every hour he or she works on your case, regardless of whether you get money from the party responsible for your auto accident. Even if you cannot settle your case or do not win in court, you will still have to pay your legal bill.

It is uncommon for car accident attorneys to charge their clients an hourly bill rate. This means that if an attorney offers to represent you for an hourly rate, you may not have a strong case. You'll probably want to think twice about whether you need to hire attorney for your car accident claim or if you should just take the insurance company settlement and be satisfied.

Selecting Among Car Accident Attorneys

When speaking to contingency-fee car accident attorneys, there are a few important pieces of information that will help you evaluate each attorney:

  • What percentage of your settlement or judgment is paid to the attorney? Is this percentage taken from the gross award or the net award?
  • What size settlement or judgment does the attorney think he or she could get? Is this amount in line with the estimates of other car accident attorneys you've met?
  • How much does the attorney expect to spend in expenses? Does this expense estimate seem realistic compared to the estimates of other car crash lawyers?
  • How much would you realistically receive after the attorney's fees and expenses are deducted?