This will be a brief discussion about the full and complete cost of pursuing a personal injury claim and hiring a car accident lawyer. We will discuss the 2 separate components that go into the full cost to hire a car accident lawyer.
If you are injured by a negligent driver in Georgia, and you retain the services of an experienced Atlanta car accident lawyer, you should understand fully – and be entirely comfortable with – the fees and the fee arrangement.
HOW CAN YOU KNOW IF YOU SHOULD HIRE AN INJURY LAWYER?
But if you’re injured by a negligent driver, how can you know whether or not to retain an attorney? You don’t know what an attorney will cost, and you won’t know if you’ll recover enough in compensation to make hiring an attorney worth it.
The first cost component is what is called attorney’s fees. Let’s discuss briefly what those are and how much you can expect to pay in attorney’s fees in a car accident case.
PRECISELY WHAT ARE ATTORNEY’S FEES?
An attorney’s fee is what you pay a lawyer for legal expertise and for the work that’s involved in bringing your personal injury claim to its best possible resolution.
Like the injury victim, the attorney may invest months in a case – and sometimes years – before seeing a result. The injury victim/client benefits from not paying the attorney by the hour and from not being billed monthly – like the clients, for example, in criminal cases or divorce cases.
WHAT IS A “CONTINGENT” FEE ARRANGEMENT?
In an auto accident case here in Georgia, the attorney’s fee is a “contingent” fee. This means payment is contingent on recovery, and the amount of the fee is contingent on the amount of the recovery.
The advantage of the contingent fee arrangement is that it aligns your interests with your attorney’s interests; if you win nothing, your attorney earns nothing. If you win the maximum available compensation amount, your attorney earns a higher fee.
What precisely is an attorney’s fee when a personal injury claim prevails? A number of factors are involved in arriving at that figure; for example, a case that goes to trial takes more work than a case that is settled out of court, so the cost will be higher.
IN PERSONAL INJURY CASES, IS THERE A “TYPICAL” ATTORNEY’S FEE?
But generally speaking, an attorney’s fee will range from a third of the recovery amount to about forty percent, although some attorneys have been known to charge even more in some cases.
The precise percentage that an injury victim will pay as an attorney’s fee will depend on how long it takes to resolve the claim and on how much work is actually involved.
Most people understand how a contingent fee agreement works, but again, only the attorney’s fee is a contingent fee, and the attorney’s fee is only the first component of the full cost of pursuing a personal injury claim and retaining an accident attorney.
The second component of the entire cost of hiring a car accident attorney is the component that often gets lost in the discussion due to the popular misconception about what it costs to hire an accident lawyer. It’s a misperception that’s been created, at least in part, by the many lawyer commercials that we’ve all seen so often on television.
WHAT GETS LEFT OUT OF THE TELEVISION ADS FOR LAWYERS?
What the attorneys on the television commercials say about hiring an attorney is true, but they leave out an important element that will need to be explained more fully.
The injury lawyers on television commercials usually say something like, “There’s no fee unless you win. You don’t owe us anything unless we recover something for you out of your injury case.” That’s technically true, as far as it goes, but it’s not “the whole truth.”
What you need to know – especially if you are an injury victim seeking an accident lawyer’s advice and representation – is that what is called “attorneys’ fees” are only the first part of what it costs to hire an accident attorney.
WHAT IS THE SECOND PART OF THE COST OF HIRING AN INJURY ATTORNEY?
After an attorney’s “fee” is considered, the second component of an injury client’s full costs is the attorney’s “expenses,” and this is the part that many people do not quite understand – and the part that isn’t explained by the lawyers in the television commercials.
When you receive a recovery amount at the end of the personal injury process, not only is your attorney’s “fee” deducted – the thirty-three to forty percent mentioned earlier – but your attorney’s “expenses” are also deducted.
Expenses mean any expenses that your attorney’s firm paid out in advance to prepare your case. Generally speaking, a more complicated case will require more expenses.
PRECISELY WHAT ARE AN ACCIDENT ATTORNEY’S EXPENSES?
These expenses can include anything from basic court fees for filing documents to pay for expert witnesses and their own expenses.
An attorney’s expenses will include items like the fees for obtaining your medical records; certified mail charges; and the fees that your doctor or a medical expert will charge for an opinion or a consultation.
Almost every part of the pre-trial discovery process – depositions, interrogatories, and subpoenas to produce evidence – entails some kind of expense.
WHAT CAN HAPPEN IF YOUR INJURY CLAIM DOES NOT SUCCEED?
Here’s what you need to know that is not explained in the television commercials. If there is no recovery in your case, you may still owe your attorney’s law firm for the expenses that the firm paid out in advance to prepare your case.
That is why the lawyers on the television commercials say specifically – as required by Georgia law – that you pay no “fee” unless you win. What they do not say on the television commercials is anything about “expenses.”
However, this should not stop you from pursuing justice if you’ve been seriously injured by a negligent driver. Especially if your case can be resolved in private negotiations before a lawsuit is formally filed with the court, expenses are typically quite low in a personal injury case.
These expenses are all paid out in advance by a personal injury lawyer so that an injured client pays nothing out-of-pocket.
Injury attorneys take on certain expenses because the victims of negligence often can’t, and because these attorneys believe they will recover compensation for their clients.
WHAT’S THE FINAL COST TO HIRE AN INJURY LAWYER – AND WIN JUSTICE?
Fees and expenses constitute the entire cost of hiring a skilled Atlanta car accident lawyer and pursuing a personal injury claim in this state.
Injury lawyers and their prospective clients need to discuss the details of the case thoroughly during a first legal consultation, so that prospective clients have enough information to make an informed decision about moving forward with legal action.
The injured victim of negligence has to decide, “Am I going to have enough to cover the attorney’s fee, along with the expenses, and still recover adequate compensation for my medical bills, my lost wages, and my pain and suffering?”
As the case advances, the defendant or the defendant’s insurance company will typically make several settlement offers, and to consider those offers properly, a client needs to know what he or she potentially owes back to an injury attorney.
WHAT DOES IT COST TO LEARN MORE?
Whether you accept a settlement or go to trial may depend on what you will have to pay your attorney – both for fees and expenses – so it’s a figure that a client will need to know.
What won’t cost you anything – or obligate you to anything – is a first consultation with an injury attorney. You’ll learn more about your rights and more about how the law applies to your own case.
If you’ve been injured by a negligent driver in this state, get the legal help you need – without delay. Compensation is your right, justice is your right, and a lawyer’s advice is also your right.