How Much Do Car Accident Lawyers Charge?

Make sure you’re paying what is reasonable

By Kimberly Lekman, Esq. | Last updated on July 18, 2022

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Many car accident victims consider taking legal action to recover for their expenses and injuries, but they might hesitate to do so out of concern about the cost of paying lawyer fees. However, concerns about cost should not prevent you from seeking the legal guidance you need. An attorney’s expertise can be indispensable in complicated car wreck cases or accidents that cause severe injury. Suppose you were involved in a serious car crash that wasn’t your fault. In that case, you deserve compensation for your medical expenses, property damage, and pain and suffering. This financial compensation is legally known as “damages.”

Most car accident attorneys offer a free initial consultation and offer their services on a contingency fee basis. So, you will usually not need to worry about paying attorney’s fees upfront. However, your attorney will probably take about a third of any payout you receive for your car accident case. When you first meet with an attorney, you should ask for a full breakdown of their payment agreement and fee arrangement.

Contingency Fee Arrangements

Most car accident lawyers provide their services on a contingency fee basis. In fact, the majority of personal injury attorneys get paid this way. With a standard contingency fee arrangement, your attorney only gets paid if you receive a settlement or verdict for your case. Contingency fee percentages vary from about 20% to 45%. This percentage can fluctuate depending on your state’s laws, the law firm’s policies, and the complexity of your case. Generally speaking, most car accident lawyers charge a contingency fee of about 33% or one-third.

Contingency Fee With Retainer

In some cases, a car accident attorney will request that you pay a retainer fee at the beginning of your attorney-client relationship. When there is a retainer with a contingency arrangement, the attorney will subtract the amount you paid in your retainer out of their contingency fee at the end of your case.

To illustrate, suppose that your car accident claim settles for $30,000 and your attorney’s contingency fee is 33%. You also paid a retainer fee of $2,000. Your attorney would deduct the retainer fee from their $10,000 contingency fee. This would leave them with $8,000 at the end of your case.

Another issue you and your attorney will need to work out is how to pay litigation expenses and fees. These fees can add up throughout your legal claim. They include:

  • Expert witness fees
  • Filing fees
  • Shipping costs
  • Court fees
  • Deposition fees
  • Travel expenses
  • Medical record fees

These expenses will typically add up to a few thousand dollars. So, you will need to ask your attorney about their policy for paying these costs. Many personal injury lawyers pay these costs upfront then deduct them from any payout or verdict you receive.

When you hire an attorney, you will need to sign a contract. This contract should contain a detailed explanation of all legal costs and fees. If you have any questions about this contract, it would be wise to use your initial consultation to ask the attorney to explain it to you.

Flat Fees

Flat fee arrangements are uncommon in the personal injury law field. If an attorney proposes this arrangement, they will charge you a set amount for a specific legal task. For instance, an attorney might charge you a flat fee if you only hire them for a certain duty like writing a contract. When you hire an attorney to guide you through your entire car accident claim, it’s usually too difficult for them to estimate an appropriate flat fee. Due to the many unknown factors that arise in personal injury cases, it’s usually more appropriate to use a contingency fee agreement.

Hourly Fees

Like flat fees, hourly rate agreements are uncommon with personal injury plaintiff’s attorneys. Attorneys who represent insurance companies to defend personal injury cases would be more likely to charge an hourly rate. So, if you want to hire an attorney to recover your losses from a car accident, it’s highly unlikely that they would ask you to pay an hourly rate.

Why Hire an Attorney?

After experiencing a car accident, you might be busy recovering from your injuries or caring for loved ones. Unfortunately, medical bills from a car wreck can add up quickly. Further, you may have lost wages after taking time off to recuperate. While you focus on other things, an experienced car accident attorney can collect evidence and build your case. They can also save you the hassle of requesting medical records and police reports. If necessary, they can even hire an expert witness or interview eyewitnesses to your crash.

Further, you may need legal advice and guidance in dealing with insurance adjusters and other attorneys. If you misstate the facts of your case or accidentally assume responsibility, insurance companies can use these statements to reduce your potential settlement. An experienced car accident lawyer will help guide you through these conversations. They can also accurately estimate the value of your case to help you negotiate a fair settlement.

An attorney’s services might sound expensive, but most personal injury lawyers offer a free case evaluation and a contingency fee arrangement. So, you probably will not have to pay any upfront costs for your legal representation.

There may be a time limit (a statute of limitation) to file a personal injury claim in your state. Insurance companies may also require prompt notification of an accident. So, it would be wise to contact an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible to begin your legal claim.

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