How Much Does it Cost to Hire a Lawyer?

Written By: The Champion Firm Team

Date Posted: 06.28.24

Category: Personal Injury

If you or a loved one has suffered an injury in a car crash due to someone else’s negligence, one of the first things you may wonder is how much it will cost to hire a car accident lawyer. The good news is that, in most cases, it costs nothing upfront to hire an experienced attorney to handle your claim.

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Why You Need a Personal Injury Lawyer

Why You Need a Personal Injury Lawyer

First, it’s important to understand why hiring a personal injury lawyer is so important after an accident. Dealing with insurance companies on your own can be incredibly challenging. Remember, the insurance adjuster’s job is to pay as little as possible on injury claims. Insurance companies have teams of lawyers advising them on how to minimize payouts.

Going up against the insurance company without your own legal representation puts you at a huge disadvantage. The insurance adjuster may try to get you to accept a lowball settlement offer or even deny your claim entirely. An experienced personal injury attorney levels the playing field and will fight to get you the full and fair compensation you deserve.

A personal injury lawyer can also help in many other ways:

In short, you need a personal injury attorney in your corner to protect your rights and interests after a serious accident. Now, let’s look at how much it typically costs to hire one.

Contingency Fee Agreements

The vast majority of personal injury lawyers work on what’s called a contingency fee basis. With a contingency fee, you pay no upfront costs or hourly fees for the attorney’s services. Instead, the lawyer only gets paid if they successfully recover money for you through a settlement or court verdict.

If your case is successful, the attorney receives a percentage of the total recovery as their fee. Percentages can vary, so be sure to ask any lawyer you’re considering hiring for a detailed explanation of their fee structure.

One of the biggest advantages of a contingency fee is that it aligns your interests with your lawyer’s. Since your attorney only gets paid if you do, they are motivated to work hard on your case and recover as much money as possible. It also means you can hire a top-notch lawyer without paying anything out of pocket, making legal representation accessible to injury victims of all financial means.

Case Costs and Expenses

In addition to the contingency fee, there are also typically some costs and expenses involved in pursuing a personal injury claim. These may include:

  • Court filing fees
  • Fees for obtaining medical records and police reports
  • Expert witness fees
  • Deposition costs
  • Postage and copying expenses

In most cases, your lawyer will front these costs for you and then deduct them from your share of the settlement or verdict. Some firms may charge interest on these advanced costs, so ask about that upfront.

Remember that case costs can add up, especially if you must file a lawsuit and the case goes to trial. In a complex case, costs can reach into the tens of thousands of dollars. However, a good personal injury lawyer will not take on your case unless they believe the anticipated recovery will more than offset the costs.

Some firms may require you to pay a nominal retainer fee upfront to cover initial expenses. However, even if a retainer is necessary, the bulk of the attorney’s fee should still be contingent on the outcome.

What If You Lose?

What If You Lose

You may be wondering what happens if your personal injury case is unsuccessful—will you have to pay your lawyer even if you recover no money? With a true contingency fee agreement, the answer is no. If your attorney does not win your case, you should owe them nothing in legal fees.

However, regardless of the outcome, you may still be responsible for reimbursing your lawyer for any costs and expenses they fronted. Some attorneys may waive this requirement if they don’t win, but that is not the norm. Be sure you understand your obligations for case costs before signing a representation agreement.

Other Fee Arrangements

While contingency fees are by far the most common in personal injury cases, some attorneys may work on an hourly fee or flat fee basis. With an hourly fee arrangement, you pay the lawyer for each hour they spend working on your case, regardless of the outcome.

A flat fee means you pay the lawyer a set amount to handle your case from start to finish. Flat fees are rare in personal injury cases because of the uncertainty involved in how much work a case will take. An attorney may charge a flat fee for a very simple claim.

For most accident victims, an hourly or flat fee arrangement is not practical since they may not have the financial means to pay an attorney out of pocket. That’s why the contingency fee system is so beneficial for ensuring access to quality legal representation.

Factors That May Affect Attorney Fees

The complexity and value of your case can impact the percentage an attorney charges and/or whether they will take your case on a contingency fee basis at all. Factors that may affect fee arrangements include:

  • The extent and permanency of your injuries
  • Whether liability is clear or in dispute
  • The anticipated amount of your damages
  • The number of parties involved
  • The court in which your case must be filed

An attorney may charge a higher percentage for a complex case requiring a significant time investment and will likely go to trial. Conversely, a lawyer may charge a reduced percentage if your damages are extremely high since the anticipated recovery may be substantial.

Some lawyers may be hesitant to accept a very complex case involving catastrophic injuries on a full contingency fee basis since the costs to pursue the case can be excessive. In these situations, an attorney may request that you pay some portion of costs upfront or on an ongoing basis. However, a firm should never pressure you into a fee agreement you’re uncomfortable with. You can always seek a different lawyer with the experience, confidence, and resources to take complex cases on contingency.

Choosing the Right Personal Injury Lawyer

Now that you understand the basics of how personal injury lawyer fees work, let’s discuss how to find the right attorney for your case. The lawyer you choose can make a big difference in the outcome of your claim, so it’s important to do your research and select someone with the experience and resources to give you the best chance of success.

Here are some tips for choosing a personal injury lawyer:

Focus and Experience Matter

When choosing a personal injury lawyer, one of the most important factors is whether the attorney focuses on this area of law and has experience with your specific type of case.

Personal injury law is a broad field encompassing many kinds of accidents and injuries. While any licensed attorney can take on a personal injury case, you’ll be best served by hiring a lawyer who focuses their practice on these types of claims.

In addition to overall personal injury experience, look for an attorney who has handled cases similar to yours. For example, if you suffered an injury in a truck accident, you’ll want a lawyer who understands the specific laws that apply to commercial trucking and has successfully represented other truck accident victims.

An experienced personal injury lawyer can assess the strengths and weaknesses of your case, anticipate challenges that may arise, and develop an effective strategy for pursuing the compensation you deserve. They’ll also have a network of experts, such as accident reconstructionists and medical specialists, who can provide valuable testimony to support your claim.

Track Record of Success

Another key factor to consider when hiring a personal injury lawyer is their track record of success. You want an attorney who has experience handling cases like yours and a history of achieving positive outcomes for their clients.

One way to gauge a lawyer’s success is to ask about their past settlement and trial results. A good attorney should provide examples of cases they’ve resolved and the amounts recovered, either through out-of-court negotiations or in front of a judge and jury.

Keep in mind that every case is unique, so past results don’t guarantee a specific outcome in your case. However, a consistent track record of favorable settlements and verdicts is a good sign that the lawyer can build strong cases and persuade insurance companies and juries.

Client Reviews and Testimonials

In addition to an attorney’s case results, client reviews and testimonials can provide valuable insights into what it’s like to work with a particular lawyer. Reading about past clients’ experiences can help you gauge the attorney’s communication style, responsiveness, and level of personal attention.

There are a few different places you can look for client reviews. Many lawyers feature testimonials on their website, which can give you a sense of the firm’s strengths and approach to client service. Check out online review sites like Google, Avvo, and Yelp for a more objective view. These platforms allow past clients to leave honest feedback about their experience with a lawyer, including both positive and negative aspects.

Pay attention to the overall rating and common themes in the reviews. If multiple clients mention difficulty getting in touch with the attorney or are frustrated with the pace of their case, that may be a red flag.

Financial Resources to Take Your Case to Trial

While most personal injury cases settle out of court, choosing a lawyer with the financial resources to take your case to trial if necessary is important. Preparing for trial can be expensive, as it may involve hiring expert witnesses, conducting depositions, and creating demonstrative exhibits.

Some personal injury firms operate on a “settlement mill” model, where they take on a high volume of cases with the goal of settling as many as possible quickly. While there’s nothing wrong with settling a case if it’s in the client’s best interests, a firm that always settles may not be willing to put in the work to maximize your recovery.

During your initial consultation, ask the lawyer about their approach to litigation and whether they have the resources to fund a trial if needed. A well-established firm should have the financial stability to advance the costs of preparing your case, with the expectation of reimbursement when a recovery is obtained.

Contingency Fees Provide Access to Justice

To sum up, contingency fee agreements have become the norm in personal injury cases because they give injured victims access to legal help that might otherwise be out of reach. With a contingency fee, anyone can afford to hire a high-quality lawyer to fight for their rights, regardless of their financial situation.

If you’ve suffered an injury due to another’s negligence, the best thing you can do is discuss your case with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Most initial consultations are free and come with no obligations, so you have nothing to lose by reaching out and learning more about your options.

A skilled personal injury lawyer will review the details of your accident, explain your legal rights, and give you an honest assessment of your case’s potential value. They can also walk you through their fee agreement in detail so you know exactly what to expect before you sign anything.

Contact a Knowledgeable Personal Injury Lawyer

The road to recovery after a serious injury can be long and challenging, but you don’t have to travel it alone. With a knowledgeable Marietta personal injury attorney on your side, you can focus on your health and leave the legal heavy lifting to a professional who will fight tirelessly for the compensation you deserve. Reach out today to learn more.

About the Author

The Champion Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.C. is a full-service personal injury law firm serving the greater Metro Atlanta area. Our award-winning team of attorneys specializes in car accidents, wrongful death, premises liability, and slip-and-fall cases. Learn more about our team here.