There is no standard fee that a lawyer can charge a client for a car accident claim. However, it’s common for most car accident lawyers to follow a certain fee structure when providing legal services. That pricing structure is a contingency fee agreement that allows victims to get affordable legal help.
If you are involved in an accident caused by someone else, hiring a skilled lawyer can enhance the likelihood of receiving the highest possible compensation for your claim.
Scheduling a free consultation with an attorney, like our team at John Foy & Associates, can give you a good idea of how a lawyer can improve your chances of winning a larger settlement and their attorney fee structure.
How a Contingency Fee Agreement Works in Georgia
A contingency fee agreement is a payment arrangement between a personal injury lawyer and their client, primarily used in personal injury and other civil litigation cases. Instead of charging an hourly rate or a flat fee, attorneys who use this model get paid only if they win the case or achieve a settlement on behalf of the client.
Here’s a breakdown of how the process functions:
- Initial consultation: Typically, the attorney offers a free initial consultation to evaluate the merits of the client’s case. This meeting allows the lawyer to decide if the case has enough potential value to work on a contingency fee basis.
- Signing the agreement: If both parties decide to move forward, they sign a contingency fee agreement. This contract details the percentage the attorney will take as a fee if the case is successful.
- Pursuing the case: Once the agreement is in place, the attorney starts working on the case, investing time and often fronting costs for things like expert witness fees, court costs, and investigations. The client does not pay any of these fees upfront.
- Resolution: If the attorney successfully negotiates a settlement or wins the case in court, they will take their agreed-upon percentage from the awarded amount. If the case is not successful, the attorney receives no fee. However, depending on the agreement, the client might still be responsible for some court costs or other expenses.
- Reimbursement of expenses: Most contingency fee agreements stipulate that the attorney is reimbursed for case-related expenses from any settlement or award. After these expenses are accounted for, the attorney takes their agreed-upon percentage, and the remaining funds go to the client.
Benefits of a Contingency Fee Arrangement
Contingency fees benefit clients because attorneys will safeguard and prioritize their interests. Since the lawyer is “contingent” on a favorable outcome in the injury case, this pricing structure can be advantageous not only to align with your interests but also:
- To access quality legal counsel: Contingency fee agreements can provide access to legal representation for individuals who might otherwise be unable to afford the costs of hiring an attorney. This allows individuals with limited financial resources to pursue legal claims and seek justice.
- To avoid upfront costs: The attorney agrees to take on the case and cover its associated costs. The client only pays if the case is successful, typically through a percentage of the final settlement or judgment.
- To get motivated representation: Because attorneys working on a contingency fee basis are usually paid only if they win the case, they have a strong incentive to achieve a positive outcome for their clients. This incentive can lead to motivated and diligent representation since compensation is tied to the client’s success.
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The Average Contingency Fees for Accident Lawyers
Now that you understand how this payment structure works and its benefits, let’s discuss how much car accident lawyers charge according to the contingency fee percentages. According to the American Bar Association (ABA), an auto accident attorney’s average contingency fee percentage is between 33.3% and 40% of the compensation payout.
The agreed-upon percentage will vary based on the extent of legal services and any specific exceptions set. Some attorneys provide a sliding scale for their contingency fees under certain conditions. For example:
- In instances where the case is resolved before filing a lawsuit, the common fee arrangement is generally closer to one-third of the settlement.
- In cases where the client chooses to pursue a personal injury lawsuit or when mediation or arbitration becomes necessary, the fee typically increases to 40% to cover the additional time, money, and resources involved.
The ABA states that increasing your involvement in your case is often beneficial to lower your overall costs. However, it is important to discuss with your lawyer about this matter directly.
Flat Fees and Retainers
Some auto accident attorney fees may follow a different structure than the contingency fee pricing model, although rare. You usually have several alternatives:
- Pay a retainer
- Pay a flat fee
When a lawyer requires a retainer, they will typically ask you to pay a certain amount upfront. Then, at the end of the case, they will collect a contingency fee. They should deduct the amount you already paid from the percentage they take out of your settlement or award if they win you money.
Consider the flat fee as another alternative fee structure. Other types of lawyers commonly experience this, but personal injury attorneys do not. Lawyers charge one set payment for their services with flat fees. While some lawyers may offer payment plans, they still require a set fee.
Personal injury lawyers typically work on a “flat fee basis” only in cases with very low complexity. However, it’s important to note that such situations are quite rare.
Additional Fees An Attorney May Charge in an Accident Claim
Generally, an auto accident attorney’s fee isn’t billed until they deduct it from your winnings, but accident claims often come with other associated fees. Some examples of those could be:
- Filing fee
- Costs of getting copies of medical records
- Postage fees
- Photocopying fees
- Fees associated with depositions, transcripts, and trial exhibits
You might also worry about your lawyer charging you for these fees. Thankfully, most personal injury lawyers do not charge for extra fees and expenses as they come. They may cover those costs now, then deduct them from your settlement or award at the end (like with the contingency fee).
Additional fees tend to be higher the longer your case goes on. You should ask questions about these fees during the consultation with your potential lawyers. Find out how these fees are handled if your case isn’t successful and whether or not you’ll still be on the hook for them.
Deductions Taken from Your Net Settlement
Ask your lawyer if they will deduct their attorney fees from your “net settlement.” After deducting case costs, the net settlement represents the remaining amount. Most law firms engage in this practice, but some may attempt to boost their compensation by deducting their fee before considering your additional fees.
How Your Lawyer Gets Paid Upon Settling Your Claim
If your lawyer successfully wins your auto accident settlement, the payout will typically come directly to them. This allows the lawyer to deduct their contingency fee rate for their legal services.
After they receive your settlement check, your lawyer should contact you to let you know. They will then provide you with an itemized list containing their own fee and any other expenses or costs involved in the case. Those will be taken out, and you will then get paid the remaining balance from your settlement.
This process works well for many clients because it allows you to get paid without worrying about paying your lawyer out of pocket, and there’s no reason to stress about fees or costs while the case is happening.
How to Know if a Car Accident Lawyer Is Worth the Cost
You might wonder if what a lawyer charges for your claim is worth it. It’s a great question that many injured individuals ask. While any injury victim is allowed to handle their case alone, we do not recommend it.
After an accident, you are going up against the at-fault person’s insurance company. Insurance companies know what they are doing, and they know that most accident victims are unaware of how the legal aspects of an insurance claim process work.
Injury Lawyers Will Fight for Your Rights
The insurer will work hard to convince you that you deserve a much lower settlement than you need. One wrong move could leave thousands of dollars on the table. Having an experienced lawyer on your side means you have someone who can advocate for the best deal possible.
A good general rule is that the more serious your injuries and case, the greater your need for a personal injury lawyer.
Talk to a Car Accident Attorney Today
John Foy & Associates has become one of Georgia’s most well-known and well-respected law firms over the last 20-plus years. We are dedicated to getting our clients the risk-free compensation they deserve. We work exclusively on contingency, so you don’t have to stress about costs upfront.
To schedule a FREE consultation with the best lawyer for your needs today, contact us online now.