If you’ve been hurt in an auto accident of any kind and another driver was at fault, it’s in your best interest to find a good personal injury accident lawyer. They can help you build a strong case to seek compensation for your damages from the at-fault party. However, you might be worried about the cost and the specifics of what percentage accident lawyers take from your winnings.
Thankfully, the structure of working with an accident lawyer is virtually risk-free to accident victims. Most personal injury lawyers (also known as accident lawyers) work on a contingency basis, which means:
- They do not charge a fee unless they win you a settlement or award.
- If they win your case, the fee is taken as a percentage of whatever you win—meaning no out-of-pocket costs.
- You do not have to worry about upfront lawyer fees to begin working with your lawyer.
This is all good news, but you’ll of course still want to understand what percentage your lawyer will take if they win your case. Here’s what you need to know.
How Accident Lawyer Contingency Fees Work
The contingency fee for an accident lawyer can vary, but the standard is usually 33% (or one-third) of what they win you. For example, if your lawyer wins you a settlement of $100,000 and their contingency fee is 33%, your lawyer would take $33,000 of that as their fee.
Most lawyers charge a fee somewhere between 25% and 40%. The percentage of a contingency fee might change slightly based on how far a case proceeds (which is often known as a “sliding scale”). A lawyer might offer a lower fee for cases that settle out of court, while the fee might be higher (closer to 40%) if you end up filing a lawsuit against the at-fault party in your accident.
A lawyer will typically increase their contingency fee in situations where a lot more investigation, research, and preparation is required. Although a higher fee can seem like a much larger cut, it can be worth it if you go to trial and win more than you would with a settlement.
Asking About the Contingency Fee
Before working with any accident lawyer, you’ll want to schedule a consultation and discuss their fee. Ask if they work on contingency, what their fee structure looks like, and whether or not the fee changes at any point. If you don’t understand something about the fee arrangement, don’t be afraid to ask.
Some clients wonder if it’s possible to negotiate for a lower contingency fee. While this might be possible in some situations, an experienced lawyer typically has a set fee for a reason. A lower fee does not necessarily mean you’re getting a better deal.
A too-low fee could mean the lawyer lacks the experience needed to take on your type of case, so be sure to ask about their educational background and history of experience and success with cases like yours.
Other Accident Lawyer Fees
Although the contingency fee is the biggest cost of hiring an accident lawyer, there may be other fees and costs associated with the legal process. Examples include expenses for:
- Copies of police reports
- Medical records
- Filing fees
- Expert witnesses
- Court reporter fees
- Trial exhibits
- And more
Each lawyer or law firm handles these fees in their own way. Some lawyers will require payment for these costs as they become due, while others will deduct them from your settlement after the case is closed. Some law firms will absorb certain fees along the way.
When you meet with a lawyer for the first time, you’ll want to get clear on how they handle fees and costs besides the contingency fee. Their contract should state how these fees are handled. Here’s an example:
- Your lawyer wins you $100,000 in a motorcycle accident settlement.
- Their contingency fee is 33% and the costs and fees from your case total $10,000.
- When your settlement check is sent, your lawyer deducts $33,000 from your settlement for the contingency fee plus $10,000 as reimbursement for the other fees, totaling $43,000.
- Once all fees are deducted, your final recovery would be $57,000 to help cover your personal injury damages.
The above is just an example. Fees and costs can vary a lot depending on the details of your accident and how your lawyer handles these expenses.
Your Lawyer Usually Gets the Settlement Check
Most accident lawyers will receive the settlement check directly from the insurance company. That way, they can ensure they get paid and go ahead and deduct their fees before sending you your settlement. Your lawyer should provide an itemized list of all fees that are taken from the settlement check and let you know when it’s on the way to you.
You should also make sure your lawyer deducts their fee from your net settlement. The net settlement is what’s leftover after other fees and costs have been taken out. Get clear on this during the consultation, and check the contract carefully.
Other Accident Lawyer Fee Structures
Although it’s much less common, some lawyers might begin with a retainer and also have a contingency fee if your case is won. In that case, the upfront retainer fee would be subtracted from the contingency fee due at the end of your case. For example, if your settlement was $100,000 and the lawyer charged a retainer of $3,000, that retainer would be subtracted from the 33% contingency fee taken from your settlement.
Some lawyers also charge a flat fee for legal services, but this is not standard practice for accident lawyers. The only time an accident lawyer might charge a flat fee is if they are performing a small legal task, such as sending a demand letter.
It’s best to contact a lawyer as soon as possible after your accident. In Georgia, you have two years from the accident date to file your claim (Georgia Code § 9-3-33). This goes quickly and you’ll need time to meet with your lawyer and begin building your case.
Talk to a Motorcycle Accident Lawyer for Free Today
At John Foy & Associates, we always work on contingency so you can begin working with us right away and not worry about upfront costs. We also have 20 plus years of experience helping accident victims win the recovery they need and deserve.
Call us today and we’ll discuss the details of how we can help during a FREE consultation. Call (404) 400-4000 or contact us online to get started today.