A car accident can cause injuries and widespread financial losses and impacts. As a victim, you want to be in the best position possible to fight for your interests and try to get the compensation you deserve. Weighing the options in the aftermath of an accident may make you consider whether a lawyer is something you need or is worth it for your Chicago car accident case.
The first thing that comes to mind when making that decision is how much it will cost to hire a lawyer. Every lawyer manages their clients in their way and has their preferences for how they will charge for their services and the cost of those services. When choosing whether you need a lawyer and then picking the right lawyer for you, understanding how much an attorney will cost for representation after a car crash helps you make an informed decision.
Most Common Lawyer Fee Arrangements
Most lawyers offer free consultations. These initial consultations provide a great opportunity not only to discuss whether your case is worth pursuing and their perspective but also what their fee arrangements are like and what it will ultimately cost you to hire them in your case.
While it may be common for specific attorney fee arrangements to be more prevalent in different areas of the law, it is the lawyer's choice of how and what they will charge within certain parameters. In most cases, a lawyer will choose one of the following examples. Still, they may also select a combination of fee arrangements to accommodate a client's needs or depending on the case's complexity.
Examples of the most common legal fee arrangements include:
- Consultation fees: Not all lawyers will offer free consultations. In some cases, a lawyer will charge to meet with you for the first time. However, when dealing with personal injury cases, it is typical for this initial consultation to be free. Always double-check whether the attorney will waive the consultation fee for the first consultation before making an appointment.
- Retainer fees: Some clients may need an attorney for many issues and situations. In these cases, a lawyer may implement a retainer fee where they remain accessible to clients for their needs over a certain period or through a specific task.
- Flat fees: In some cases, a lawyer may charge a flat upfront amount for their services. This is most common in situations with a definitive beginning and end or relatively straightforward work.
- Hourly fees: One typical fee arrangement is when a lawyer charges their client for the hours of work spent on a case. The amount a lawyer will charge per hour can be drastically different depending on the attorney's experience, the type of case involved, and the difficulty of the case.
- Contingency fees: In cases where a client is pursuing compensation from another party, a lawyer may choose to take a case on contingency. Contingency fees occur when a lawyer agrees to take a case at no cost upfront but receives payment if and when the case reaches a favorable resolution.
- Fees set by a court or statute: In some areas of the law or cases, a judge may decide how much an attorney should receive as compensation for their time and work in a case. Additionally, there are some areas of the law where the fee a lawyer can charge is statutory, and an attorney has no flexibility to charge beyond that.
Do You Need to Pay Anything Upfront for Representation in a Car Accident Case?
No, if you are the victim of a car accident, you should find an attorney willing to take your case on contingency. While a contingency fee is not the only option for payment of an attorney when seeking car accident damages, it is the most common fee arrangement and, in most circumstances, the structure that is of the least risk to you and can allow you the most peace of mind when fighting for compensation.
When a lawyer accepts a Chicago car accident case on contingency, it means they will only bill you for their services when you get compensation. If you do not achieve a successful result in your case and no money passes on to you due to a claim or lawsuit, your lawyer is not eligible for any payment for their services to you. However, suppose you reach a settlement or a court enters an award in your favor. In that case, your lawyer can then collect payment for their services under their lawyer fee arrangement per the agreed-upon percentage.
Contingency Fee Percentage
At the outset of your case, when you choose to hire an attorney, you will have to go over the terms of your representation, including how your attorney will receive payment for their services. You will have to sign a contingency fee contract and agreement that spells out the terms of your payment arrangement in the event your case succeeds. Contingency fees are primarily up to the lawyer.
What Can Influence the Percentage a Lawyer May Charge for Their Services?
In most cases, lawyers will charge the standard 33 percent for their services if you get compensation in your case. However, there are instances where a lawyer may charge a different percentage based on some factors regarding your case.
The Type of Case
Sometimes the complexity of a case will influence how much an attorney will charge. For example, medical malpractice cases or class action lawsuits may require significant resources to represent a client, which may cause a lawyer to increase the percentage of the fee they will collect if you receive compensation. However, an attorney must always tell you what they will charge you upfront. Additionally, they cannot change the terms of your contingency fee agreement after the fact.
The Stage in Which Your Case Reaches a Resolution
Another factor that commonly affects whether an attorney will charge you a higher percentage rate for their services is the stage that a case resolves in. Typically, a lawyer will specify a standard percentage that applies to a settlement. However, if the case must go to trial and a resolution is not reached until then, a lawyer may charge a higher rate because a case takes significantly more resources, time, and effort to get through court.
How Will You Pay Your Lawyer if You Receive Compensation in Your Case?
You may wonder how you will pay your lawyer for their services once you know compensation is heading your way due to a settlement agreement or verdict in your favor. When a lawyer represents you, the compensation will first go through them. At that point, your attorney will set the money aside in an account until you approve the payment to the attorneys directly from the compensation per your contingency fee agreement.
Other expenses and costs that may come from the total compensation include outstanding medical bills and expenses related to your case that are not for the attorney's legal representation. Once you settle all outstanding payments, your attorney will forward the rest of the money to you.
What Will Happen if Your Case Does Not Recover Damages?
A contingency fee case entitles a lawyer to seek compensation for their services if you get compensation in your case, but if you do not, then they will get nothing regardless of the work they put into the case.
This is a great risk for car accident lawyers, and although they may have experience and can expect a positive outcome, they do not truly know what the final outcome in your case will be. In the event that your case does not settle and a lawsuit is not successful, an attorney has no recourse to collect any money for their legal representation of you when operating under a contingency fee agreement.
Read the Fine Print Regarding Case Costs
In most cases, contingency fee agreements spell out the terms of what will happen if a case succeeds and what will happen if it does not. It is always worth discussing the subject of case costs. Contingency fee agreements pertain to the actual legal representation, advice, and work of the attorney representing you in the case.
However, depending on the arrangement with your lawyer, you may still be responsible for paying costs relating to the case in some circumstances. In most car accident cases, an attorney will not pursue case costs when a case does not win, but it is essential to make sure you are clear on what you agree to at the outset of your case.
How Do You Know if You Need a Lawyer for Your Case?
Some car accident victims may feel unsure whether or not they want to hire a lawyer. More often than not, you do—and you should always call a car accident lawyer for a free case evaluation before you make fatal claim mistakes that leave you owing thousands of dollars for an accident you didn't cause.
If there are no injuries to you due to the car accident and the damage to your vehicle is minimal, you could possibly, in some instances, resolve the claim on your own. However, suppose there is any chance you may have sustained an injury or the damages to your vehicle are extensive. In that case, an attorney can help you ensure you fight for the maximum compensation available in your case.
When there are no injuries, and the damages are minor, the risk is minimal that you will later find out your case was worth much more. However, when there are injuries that require treatment and interrupt your life or significant damage to your property, you could be losing out on thousands of dollars if you choose to go forward without an attorney.
Can You Reach a Settlement Without a Lawyer?
Having an attorney does not automatically mean that your case will reach a successful settlement, and vice-versa. Just because you may choose to go ahead without an attorney does not mean the insurer will refuse to settle your claim. However, you are at risk of losing out on money without an attorney.
Insurance companies are notorious for offering lowball settlements to unsuspecting car accident victims. Once a victim accepts the payment for settlement, they cannot return to demand more money if they later realize that the compensation was insufficient. Having an attorney assures you that you will seek the maximum compensation possible in your case, and they will be able to identify when a settlement offer is too low and negotiate on your behalf.
Can a Car Accident Attorney Affect the Outcome of Your Case?
Absolutely. A lawyer will not be a detriment to your case but will give you the best chance at getting the money you need for your losses following a car accident. A knowledgeable and professional Chicago car accident lawyer can put you in an optimal position when dealing with insurance companies and parties at fault as you work towards the recovery of your damages. With an attorney at your side, you will benefit from knowing they will manage the day-to-day aspects of your case and will also have your interest in mind as they navigate and negotiate on your behalf.
What Is the Best Time to Decide Whether or Not to Hire an Attorney for a Car Accident?
It is best to hire a lawyer shortly after a car accident occurs. The early stages of a car accident claim can set the tone for the remainder of the process. Mistakes early on can damage your case and may lessen the amount of money available to you. You can hire an attorney at any point in the process of an insurance claim, but it is best to make the decision sooner rather than later.
If you are a victim of a car accident, contact a Chicago car accident attorney to discuss what options might be available to you to recover your losses.