As a car accident victim, you may have the right to receive significant financial compensation for the injuries and losses you suffered. You’ve heard that a car accident lawyer can help you to get that money, but you worry about the cost of hiring one.
Let’s look at what it costs to hire a lawyer for a car accident claim. (Spoiler alert: it doesn’t cost you anything up-front, and the lawyer only gets paid if you win.)
Expect a Free Consultation
To find the right car accident lawyer to handle your case, you may want to shop around and speak with a handful of attorneys about your case. You’re the customer, after all, and you have every right to feel comfortable with the attorney you decide to hire.
You never have to pay to speak with a car accident attorney for the first time. Virtually every reputable car accident attorney offers a free case consultation for potential new clients like you. If an attorney demands money up-front just to meet with you, move on to your next option. Do not pay for the first meeting with a car accident lawyer.
The free consultation is a great opportunity to learn about your rights and options and to get a feel for a lawyer’s personality, experience level, and range of services. By the end of that meeting, a good car accident lawyer can usually give you at least an initial impression about whether you have a car accident claim worth pursuing and will answer your basic questions about seeking money from at-fault parties and insurance companies.
Take advantage of free consultations to find a car accident lawyer who feels right for you.
Expect Your Lawyer to Work on Contingency
Experienced car accident lawyers understand crash victims like you often face financial strain. They don’t expect you to be able to pay large up-front fees or to pay them hundreds of dollars per hour for their time working on your case.
Instead, virtually all car accident injury lawyers work for their clients on a contingent fee basis. Think of it as the lawyer working “on spec.” The lawyer works for you without getting paid a dime upfront or, as the case goes along, in exchange for sharing in a percentage of whatever money the lawyer can win for you in your car accident case.
All good car accident lawyers agree on this arrangement with their clients from the very beginning of their attorney-client relationship. Usually, the lawyer and client sign an agreement-known as a “fee agreement,” “fee letter,” or “representation agreement”-that lays out the terms of the contingent fee arrangement. It will spell out, for example, the percentage the lawyer gets to keep, how the attorney and client will handle administrative costs like filing fees and travel expenses, and the client’s rights when it comes to deciding when and for how much to settle a case.
If a lawyer proposes to work on your car accident case on anything other than a contingent fee basis, take a long, hard look at whether that’s the lawyer for you. A lawyer demanding up-front or hourly fees from a car accident victim is usually a sign that the lawyer doesn’t have much confidence in winning the case or thinks that the case is not worth enough money to handle on contingency.
Recognize the High Cost of Trying to Handle a Car Accident Claim Yourself
Some people wonder if they can get more money for their car accident claim by handling it themselves rather than sharing a percentage with an attorney. In virtually every case, they can’t.
Failing to hire a lawyer to handle a car accident claim is almost always a huge mistake that ends up costing the victim far more money than they theoretically save. Here’s why.
Lawyers handle car accident claims every day-car accident victims don’t.
To begin, lawyers know their way around a car accident claim in ways that car accident victims simply do not. They know where to find evidence and how to preserve it effectively. They know about the important hard and soft deadlines in a car accident case. They understand the law and legal procedure. And they have years of experience identifying the parties who may have a legal liability to a victim, calculating the full amount of damages a victim deserves, and finding ways to obtain that money through settlements, judgments, and jury verdicts.
Most car accident victims do not possess the valuable skills necessary to get themselves maximum compensation for their injuries and losses. And any victim who does have those skills probably also knows and appreciates the old legal saying that “he who represents himself has a fool for a client.”
No one takes self-represented car accident victims seriously.
Car accidents happen every day. A vast network of lawyers, judges, and insurance company representatives make their living resolving the millions of claims that arise from those accidents every year.
Strange as it may sound, car accidents victims are largely strangers to that system. Since it’s relatively easy and affordable to hire a car accident lawyer, almost all victims have one. The rare victim who tries to handle a case on their own usually finds they don’t “speak the language” of car accident claims and do not understand the inner-workings of how claims get raised, addressed, and resolved.
Because victim self-representation is so unusual in car accident cases, no one takes self-represented car accident victims seriously. Perhaps unfairly, everyone assumes there’s something suspect about the victim or the victim’s claim.
Inevitably, that translates into less money for the victim. Insurance companies make lower settlement offers. Judges and juries make smaller awards (or reject claims altogether). The victim ends up with far less money than a lawyer could have secured for them, even after deducting the lawyer’s percentage fee.
Legal pitfalls are everywhere, and no one will stop you from falling into them. Some will even give you a push.
Car accident victims who go it alone, without an attorney, run a high risk of making serious mistakes that decrease the value of their claims or forfeit their rights altogether. Lawyers know how to avoid making those mistakes. Most crash victims do not.
Plus, victims cannot necessarily expect fair treatment from other parties in the car accident claim process. Insurance companies, in particular, notoriously try all sorts of maneuvers and tricks to minimize their own financial liability for a car accident, even when their policyholder is 100 percent at-fault. These include asking crash victims loaded questions in recorded interviews, using high-pressure tactics to encourage victims to accept lowball settlement offers, and strictly enforcing seemingly trivial rules and deadlines.
In other words, other parties will often see an unrepresented car accident victim as a golden opportunity to avoid financial responsibility through unsavory tactics.
Contact a Car Accident Lawyer After Your Accident for a Free Consultation.
If you suffered injuries in a car accident, do not try to handle your claim alone. Contact a car accident lawyer as soon as possible for a free case consultation.