There is no one set amount every lawyer charges for an accident claim. However, it’s common for most personal injury lawyers to follow a similar fee structure when working a case. If you were hurt in a car accident (or another type of accident) caused by someone else, having an experienced lawyer can really help your chances of getting the fullest compensation possible. Scheduling a consultation can give you a good idea of how the lawyer works and what their fee structure looks like.
Thankfully, most car accident lawyers work on a contingency fee when charging for their services. This is unique to personal injury lawyers and makes the situation virtually “risk-free” for the client. A contingency fee means the lawyer will not get paid by the client until they recover money in the case. Then, if they do recover money for the client, the lawyer is paid from either:
• A percentage of the settlement from a car accident claim or
• A portion of what’s awarded by a judge or jury in court
Contingency fees can be very beneficial because they help ensure the lawyer has your (as the client) best interests in mind. Bringing a great outcome in the case helps both parties because you have a good chance of financial recovery and your lawyer has a good chance of getting paid a portion of what they win. The lawyer is literally “contingent” on a favorable outcome in the injury case. The standard contingency fee for a car accident lawyer is between 33.3% to 40% of the settlement. The fee will vary depending on the lawyer’s specific guidelines and quality of services. Many attorneys will use a sliding scale for their contingency fees based on when they get the case resolved. For example:
• If the case is resolved before the client needs to file a lawsuit, the fee will be closer to one-third of the settlement.
• If the client does need to file or a lawsuit, or mediation or arbitration is required, the typical fee goes up to 40% to account for the additional time, money, and resources required.
Flat Fees and Retainers
Although it’s rare, some personal injury lawyers may follow a different structure than the contingency fee. The alternatives are usually:
• Collecting a retainer or
• Working on a flat fee
If the lawyer requires a retainer, they may ask for a certain amount of money up front and then collect a contingency fee at the end. If they win you money, the amount you already paid should be deducted from the percentage they take out of your settlement or award. Another alternative fee structure is the flat fee. This is common with other types of lawyers, but not personal injury attorneys. Flat fees involve one set payment for the lawyer’s services. Some lawyers may offer payment plans, but there is still one set fee required. Cases with very low complexity may be the only situations where a personal injury lawyer works on a flat fee, but again, it’s rare.
Although most lawyers don’t charge you an attorney fee until it’s taken out of whatever they win you, there are other fees often associated with accident claims. Those can include:
• Filing fees
• Expert witness or investigator fees
• Photocopying fees
• Costs of getting copies of medical records
• Postage fees
• Fees associated with depositions, transcripts, and trial exhibits
You might worry about your lawyer charging you for these fees, as well. Thankfully, most personal injury lawyers do not charge for extra fees and expenses as they come. They may cover those costs at the moment, 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 lawyer. If your lawyer is successful and wins you money in your case, they will typically receive your settlement check directly. That way, the lawyer can take out their percentage as their contingency fee for their 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 having to worry about paying your lawyer out of pocket and there’s no reason to stress about fees or costs while the case is happening.
How Do Injury Lawyers Fight for Your Rights?
The insurer will work hard to convince you that you deserve a much lower settlement than you actually need. One wrong move could leave thousands of dollars on the table. On the other hand, having an experienced and compassionate lawyer on your side means you have someone who knows how to advocate on your behalf for the best deal possible. A good general rule is that the more serious your injuries and your case, the greater need you have for a personal injury lawyer. That’s because the stakes are higher you can lose out on a lot of money that you need to get better.
Utah Accident Law
There’s no denying that building a personal injury claim is a difficult and complex process. One mistake or slip-up can endanger your entire injury case, possibly even leaving you with empty-handed. Insurance providers purposely write their policies to be as complicated and puzzling to read as possible. They do this so they can deny your claim for any reason they can find. The best way to guarantee you get the best settlement for your personal injury claim is to hire a car accident lawyer who fully knows the ins and outs of Utah law and won’t fall for the usual tricks and tactics used by the insurance companies.
Here are just a few legal issues you might expect to encounter once you begin your car accident injury claim:
• Disputed Liability: One of the strategies insurance companies attempt is to refuse liability for your accident. They will argue that the accident was your fault and not the fault of their insured client. This is called disputed liability and without the right kind of evidence, it is virtually impossible to prove liability.
• Property Damage Claims: One of the biggest potential setbacks auto injury victims face following an accident is their vehicle being damaged or, worse, totaled beyond repair. No one wants to rely on their family or friends to get around town and public transportation can be a nightmare.
How to Handle Your Own Car Accident Claim
Handling your own injury claim without a lawyer is something worth at least exploring. But if you choose this path, you need to do research and get some advice on the best way to get the highest possible settlement for the pain and suffering you have endured from the accident. You deserve that. Severe injury and death car crash cases are completely another matter. Hiring a good car accident lawyer with a track record of success will almost invariably put more money in your pocket than you would handle the case yourself. This cannot be emphasized enough. When you need to call a lawyer depends on the size of the case. In a wrongful death or catastrophic injury case, we are going to be gathering evidence from day one. You do not leave any stones unturned in these cases. Because the stakes and the amount of money involved is too high. But in small cases where lawyers are not going to be gathering evidence and getting experts immediately, there is more likely to be more time for reflection. Measure twice and cut once. Still, if you are going to get a lawyer, it is always better to get one sooner rather than later because even a small case might need immediate action. (Most common immediate need: get witness statements.) If you are going to take the risk and delay, do not talk to anyone about how the incident happened or the extent and scope of the injuries.
Biggest Mistakes Victims Make
Below are common mistakes victims make in handling their accident claim that hurts the settlement and trial value of their claims:
You Gave (or Will Give) a Recorded Statement
Most insurance claims adjusters tell victims that they need a recorded statement before making a settlement offer. Insurance adjusters use anything you say completely out of context to knock down your settlement offer, or they pass along the information to the insurance company’s lawyers to give cross-examination fodder against you at trial. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. In some personal injury accident cases involving an uninsured or underinsured claim, the case is legally a breach of contract claim that may obligate the client to give a recorded statement.
You Demand Too Much or Too Little
The consequence of asking for too little is obvious. But just as damaging to your effort to maximize your settlement is demanding too much in your demand letter. “Too much” does not mean asking for more than the insurance company will pay. But if your demand is beyond what the case is worth on its best day, you are sending a red flag you don’t understand the value of your accident case. When you signal you don’t understand what the value could be, you are implicitly sending the message you may be willing to settle for less than the value of the case because you don’t know the value. By demanding more than the value, you telegraph to the insurance company that you don’t know the value of your claim. When your case does settle, there will be a good chance you left a lot of money on the table. Because an insurance company’s response to a ridiculous demand is not to make a real settlement offer. The take-home message is that if you do not understand how personal injury accident claims are valued, you risk going in the wrong direction.
Settling the Case Without Knowing the Full Extent of the Injuries
If you have been seriously injured and are looking for a quick settlement, you are almost invariably going to get less than the value of your accident case. To give the insurance company a reason to make something approaching a reasonable offer, you need all of your medical bills and records and often a written analysis of your case from a doctor either a treating doctor or “independent” medical expert as to the extent and scope of your injuries. If you settle a case before you have all of the documentation you need for your claim, you have little chance of receiving fair value.
Failing to Understand the Interplay with Insurance Liens
Victims do not understand how to deal with health insurance or other healthcare liens. Sometimes, having a lawyer adept at understanding and resolving the lien problems with the case is more important to how much money the client recovers than how well the attorney negotiated the settlement. The ramification of the mistakes usually lies at two extremes paying the health insurer (or Medicare) far more than you are obligated to pay, and jeopardizing your health insurance because you have failed to understand your lien obligations.
Delaying and Ignoring Time Limits to File a Claims
There is no time limit or deadline for getting a lawyer after an accident. Just because you don’t get a lawyer to handle your accident case right away, you can always get lawyer later on. It’s never too late. However, there is a time limit on filing claims related to the accident that you should be aware of. All states have a statute of limitations which imposes a strict deadline on how long you can wait before filing claims.
Documents to Show your Attorney after a Motor Vehicle Accident
If you’ve been involved in a car accident, you may be thinking about hiring an attorney, or you may have already retained an attorney to represent you. In either case, there are certain documents your attorney will want to see to develop a full understanding of your case and your chance for a recovery. The following is a list of documents that your attorney may want to have during the course of your case:
• Your Insurance Policy: If you have an automobile insurance policy, your attorney will want to see a copy of it in order to review what type of an insurance recovery you may be entitled to. If you don’t have an actual copy of your policy, do not panic. Your attorney will be able to obtain one, with your approval, from your insurance company.
• Evidence of Premium Payments: Your attorney will need proof that your automobile insurance policy premiums, if you have a policy, have been paid. You should periodically receive statements or bills from your insurance company notifying you that premiums are due. Being able to provide your attorney with that correspondence, as well as evidence of your payment (through cancelled checks or a receipt, for example), will help prove that the policy is in force and “paid up.”
• Information Exchanged at the Accident Scene: Often, names and telephone numbers are exchanged between the parties to an accident while they are still at the scene. If you have this information, even if you’ve already contacted the other parties, make sure to provide it to your attorney.
• Information Provided by the Police at the Accident Scene: In many cases, the police are called to a scene of an accident. In those situations, they are required to draft an accident report, which often includes a diagram of where the various cars or pedestrians were at the time of the accident. The report will also include the on-scene officer’s initial impressions of the cause of the accident. This information is crucial in allowing your attorney to develop a total understanding of your case. Provide your attorney will a copy of the accident report or anything else drafted by the police. If you don’t have a copy of any police report, your attorney will be able to obtain one on your behalf.
• Tickets Related to the Accident: If you’ve been given a ticket related to the accident, make sure to let your attorney know. For example, if you were charged with “failure to yield,” your attorney will want to see a copy of your ticket.
• Photographs: If your car was damaged in an accident, it is a good idea to take pictures of the damage. If you did not take pictures, a representative of the insurance company may have. If you have pictures in your possession, provide them to your attorney. If you do not have pictures, but believe that the insurance company may have some; provide that information to your attorney as well.
• Statements: There is a chance, when you are involved in a car accident, that you may be contacted by a representative of your automobile insurance company. Often, the insurance company will want to obtain a statement from you about the accident. If you were contacted, you have a right to have a copy of any statement you gave. If you have a copy, give it to your attorney. If you don’t have a copy, let your attorney know that you gave a statement so he or she can obtain a copy of it for you.
• Medical Records: If you’re involved in a car accident, you may have sustained physical injuries for which you sought medical care and attention. If so, your attorney will need copies of your medical records so that he or she can see what your diagnosis is and obtain a feeling for how long it will take you to recover from your injuries. Provide your attorney with copies of any medical records that you have. If you don’t have copies of your records, provide your attorney with the name and address of any medical provider you have seen. Your attorney will be able to obtain the records, with your written permission, on your behalf.
Utah Accident Lawyer
If you’ve been injured in Utah, please call Ascent Law LLC for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506