How Much Does a Car Accident Lawyer Cost?

5-7 minute read | Published: March 28, 2024 | Updated: April 22, 2024

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Having a car accident lawyer by your side can help you get the best possible outcome. But the reality is that a lot of people hesitate to see a lawyer after they figure in an accident because they worry about the legal fees. Now here’s the thing – you don’t need to pay the lawyer upfront. Most lawyers actually take car accident cases on a contingency fee basis and your legal rights.

What is a Contingency Fee?

A contingency fee is a type of fee arrangement wherein you won’t have to pay the lawyer at the beginning just to get your case started. Rather, the fee is dependent on the successful outcome of your case, which means they will only collect a fee if you win – either through a settlement or a court judgment. If you don’t win, the lawyer doesn’t get paid.

No Win No Fee lawyer

Cost of a Car Accident Attorney

A lawyer that specializes in car accident cases and takes a contingency fee usually charges between 33% to 40% of the total settlement amount of the victim. Some lawyers may even agree to a 25% contingency fee especially for straight-forwarded cases. However, if settlement takes place after filing a lawsuit or if the case goes to trial, often the lawyer may ask for a 40% fee.

Let’s say the lawyer has a 40% contingency fee agreement and you recover $50,000 in your car accident claim. That means their fee will be $20,000 and you get $30,000.

This may seem high but if you think about it, you will only pay your lawyer if and when you win. There’s no risk to you.

When an accident claim is settled, the lawyer is paid from the settlement amount given by the insurance company of the at-fault driver. Usually, a claims adjuster will mail the settlement check to the lawyer, who then takes his or her percentage and gives you (the client/ plaintiff) the remainder of the amount.

If the case is taken to court and a verdict is handed down, the lawyer is paid from the settlement verdict and the at-fault party’s legal counsel will mail the check to your lawyer.

personal injury lawyer

Other Kinds of Fee Arrangements

In the world of personal injury law, contingency fee agreements are the most commonly used. However, there may be cases where the lawyer will offer other options like a flat rate, an hourly fee or retainer fee.

Flat Rate

The legal services of the attorney will only incur one set fee which can be settled through a payment plan.

Hourly Rate

The lawyer may instead charge per hour and this rate will be agreed upon at the onset.

Retainer Fee

Payment is made upfront however if the plaintiff wins then the initial payment is deducted from the contingency fee.

Other Costs and Expenses to Consider

Aside from your lawyer’s fees, there are other costs that need to be taken care of.

First off, there are the costs of investigating and building your case. This might include paying experts to testify in court, hiring “accident reconstructionists” to piece together what happened, and covering fees for filing paperwork in court.

But here’s the good news: your personal injury attorney will handle all these costs upfront, so you don’t have to worry about shelling out cash from your own pocket.

Then there are also medical bills. Your attorney can work with your medical providers to set up a deal called a medical lien. Basically, it means that your medical providers agree to wait for payment until your case is settled.

Once the person who caused the accident is ordered to pay up and your attorney takes their cut for legal fees, the medical bills get paid from whatever’s left over.

Besides even if you don’t win your case, your health insurance company will step in and cover those medical bills over time. So either way, you’re not left holding the bag for those hefty medical expenses.

Other costs and expenses on top of the ones already discussed are:

  • Filing fees
  • Fax charges
  • Travel expenses (where applicable)
  • Copying charges
  • Deposition costs
  • Postage costs
  • Investigator costs and time
  • Legal research
  • Mediation expenses
  • Medical or nursing consultations
  • Expenses for obtaining copies of medical records
  • Costs of obtaining police reports
  • Out‐of‐pocket expenses incurred on the client’s behalf

Most car accident lawyers will pay other costs and expenses upfront, so you or the injury victim will not have to worry about how you can pay for these.

personal injury settlement

Important Next Steps

Consult a car accident lawyer and ask about their contingency fee before signing the contract. If there’s anything you don’t understand in the fine print, don’t hesitate to ask them to explain it to you.

The fee agreement should clearly state who pays for each type of fee/expense regardless of whether or not you win the case. 

Also – and this is important – ask your lawyer to take out their fee from the net settlement. This means they will base the percentage on the amount left after all expenses are paid/deducted.

Keep in mind that the fee is often negotiable especially for a cut and dry case where there’s strong evidence to back up your claims.

car accident lawyer

Is a Car Accident Lawyer Worth It?

While it’s not absolutely necessary to hire a car accident lawyer, there are several reasons why you should. Not only will a good lawyer ensure that you get fairly compensated for the damages as well as the pain and suffering you experienced, but also they will be the ones to deal with the headaches, hurdles, paperwork and legal complexities of the whole process.

The general rule of thumb is, the more serious the injuries and/or damages, the greater the value of a lawyer. Perhaps you can do away with legal assistance if it’s just a fender bender and there are no injuries. But if you were badly injured in the accident and require expensive medical treatment, having an experienced car accident lawyer is a must.

Category: Car Accident FAQs