What Percentage Do Car Accident Lawyers Take?

5-7 minute read | Published: March 28, 2024 | Updated: April 20, 2024

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Car accident lawyers

The cost of hiring a lawyer is always a major consideration. This is especially true for those who got into a car accident. After the accident, there are a lot of things to worry about – the cost of repairs, medical bills, lost income – which explains why people are often hesitant to hire a lawyer.

So before you take matters into your own hands (pro se representation), understand this:

Having a lawyer may be an additional expense but think of the risks if you deal with insurance companies entirely on your own.

Risk #1: Lack of Evidence

When it comes to proving your injury claim, the burden of proof is on you. You have to show you’ve got a solid legal case and that someone else is responsible for your injuries.

You’ll need evidence like:

  • Forensic evidence from the accident scene
  • Documents and records
  • Testimonies from experts and witnesses

Risk #2: Lack of Credibility

Insurance companies don’t always take unrepresented claims seriously, and you might find yourself facing denial or delays. And if you’re trying to negotiate directly with the company responsible for your injuries, this can get very complicated without legal backup.

Risk #3: Little or No Understanding of Long-term Costs

Injuries can rack up expenses – both now and in the future. But to get compensated, you have to prove they exist. Proving the potential costs takes in-depth knowledge and lots of paperwork. You’ll need proof as to:

  • How long your injuries will affect your finances
  • How much cash you’re likely to lose out on

Risk #4: No Compensation for Non-Financial Losses

It’s not just about the money – injuries can take a toll on your quality of life too. But proving those “non-economic” losses will require evidence to back it up. You’ll have to work with subject matter experts to show the impact of your injuries on your daily life.

Risk #5: Settling for Less

The biggest risk of doing it on your own is that you might end up settling your claim for way less than it’s worth. And if your injuries are serious, that could lead to major financial setbacks.

The Cost of Hiring a Car Accident Lawyer

Now that we’ve established how invaluable a lawyer can be in dealing with your situation, you probably want to know about your legal costs.

Before anything else, understand that the cost of hiring a lawyer all depends on the specifics of your case. Complex legal matters are often more expensive than fender bender cases.

Many car accident lawyers operate on a contingency fee basis. Your lawyer takes a cut of your final settlement or award, usually between 30% and 40%. Often it’s around 33% but you can even get a lawyer that charges around 25% if it’s a simple and straightforward case. With a contingency fee arrangement, if you don’t win, you don’t pay.

The American Bar Association (ABA) has some rules when it comes to contingency fees. First off, they say that any agreement about contingency fees must be in writing. The agreement or contract must clearly inform the client (you) of any expenses for which you will or will not be liable.  Also, not all cases can be handled on a contingency basis such as divorce, criminal matters, and most family law cases.

Aside from the actual lawyer’s fees, there are also other expenses you will have to pay for. Often, these expenses will be deducted from the settlement or judgment.

These include:

  • Expert witness fees
  • Court reporter fees
  • Court filing fees
  • The cost to get medical records and police reports

Some large firms cover these expenses while the case is in on-going and simply deduct the amount from the settlement.

personal injury settlement

Percentage Car Accident Lawyers Take

As briefly mentioned above, most personal injury lawyers (particularly those that specialize in car accidents), take anywhere between 30% to 40%. The lawyer will base the fees on the level of difficulty of the case, the amount of time involved, as well as how experienced or established the lawyer or law firm is.

A lawyer’s services normally involve case preparation, research, analysis and investigation. This can be very time-consuming. The more complicated the case, the more hours they will have to put in.

In a contingency fee agreement, you and your lawyer agree that your lawyer won’t get paid any fees unless you win your case. But even if you don’t win, you might still have to cover some costs, unless your contract specifically says otherwise.

Be sure to put your agreement in writing and signed by both you and your attorney or law firm so you’re both protected. It needs to lay out a few important things, namely:

Percentage of Recovery

The contract must clearly state what percentage of the money recovered your attorney gets to keep.

Deductions for Expenses

It should also outline any other expenses that will be deducted from your recovery and how these expenses will be taken out.

Who Decides When to Settle the Case?

Even with a contingency fee, it’s you (the client) that decides when to settle. Your lawyer’s job is to prepare your case with all the data and evidence needed, as well as to present you with sufficient information and guidance so you can make the right decisions. But at the end of the day, it’s your decision whether to accept a settlement or take the case to court.

What Happens After My Case is Settled?

Once you reach a settlement, your lawyer must provide you with an accounting, which include what they are deducting for costs and how they compute their pay based on the contingency fee agreement you both signed.

So if you recover $50,000 and you accrued legal costs of $8,000 and let’s say you agreed to a contingency fee of 33%, then your attorney will deduct the $8K from the $50K, and then multiply the remaining amount by 33% to arrive at a lawyer’s fee of $13,860. This means you will take home $28,140.

Once your lawyer receives the settlement check and deducted the legal costs and fees, they will promptly inform you of the check’s arrival and disburse the remaining settlement amount to you.

hiring a lawyer

Should You Get a Car Accident Attorney?

Unless your case is super simple, you should get a lawyer. Insurance companies are tough opponents and they have teams of adjusters and lawyers ready to battle your claim. Having a lawyer evens out the fight and increases your chances of getting fair compensation. And with a contingency fee agreement, there’s very little risk to hiring one.

Category: Car Accident FAQs