After any accident that involves substantial injuries, talking to a lawyer can help you get a better idea of how much compensation you should recover, what rights you have, and even who may bear liability for your accident and your injuries. However, talking to a lawyer may sound daunting, especially if you already have financial worries about your accident. Just how much will it cost to speak to a lawyer? If you work with a lawyer on your claim, will it reduce the compensation you can recover?
Initial Consultations With Personal Injury Lawyers
Personal injury lawyers understand the financial difficulty their clients may face during their claims. Most personal injury lawyers start with a free consultation to make legal services more affordable. During this initial visit, the attorney will work with the potential client to determine information about the claim and the client and give the client a chance to decide whether they may want to work with a specific lawyer.
During that initial consultation, you will not have the opportunity to go deep into your case or receive extensive legal advice about your next steps. However, that initial consultation can offer you much information about your case and the likelihood of success. You should leave the initial consultation feeling confident about what comes next and understand your rights and what steps you should take.
Do you have the right to file a personal injury claim?
When you leave an initial consultation with a lawyer, you should have a good idea of whether you have the right to move forward with a personal injury claim at all. During the consultation, the lawyer will look at several basic facts related to your accident and injuries to determine the compensation you might deserve.
You can expect the lawyer to ask about extremely fine details of your accident.
Did someone else’s negligence cause your accident?
To file a personal injury claim, you will need to show that the other party committed some act of negligence or carelessness that led to your accident. If you suffered a slip and fall injury, you might need to show that the store workers failed to clean up a spill properly. In contrast, if you sustained injuries in a car accident, you may need to show that the other driver’s actions led to your accident, including distraction, intoxication, or failure to follow the rules of the road.
Did the liable party owe you a duty of care?
To establish that you have the right to file a personal injury claim, your lawyer will need to show that the other party owed a duty of care to you in some way and that they violated that duty causing the accident. For example, you might show that a driver had a duty of care to you by sharing the roadway; or you might need to show that you had the legal right to be on the property where you suffered a slip and fall accident.
Did you suffer injuries or damages as a result of your accident?
A personal injury claim relies on the fact that you suffered an injury of some type due to the accident. Sometimes, you might have an accident that does not result in injuries: for example, you might slip and fall but pick yourself up again with no harm.
While you may have the right to include some types of emotional distress, like PTSD or anxiety related to the incident, as part of a personal injury claim, you cannot file a claim if you did not suffer any damages or injury from the accident. A lawyer will want to examine the type of injuries you suffered to help understand whether you have grounds for a personal injury claim.
Can the lawyer help you with your personal injury claim?
An initial consultation offers the opportunity for you to get to know the lawyer and for the lawyer to determine whether the firm can and should accept you as a client.
Some types of claims may not require the assistance of a lawyer. For example, in some types of car accidents, the liable party might already have offered a reasonable settlement offer that covers the cost of your losses or the maximum compensation you could expect under the insurance policy. In other cases, the lawyer may not feel that the case falls under his specific area of expertise or that his firm does not have the resources to handle your claim effectively.
Most lawyers will not take a case unless they feel they can help the victim obtain more compensation than the victim could have obtained alone. Generally, it will not benefit you or the lawyer to take a case if they cannot help you recover significantly more compensation.
What will it cost to work with the attorney on your claim?
Before you leave that initial consultation with a lawyer, you should have a solid cost breakdown that covers what it will cost for their services. Your lawyer will discuss how they handle specific types of fees associated with your claim, and you should have a clear understanding of the costs you will be responsible for before you leave the consultation.
Breaking Down the Cost of Working with a Personal Injury Lawyer
Personal injury lawyers usually break down the cost of their services in several key ways.
Many personal injury lawyers take claims on a contingency fee basis: the lawyer will only receive their compensation based on a percentage of the settlement or court award you receive rather than asking for legal fees upfront.
Contingency fees in personal injury claims help make the cost of legal services more affordable, especially during a time that may already prove incredibly financially trying. Since you will not have to worry about paying for the cost of legal services upfront, you can focus on your recovery and allow your lawyer to take care of your legal needs and payment once you have received a settlement or court award.
Contingency fees tend to range from an estimated 30 percent to 40 percent of the compensation you ultimately recover. While that may seem like a large percentage of your personal injury claim, keep in mind that most personal injury lawyers will not accept a case unless they feel that they can increase the compensation you ultimately recover for your injuries, even when taking into consideration their legal fees.
Carefully review the contract and make sure you understand the contingency fee you will need to pay. For example, you may pay less if you can negotiate a reasonable settlement with the insurance company but ultimately pay a larger percentage of your claim to the law firm if you have to go to court, making settling significantly more work.
Sometimes, a personal injury lawyer will accept a case on a flat fee basis. In this arrangement, regardless of what you recover for your injuries or the steps the lawyer has to take to reach that goal, you will pay the same flat fee for those services. Carefully consider the cost of flat fees and how they apply to your case, including whether those flat fees seem affordable based on the compensation you expect to recover. Flat fees may vary based on how much work the lawyer feels your claim will require, including the severity of your injuries, the parties that bear liability, and the legal roadblocks you may face along the way.
Flat fees can make it easier to budget for the cost of a lawyer upfront, especially if you choose an attorney who needs you to pay out of pocket for your legal fees instead of working on a contingency fee basis.
In some cases, you may need to consult temporarily with a personal injury lawyer but may not want that lawyer to handle your claim altogether. In those cases, you may negotiate an hourly fee with the attorney. For example, you might want to ask a lawyer a few questions about your case or retain a lawyer to take on a specific negotiation with the insurance company, but not necessarily need the lawyer to take over other legal services on your behalf.
If you need to consult a lawyer who charges by the hour, you can expect to pay between $225 and $350 per hour the attorney works on your case. Talk to your specific attorney about how much time you may need on your claim, what services you will require, and their cost.
If you need to work with a lawyer on an hourly basis, you may also want to ask that lawyer what goes into that rate and how the lawyer will break down “hours” for the sake of billing. Some lawyers will break down their hours on a quarter-hour basis, while others use tenths of an hour while working on your personal injury claim. Make sure you understand how the law firm will calculate that hourly rate and what it may mean for your overall costs.
Do You Need a Lawyer to Consult on Your Personal Injury Case?
If you suffered injuries in your accident, you might want to talk to a lawyer for at least an initial consultation to determine whether you have the right to a personal injury claim and what comes next.
In many other cases, you may discover that you need a lawyer as your claim progresses.
You may need assistance if:
- You have questions about your case or your rights. Personal injury law can prove incredibly complex, and working with a lawyer often provides insight into how much compensation you should recover and who bears liability for your injuries.
- The insurance company attempts to dispute liability for your injuries, including insisting that you may have caused the accident and your injuries.
- You have a hard time getting the insurance company to pay for the injuries you suffered for any reason, including denial of those injuries, the treatments you need, or liability for the accident.
- The insurance company refuses to pay out your settlement promptly.
Whenever you have questions about your claim or have issues with the insurance company, consulting a lawyer offers your best chance to determine how to proceed. Having a lawyer handle your personal injury claim can, in many cases, increase the compensation you can recover and make it easier for you to manage your claim and recovery.
If you suffered an accident that resulted in any injuries, contact a personal injury lawyer as soon after your accident as possible. During your free initial consultation, a knowledgeable lawyer can determine whether you have the right to file a personal injury claim and the steps needed to acquire the compensation you deserve.