How to Pay a Lawyer When You Don’t Have the Money
When you suffer injuries in any accident, it can lead to financial strain. Not only do you have to consider the cost of medical treatment, but you might also factor in things like wage losses due to your inability to work after the accident. That can make it difficult to figure out how to hire a lawyer to help take on your claim.
Fortunately, most lawyers understand the financial difficulties that accompany serious injuries. They have a solution that will make it easier for you to afford the cost of legal support as part of a personal injury claim.
What Is a Contingency Fee?
Lawyers who accept cases on a contingency fee basis do not require payment for their services upfront. Instead, they make payment contingent on winning the case. Instead of laying out specific fees they expect up front, lawyers who accept cases on a contingency fee basis will write contracts that allocate payment based on a percentage of the compensation they win from your claim. Those lawyers often will not require you to pay anything upfront. Instead, you will issue payment after you win the case.
Contingency fees can make it much easier to pay for the cost of legal services when you find yourself under a great deal of financial strain. The contingency fee the lawyer asks for can vary depending on the case’s complexity and whether the lawyer expects to take the case to court or thinks that the firm can settle the case out of court.
Sometimes, you may have to pay some upfront fees, like filing fees. Make sure you talk to your lawyer upfront about anticipated fees and who will take responsibility for them. That way, you can more easily budget for any financial needs.
Do you have the right to file a personal injury claim?
Before a personal injury lawyer takes a case, the lawyer will first closely examine whether you have the right to file a personal injury claim.
Your lawyer may review several key details to evaluate whether you have the right to move forward with a claim.
- Did the liable party bear a duty of care to you at the time of the accident? A lawyer may start by evaluating who likely caused your accident and what duty that party may have borne to you. In the case of a car accident, for example, a lawyer can assume that all other drivers on the road bore a duty of care to you at the time of the incident. If the accident occurred in a store or business, the company may have borne a duty of care to help ensure that everything stayed in good repair or that no hazards existed that could cause serious injuries.
- Did the liable party violate that duty of care in some way? To show that you have grounds for a claim, a lawyer must show that the party that bears liability for the incident committed some negligence that led to your incident. For example, if you suffered injuries in a slip and fall, a lawyer might clearly show that the liable party failed to take care of needed repairs, or that the liable party knowingly allowed a spill to remain on the floor.
- Did the violation of the duty of care lead to your accident? To file a claim, you must show that the liable party’s negligent actions caused you to suffer an accident. For example, if you noticed a spill on the floor and the store failed to clean it up, but you walked around the spill and did not suffer a fall, you would not have any reason to move forward with an injury claim because no incident occurred.
- Did you suffer damages because of the accident? You will often work with a lawyer to show that you suffered injuries because of the liable party’s negligence. For example, after a slip and fall, you might show that you suffered broken bones, often in your hands and arms, or a traumatic brain injury if you hit your head in the fall. If you did not suffer any damage because of the incident, you might not have the right to file a claim.
If a lawyer can piece together these key elements, the lawyer will often take the case and help you fight for the compensation you deserve.
Can a lawyer help you obtain more compensation than you could obtain on your own?
Most personal injury lawyers will carefully evaluate a case to ensure they can offer genuine benefit to the injured party before taking the case. If a lawyer believes the firm cannot offer any benefit you could not receive on your own, the law firm will generally turn down the case.
A lawyer might also turn down a case that they believe has a poor chance of winning: for example, one in which you do not have adequate evidence to show the extent of your injuries and the damages you sustained or one in which you cannot clearly show who bears liability for the incident.
Most lawyers will try to help you maximize the compensation you can recover for your injuries.
Will the case offer a reasonable settlement?
Before deciding whether to take a case, a lawyer will look at what compensation you deserve and what the claim will likely look like once you reach a settlement or court award.
A lawyer might, for example, turn down cases in which you could recover only minimum compensation for the damages associated with the accident, especially in cases where the overall cost of legal fees might exceed the cost of the damages you can recover.
In most cases, injury claims will include compensation for the same general elements.
- Your medical costs. Medical bills frequently make up the foundation of your injury claim since they offer a fairly clear picture of the injuries you sustained in the accident. You can seek compensation through an injury claim whenever you suffer injuries due to someone else’s negligence. However, in some cases, you might have relatively minor injuries and relatively low medical costs to go along with them. For example, if you suffered a minor laceration requiring only a couple of stitches, you might have much lower medical bills than someone who sustained severe injuries in the accident.
- Your income losses. In many cases, serious injuries can lead to substantial time out of work. You may need days, weeks, or even months off to recover. In the meantime, that can mean you lose your source of income, which can cause substantial strain. Most lawyers will factor that lost income into your injury claim, including it as part of the damages you can seek.
- Any physical losses related to the accident. Frequently, serious accidents involve substantial property damage: car accidents, for example, generally involve costly vehicle damage, which may mean considerable financial strain as you manage repairs. You may have had your phone or other electronics on hand during the accident. A lawyer can help look at those physical damages and how you can include them as part of an injury claim.
- Your suffering. As part of many injury claims, you have the right to seek compensation for your suffering from the accident. In some cases, the compensation for pain and suffering will represent a large percentage of the overall claim. Your lawyer will help you closely examine what compensation you can seek for your suffering and how it may impact your claim as a whole.
In cases where a lawyer believes that you cannot recover significant compensation, the lawyer might refuse to take the case or might not take the case on a contingent fee basis.
How Does Payment for a Contingency Fee Work?
When a lawyer takes a case on a contingent fee basis, the lawyer should inform you of the payment terms, including the percentage of your injury claim that will pay your legal fees. Remember that even if you see a high percentage as part of that injury claim, a lawyer can often help you recover more than you could have if you tried to fight for compensation alone.
Your lawyer will inform you upfront what fees you must take responsibility for during the claim process. Sometimes, you may need to take care of filing or other court fees. Those fees, however, will generally remain much lower than the legal fees typically associated with a case.
Apart from filing or court fees, you will not receive a bill for legal services until your claim is resolved, whether you continue to negotiate longer than anticipated, it takes longer than your lawyer thought to get evidence to prove your claim, or you end up having to go to court to resolve your claim. You won’t pay for legal fees until your attorney favorably resolves your case.
Eventually, you may resolve your claim through a settlement agreement with the insurance company or a court award. The liable party will issue payment to a trust set up by your lawyer. Then, your lawyer will distribute the funds from the settlement or court award.
You may, for example, have liens on the settlement for some of the medical treatment you received while waiting for your claim to resolve. Your lawyer will settle all liens on the funds, take out the agreed-upon contingency fee, and then issue the rest of the funds to you directly.
Do You Need a Lawyer After an Accident?
Yes. Even if you worry that you cannot afford a lawyer, a contingency fee payment method makes it much easier for you to fight for the compensation you deserve. A personal injury lawyer will help you craft the strongest argument for fair, reasonable compensation for the damages you sustained, and you won’t have to worry about paying legal fees up front.
Contact a personal injury lawyer as soon after your accident as possible to get a better idea of what compensation you may have the right to recover and how a contingency fee can make managing those legal costs easier.