The fees lawyers charge for a car accident case depend on a variety of factors. Understanding fee structures can help you choose the right personal injury attorney to handle your case.

Hourly Fees vs. Contingency Fees for Car Accident Cases

Attorneys generally charge an hourly fee or contingency fee when representing car accident victims. An attorney rarely charges a flat fee because it is difficult to know how much work the attorney must do to resolve the case.

Attorneys who charge hourly fees will typically require a retainer fee. The retainer fee could be several hundred dollars or several thousand dollars. 

As the attorney works on the case, they charge an hourly rate. Periodically, the attorney generates a bill and deducts the amount from the retainer fee.

Some attorneys may require the client to keep a minimum amount in the attorney’s trust account as a retainer fee. Other attorneys begin billing the client directly once the retainer fee is depleted.

Most personal injury lawyers use a contingency fee for car accident cases. With a contingency fee, the client does not pay a retainer fee to hire the lawyer. 

Instead, the client agrees to pay a specific percentage of any settlement or verdict the attorney recovers on their behalf.

For example, if you agree to a 30 percent contingency fee, the attorneys’ fees will equal 30 percent of your gross settlement proceeds. If the attorney recovers $500,000 for your car accident case, the attorneys’ fees equal $150,000. The attorney deducts their attorneys’ fee from the settlement proceeds before you receive your money.

Why is a Contingency Fee Beneficial for a Client?

With contingency fees, a client is not required to pay a retainer fee or upfront attorney’s fees. Accordingly, the client can afford to hire an experienced, skilled personal injury lawyer to handle the car accident claim. Many car accident victims struggle to pay bills and make ends meet as they recover from a car crash. A contingency fee allows everyone access to sound legal advice after an accident.

A contingency fee also motivates an attorney to fight for the maximum compensation allowable for a claim. The attorneys’ fee is directly tied to the amount the attorney recovers for the case. Therefore, attorneys are focused on recovering the most money possible for their clients.

The other benefit is that the client does not owe any attorneys’ fees if the attorney fails to recover money for the accident claim. If the client is not paid, the attorney does not get paid.

What Factors Influence the Percentage Charged for a Contingency Fee?

Many factors impact how much an attorney may charge as a contingency fee. Some of the same factors that impact an attorney’s hourly rate impact the amount charged for a contingency fee.

Factors that influence the fee that you may pay to hire a car accident lawyer include:

In general, the more experience and skills a car accident attorney has, the more the attorney may charge to handle a case. Also, an attorney may charge a higher fee if the case goes to trial versus settling outside of court.

It may be helpful to remember that you might pay more for an attorney who has more experience and resources. However, that could also mean a more significant settlement amount for you.

Who Pays the Cost of the Case?

There may be costs associated with pursuing a personal injury claim. The costs of the case may include, but are not limited to:

  • Copy and postage costs
  • Travel and mileage expense
  • Deposition fees and costs
  • Court filing fees
  • Expert witness fees
  • Costs of obtaining records, such as medical records and car accident reports

Make sure that you discuss the costs of the case with the lawyer before hiring the law firm to handle your car accident case. Many law firms pay the costs of the case, but those costs are reimbursed to the law firm from your settlement proceeds. Also, ask the attorney whether you are responsible for these costs if the attorney fails to recover money for your claim. 

Deadlines for Filing Car Accident Claims in New York

If you believe that you might want to hire an attorney to handle your car accident case, do not wait too long to talk with the lawyer. There are deadlines for filing car accident claims and lawsuits.

The New York Statute of Limitations for most lawsuits involving motor vehicle accidents is three years from the accident date. However, if a government entity is involved in the case, you could have just a few months to file a claim, or you might not be able to file a lawsuit.

There are exceptions to the deadline. It is best to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible after an accident to avoid a statute of limitations problem.