If you were seriously injured or lost a family member in an auto accident, chances are you incurred significant costs that you never anticipated. Medical bills, vehicle repairs, and lost income can add up to a small fortune. As the expenses mount, you may be wondering if you can afford to hire an attorney and if doing so would be worth the investment.
Fortunately, most car accident lawyers accept personal injury and wrongful death cases on a contingency fee basis. That means the lawyer’s payment comes out of the final settlement or verdict. In other words, you won’t have to pay anything upfront for representation, and no attorneys’ fees will be due unless the case is resolved in your favor.
What Are the Benefits of Contingency Fees?
The most obvious benefit of hiring an attorney on a contingency fee basis is that you won’t have to pay upfront for legal services. That means you will have access to quality legal representation regardless of your current financial situation.
Another benefit of this arrangement is that the lawyer will have a stake in the outcome of your case. If an unexpected issue arises, the attorney will have incentive to invest the necessary time and resources to see your case through to the end. And if the opposing party refuses to pay a fair settlement, your lawyer will have incentive to apply legal pressure to help you obtain the highest compensation possible since the attorneys’ fee will increase with your financial recovery.
What Factors Can Influence the Contingency Fee?
Not all lawyers charge the same contingency fee; however, you should not choose an attorney based solely on their fee. A low fee might indicate the lawyer lacks experience or only accepts cases that seem likely to settle. In other words, if the defense refuses to cooperate, the attorney might not have confidence proceeding to litigation and therefore may advise you to accept an unfair settlement.
Several factors could influence the fee charged by a particular lawyer. Examples include the attorney’s:
- Experience: A car accident lawyer who hasn’t represented many clients or who isn’t an accomplished litigator might be willing to take your case for a lower fee. But of course, this lack of experience would likely translate into sub-par representation. If, however, the attorney has represented hundreds of accident victims, they would be able to tailor their legal strategies to the particular circumstances of your case. This is important because every car accident claim is unique. A lawyer with the right experience will know the types of evidence needed to build your claim, the kinds of damages to pursue, the most strategic time to begin settlement negotiations, how to manage correspondence with the insurance company, and whether to advise you to accept a settlement offer or proceed to litigation. Although such an attorney might charge a higher fee, you may end up recovering more compensation.
- Caseload: Some law firms charge a low fee but take on a considerable number of cases. This often means no individual client receives the personal attention they deserve. Corners might be cut during the investigation, and again, the client might be advised to accept a low settlement so the lawyer can avoid entering time-consuming litigation. Other attorneys, however, charge a higher fee so they can take on fewer cases in order to provide exceptional representation.
- Reputation: Once a car accident lawyer has won some significant settlements and verdicts and has built a reputation as an accomplished litigator, they can justify charging a higher fee. At the end of the day, there’s a reason why such an attorney has developed rapport in the legal field, and it often relates directly to the quality of representation they provide to clients.
- Strategies: Even if your case seems likely to result in a settlement, it’s still important that your legal team conducts a thorough investigation. There are all sorts of reasons why a dispute might arise, so your lawyer should be ready for all eventualities. The more comprehensive your attorney’s strategies are, the more time that must be devoted to each individual case. That often translates into higher attorneys’ fees, but it also tends to result in better outcomes for clients.
What Factors Could Influence the Value of My Claim?
The attorneys’ fee certainly isn’t the only factor that could influence the value of your claim. Other factors include:
- The Defendant’s Insurance Coverage Limits: It’s an unfortunate fact that an injury victim’s financial recovery may be limited by the liable party’s insurance coverage. In Florida, drivers are only required to purchase personal injury protection and property damage liability coverage. In other words, many drivers don’t even have insurance coverage for bodily injury liability. If the at-fault party doesn’t have the insurance to pay for your damages, your personal injury attorney can investigate other potential avenues for recovering compensation such as your own insurance policies or the assets of the liable party.
- The Kinds of Damages Available: Were you diagnosed with permanent scarring or a disability?
Has your spouse suffered a loss of consortium? Have you missed work due to the injuries? You can only pursue damages that were actually caused by the collision.
- The Value of Your Damages: The cost of medical bills, lost wages, and other damages can vary significantly from one claim to the next. Even if the insurance company acknowledges the damages you have incurred, they might try to undervalue them in the initial settlement offer. One of your lawyer’s primary responsibilities will be to approximate a fair settlement figure and to justify that figure using the relevant case law, statutes, and evidence.
- Whether You Shared Fault: If you were partially responsible for the accident, your damages award may be reduced by your own percentage of fault.
- Whether You’ve Mitigated the Damages: Have you missed doctor’s appointments? Did you participate in an activity that caused your injury to worsen or prolonged your recovery? If you don’t take reasonable steps to facilitate your recovery, you might face a dispute over a failure to mitigate damages, and your financial award may be reduced as a result.
What Can My Attorney Do to Maximize the Potential Value of My Claim?
After being injured in a car accident, some people question the need to hire a lawyer in the first place. After all, there are laws in place to prevent insurance companies from acting unethically, so why would it be necessary to hire an attorney?
The unfortunate truth is that insurance adjusters are incredibly skilled at protecting their employer’s bottom line. They do this by employing proven strategies to deny and undervalue personal injury and wrongful death claims. For instance, the adjuster might ask you leading questions to elicit responses that can be leveraged to dispute liability, or they may leave certain damages out of the settlement offer entirely.
Your lawyer can help you level the playing field and ensure you are treated fairly. Specifically, a car accident attorney can assist in the following ways:
- Taking over Relevant Correspondence: The less you speak to the insurance company, the better. A skilled personal injury lawyer can prevent the insurer from getting statements from you that can be used to challenge your claim.
- Compiling Evidence: Overlooking just one piece of evidence could open the door to a dispute. Your attorney can gather all documents, records, and other evidence when building your claim so your case is as strong as possible when settlement negotiations begin.
- Approximating a Fair Settlement Figure: Your lawyer will estimate a reasonable settlement figure so the insurance company doesn’t get away with offering an unfair payout.
- Helping You Avoid Mistakes: It’s not uncommon for car accident victims to make inadvertent mistakes that jeopardize their claims. Missing important deadlines, posting about the crash on social media, and failing to mitigate damages are just a few examples of critical errors your attorney can help you avoid.
- Demonstrating a Willingness to Enter Litigation: The insurance company may be less likely to take a hardline during settlement negotiations if they think you would be willing to enter litigation. Hiring an accomplished trial lawyer is a surefire way to demonstrate that you’re not afraid to file a lawsuit if they refuse to cooperate.
How Long Does It Take to Resolve a Car Accident Claim?
A number of factors could influence the amount of time it takes to resolve your claim. We’ve listed a few examples below:
- The value of the damages being sought;
- Whether you shared fault for the crash;
- Whether you are claiming damages for the aggravation of a preexisting condition;
- The number of liable parties;
- Whether you’ve mitigated the damages;
- The statements you’ve provided to the insurer;
- The strength of the evidence; and
- The amount of time it takes for you to reach maximum medical improvement.
Call 772-266-5555 to Set up a Free Consultation with a Car Accident Lawyer in Stuart
At Donaldson & Weston, we have helped hundreds of accident victims navigate the legal system. Our attorneys have won numerous six- and seven-figure settlements and verdicts for clients. Call 772-266-5555 or message us to arrange a free consultation with a car accident attorney in Stuart.