How Much Does a Houston Lawyer Charge for a Car Accident Case?
Most legal practices and attorney’s offices work on a contingency basis. What this means is that, after conducting a preliminary investigation of the strengths and merits of your case and discussing case specifics with you, if they choose to take on your case, they will do so at no up-front cost, and you only pay them a predetermined fraction of your settlement payout once you win your claim and receive damages from your insurance company or the at-fault party. Insurance payouts can range from a few thousand dollars to several million as shown by National Highway Transport Safety Administration (NHTSA) settlement figures, so it is important you know what you are likely going to win and have to pay to win a settlement.
The Standard Contingency Percentage
The percentage that your lawyer will take for winning your case varies from state to state and from case to case. It is usually somewhere between 20% and 40%, with one-third or 33% the most common rate that legal offices use. So if you are awarded a settlement of, say, $300,000 for damages, injuries, and other costs that arise directly from an accident you were in, you will receive $200,000 and your lawyer will receive $100,000, but only after you have been paid.
Talk with your lawyer about the percentage they charge and also ask for clarification of any other fees or charges that may apply in special circumstances. For example, some lawyers charge 33% for handling cases, but if your claim goes to trial, they may increase their fee to, say, 40%.
It is important to keep in mind that the 33% charge – or whatever contingency fee your lawyer charges – is for handling your case. You may or may not have to pay additional fees yourself. Other fees include things like paying for official police reports, obtaining comprehensive medical histories, paying for court fees, and paying experts such as medical professionals or accident reconstruction experts for their testimonies. You may have to pay many of these fees as they become due or as soon as they are needed.
Many small practices require the client to pay these fees as soon as they need to be covered, but many large, established practices cover them themselves and deduct these expenses from the final settlement you are awarded.
In addition to the zero up-front cost approach outlined above, some legal offices take cases on a retainer basis. In such cases, the standard lawyer fee is generally the same (i.e. somewhere between 25% and 40% of your final settlement, with the standard being 33%) but they may take an up-front retainer of a few thousand dollars to cover running expenses as they arise. Having cash in hand helps your legal team avoid delays in getting things done as needed when they work on your claim, and you recover that money in any case since it is deducted from your lawyer’s share of the settlement once a settlement is awarded.
Evaluating Costs Versus Benefits
You may wonder whether or not hiring an attorney to handle your car accident case on your behalf is worth the cost. The rule of thumb is that the higher your damages are, the more important it is that you hire a lawyer. For small-scale accidents or fender benders, you can probably handle a claim on your own using your insurer’s online filing tools or by speaking to an agent directly.
Even with small claims, it is still recommended that you speak to an attorney since you may miss important filing deadlines or fail to include possible future losses or damages in your demand letter, which will cause issues for you down the road should any damages or injuries manifest themselves at a later point in time. This is common in accidents involving whiplash and in spinal cord injury cases.
When it comes to larger claims, however, you can expect more resistance from your insurer, more complex proof and documentation requirements, as well as a fair amount of intimidation and low-balling as your insurer tries to get you to agree to a lower settlement than what you actually deserve. Under these circumstances, it is critical that you have legal representation by your side to avoid being duped or defrauded out of damages that you deserve.
Speak to Houston’s Local Legal Experts Today
If you’ve been involved in an accident of any type, give us a call at 713-677-2253 to learn about claim filing options, what damages you can recover, and how to proceed with collecting the evidence needed to support your case. We are Houston’s local legal experts and have helped hundreds of victims recover damages and insurance payouts from negligent third-parties as well as large, corporate insurers responsible for making settlement payments. We will help protect your rights and interests so call now.
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