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Hiring A Personal Injury Attorney: What Will It Cost You

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You have a lot on your mind after an accident. You’re probably wondering how you’re going to pay your medical bills, especially if your injuries are preventing you from returning to work. Then there’s the issue of property damage. Even if your property can be repaired, it’s probably not going to be cheap. 

You want to receive fair compensation from the at-fault party’s insurance and this often means hiring an attorney. But what are the costs of hiring a personal injury lawyer? Even with a contingency fee agreement, hiring a personal injury attorney can still be expensive.

A Contingency Fee Agreement May Not Cover Everything

Most personal injury attorneys offer their clients the option of entering into a contingency fee agreement. If you’re not sure what this is, the agreement simply states a percentage of your settlement award automatically goes to your attorney.

How much the attorney receives from your settlement depends on a few factors. These include the complexity of your case, the attorney’s experience, and even the location of the accident. Some locations automatically mean higher attorney fees. 

For example, you should expect to pay in the city compared to a more rural location. Contingency fees can also be based on the potential value of a claim. If your damages are extensive and you don’t need to worry about payout caps, your contingency fees may be higher than those for someone with minor injuries.

On average, contingency fees range from around 5% up to 40% of your settlement amount. So, doesn’t a contingency fee agreement cover all expenses relating to your injury claim? The answer is often no. Most contingency fee agreements don’t cover an attorney’s out-of-pocket expenses. The fees only cover the time an attorney spends working on your case.

Potential Additional Costs Not Covered Under a Contingency Fee Agreement

Some personal injury claims move along smoothly, even in the negotiation process. In these situations, you may not incur any additional costs. Your settlement check goes into escrow, your attorney deducts the agreed-upon amount, and you take home the rest. 

Unfortunately, not every personal injury claim goes this smoothly, and this is when additional costs can occur.

Court Costs

When you can’t reach a settlement with the at-fault party’s insurance company, the next step is filing a lawsuit in civil court. Sometimes, just the threat of turning your injury claim into a court case is enough to bring the insurance company back to the negotiating table. If so, congratulations, you’re one step closer to resolving your personal injury claim.

However, sometimes the insurance company refuses to budge and you end up in court. Getting your personal injury case on the court’s docket isn’t free. There are filing fees, and this is just the beginning. Throughout your case, there will probably be additional court costs and these can quickly add up.

Don’t be surprised if your court fees reach $1,000 or more. However, if your case is successful the defendant may be liable for your court costs.

Investigation Expenses

A benefit of hiring a personal injury attorney is getting access to their vast resources, and this often includes a private investigator and they usually aren’t cheap. The investigator can track down and interview witnesses, perform background checks on the defendant, and take a closer look at the police report.

Along with a private investigator, you may also need the services of an accident reconstructor—this is only an example of the types of services you may need to successfully prove your case in civil court. How much this costs typically depends on whether the investigators charge by the job or hour.

Deposition Costs

A deposition is often necessary in personal injury cases, and it’s also your responsibility as the plaintiff to cover these costs. 

So, why is it up to you to depose witnesses? The simple answer is the burden of proof is on you. If you can’t prove your personal injury claim, the judge and/or jury will rule in the defendant’s favor.

To dispose a witness and ensure it’s admissible in court, you need to follow a few guidelines. In other words, you can ask a witness questions over coffee and recite the answers back in court. Once again, you need to supply proof.

This often means hiring a court reporter or videographer. You may also need to pay rental fees for the temporary use of a conference room. A small silver lining is you may not be responsible for paying these costs if you win your case. Often, the unsuccessful party covers this legal expense.

Consultation Fees

You may be surprised to learn your attorney doesn’t know everything and sometimes needs to seek professional advice, and this is usually in the form of industry experts. For example, a medical professional’s expertise may be necessary to calculate your damages if you sustain an injury requiring long-term care.

Most personal injury attorneys will let their clients know this cost before scheduling a consultation. Unfortunately, this fee isn’t covered by the defendant even if you win your case.

Limiting Additional Attorney Fees May Not Be In Your Best Interest

Before you start setting boundaries for your attorney, recognize that some additional fees are necessary if you want your case to succeed. 

While most fees pop up when your case goes to court, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, you may need to call in an expert to help the insurance adjuster understand the items listed in your claim. In other words, even a successful negotiation process can still result in added fees.

As you’re drawing up the contingency fee agreement, ask your attorney precisely what it does and doesn’t cover. Are you responsible for court costs or are they added to the percentage the attorney receives from the settlement? 

Getting everything in writing before starting to work on your personal injury claim is the best way to avoid any confusion with additional fees. Don’t forget, that you can also refuse to allow your attorney to hire experts and investigators, but this can also hurt your case.

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