Paying for a Car Accident Attorney
Most clients ask “how do I pay for a car accident lawyer?” at some point during our initial consultation. This is a legitimate question and one that I would certainly ask if I were looking to hire an attorney. Most people are rightfully concerned with the possibility of lawyer billing them a huge amount if the lawyer does not win enough money in the case to pay the fee. In car accident cases, lawyer fees are typically paid on a contingency fee basis. In our firm, this simply means that if we do not obtain a recovery on your behalf, we do not get paid.
Rules Governing Contingency Fees in Car Accident Cases
This is the primary relevant section of Georgia Bar Rule 1.5 which addresses contingency fees:
(1) A fee may be contingent on the outcome of the matter for which the service is rendered, except in a matter in which a contingent fee is prohibited by paragraph (d) or other law. A contingent fee agreement shall be in writing and shall state the method by which the fee is to be determined, including the percentage or percentages that shall accrue to the lawyer in the event of settlement, trial or appeal, litigation, and other expenses to be deducted from the recovery, and whether such expenses are to be deducted before or after the contingent fee is calculated.
What Does a Standard Contingency Fee Agreement Look Like?
This is a sample of our standard contingency fee agreement:
As compensation for their services, I agree to pay my attorneys thirty-three and 1/3 percent (33 and 1/3 %) of the gross recovery on behalf of the undersigned.
Appeals are rare, but they do periodically occur. These fees do not cover the handling of any appeals, applications for appellate review or the re-trial of the case should the same be necessary. If an appeal or any post-trial motion is filed by any party at any point in the litigation, the percentage will be forty-five percent (45%).
Gross recovery is defined as the “gross amount of money recovered” for or on behalf of the undersigned (which term shall include the fair market value of any property which may be recovered). Said fee shall be paid out of the money recovered at the time said money is received or said property is sold. Recovery is further defined as any offer of settlement made, whether actually collected, at any point in the litigation. This representation does not include any workmen’s compensation claim or loss of consortium unless indicated otherwise herein.
Client understands that this fee is not negotiable should recovery be made in this case. NO RECOVERY = NO ATTORNEY’S FEES. It is agreed and understood that this employment is upon a contingent fee basis, and if no recovery is made, the Client will not owe the Attorney any attorney’s fees. Case expenses incurred in the prosecution of these claims will be due and payable by the Client, upon recovery.
I understand that The Sessions Law Firm, LLC may advance legal and cases expenses, which will be deducted from any recovery. NO RECOVERY = NO CASE EXPENSES OWED BY CLIENT. Costs and/or case expenses may include, but are not limited to, the costs and expenses normally associated with the litigation or settlement of my claim, such as medical records/bills, medical narratives, investigative fees, service fees, witness fees, deposition costs, transcript costs, expert witness fees, copying costs, postage costs, travel expenses and long distance toll charges. At the end of the case, The Sessions Law Firm, LLC will provide an itemized list of expenses for the undersigned.
It is agreed further that said attorneys may deduct the amount of any unpaid bills for doctors, hospitals, and related items, making disbursement of such funds directly to the entity concerned. At such time as there may be a recovery, the parties agree that The Sessions Law Firm, LLC will be fully reimbursed for all costs and expenses outstanding or already paid on my behalf, in addition to their fees for professional services. This representation does not include any worker’s compensation claim or loss of consortium unless indicated otherwise herein.
What if a lawyer is charging a hourly fee instead of a contingency fee for a personal injury case?
If a lawyer has quoted you an hourly fee instead of a contingency fee for a personal injury case, be very careful. Usually, in a personal injury case, if a lawyer is unwilling to handle the case on a contingency fee basis, this is a signal that the lawyer is doubtful of your likelihood of success. Treat the lawyer’s decision not to advance fees and costs on your behalf as a bet regarding the likelihood of success of your case or the lawyer’s ability to fund the case. Both are negative signals from that attorney and should be a red flag for you.