For many car accident victims, their initial consultation is the first time they have ever met with a lawyer. Many consultations end by signing a contract for contingency attorney fees. But what does that mean?
What Is a Contingent Attorney Fees Agreement
Historically, and in many other areas of the law, attorney fees are paid at a set hourly rate. The more work a lawyer does for you, the more you pay the law firm. To make sure these fees get paid, lawyers will often ask for a substantial up-front payment, called a retainer. But high retainer fees can put quality representation out of reach for potential customers without savings or disposable income.
Personal injury and auto accident attorneys often offer contingency fee agreements to their clients as an alternative to paying for lawyer services by the hour. Rather than paying a high initial retainer, you agree to pay your attorney a percentage of your settlement or jury award. That rate applies no matter how much (or how little) you win.
Attorney Fees Aren’t All That Comes Out of the Award
One common misconception is that the contingency fee covers every expense that comes up in your case. In addition to the percent contingent attorney fees you agreed to, your lawyer is legally allowed to use your award to cover:
- Court filing fees
- Document reproduction and discovery costs
- Investigator fees
- Deposition costs
- Mediation and Arbitration fees
- Expert witness fees
- Exhibit production costs
- Other costs related to litigating your case
In a heavily litigated auto accident case, this could add up to thousands of dollars, even before the lawyers get paid. If you have questions about how your award is being divided, you may ask your attorney for an itemized accounting, and for an explanation of any unexpected costs.
Getting Attorney Fees From Your Insurance Company
When your auto insurance claim is denied and the case drags on in court, you may feel caught waiting for your money to come. But there is good news. If the court agrees that the auto insurance company unreasonably denied your claim, it could order the company to pay your reasonable attorney fees and interest in addition to any no-fault benefits.
Attorney fee awards are so common, they are often included in the recommended settlements issued after case evaluation. The longer it takes to close your case, the more likely it will be that you can get the insurance company to pay your attorney bill.
A contingency attorney fee agreement doesn’t mean your lawyer works for free. But it does mean your law firm is motivated to do its best for you. By connecting their fees to how much you win, your lawyers give themselves the incentive to dig deep and get you the biggest award they can.
At Christensen Law, we often use contingency attorney fee agreements to make sure our clients can afford our services. Even if you don’t think you can afford a lawyer, contact us for a free consultation and find out what we can do for you.