After a motor vehicle accident, you may be dealing with quite a lot, between doctor’s visits, missed work, and getting your car repaired. All of this can add up to quite a bit of financial strain, particularly if you aren’t getting paid while you recover from your injuries. In this situation, you may find it hard to even consider hiring a lawyer.
Fortunately, even if you don’t have a lot of extra cash, you can still hire a New York personal injury lawyer. Car accident cases are typically handled on a contingency fee basis. This means that you pay nothing up front, and the total fees will be a percentage of your settlement or verdict at trial. In this way, you can afford to have legal representation for a car accident claim.
At The Odierno Law Firm, we represent accident victims throughout New York. We have a strong track record of success, helping our clients get top dollar for their medical bills, lost wages, and other losses. To learn more or to schedule a free initial consultation with a New York car accident attorney, reach out to our law offices today.
How Are Attorney’s Fees Handled in Car Accident Cases?
When you hire a lawyer, you may expect that you will have to pay them an hourly fee for each hour that they work. While this is true for many types of legal services, there are other types of fee arrangements that attorneys use. In addition to an hourly rate, a lawyer may charge based on a flat fee or contingency fee.
Personal injury lawyers typically work on a contingency fee basis. With a contingency fee, you pay nothing for your lawyer to get started on a case. If – and only if – your attorney is successful, you will pay them a percentage of your total recovery. This percentage is capped by New York law.
A contingency fee is “contingent” on your lawyer resolving a case in your favor, whether through a settlement with the insurance company or a verdict after a jury trial. If they don’t recover money for you, then you will not be required to pay anything. This type of fee arrangement aligns your interests with your attorney’s interests: you both want to resolve the case as quickly as possible, and for as much money as possible.
Importantly, the plaintiff (accident victim) is usually responsible for the costs associated with bringing the claim. This can vary by law firm, so you should read the contingency fee agreement closely to understand what you may be required to pay. Typically, plaintiffs in car accident cases will be paying for things like:
- Filing fees
- Costs for photocopies
- Expert witness fees
- Court reporter fees for depositions
- Fees associated with obtaining copies of medical records, accident reports, and other documents
Your lawyer will typically pay these costs up front and keep track of them for you. At the end of the case, you will then pay back the costs from your settlement or court judgment. Be sure to talk to your attorney about whether you will be responsible for costs if you do not win your case.
What Percentage of My Recovery Will Go to Attorney’s Fees?
In New York, state law sets out two specific ways that contingency fee arrangements can be handled for personal injury and wrongful death claims. Unless authorized by a court order, a personal injury attorney cannot seek fees in excess of these fee schedules. These fees may be calculated either before or after costs are deducted from the total recovery.
Schedule A has a “sliding scale” for contingency fees. It works as follows:
- 50 percent on the first $1,000 of the sum recovered;
- 40 percent on the next $2,000 of the sum recovered;
- 35 percent on the next $22,000 of the sum recovered;
- 25 percent on any amount over $25,000 of the sum recovered.
This is a bit complicated, but essentially, you will pay a higher percentage for your attorney’s fee for the first $25,000 recovered, and then a flat 25% on any amount over $25,000. For example, if you settled a car accident claim for $60,000, then you would pay $500 for the first $1,000, $800 for the next $2,000, $7,700 for the next $22,000, and then $8,750 for the final $35,000. This would bring your total attorney’s fee to $17,750 of your settlement.
Schedule B has a flat percentage of no more than 33 and ⅓ percent. With this fee arrangement, a personal injury lawyer cannot seek additional compensation because of extraordinary circumstances. Using the example above, 33.33% of a $60,000 settlement would be $19,998 in attorney’s fees.
This money will come out of any settlement or award of damages that you recover. In a car accident case, you may be entitled to financial compensation for all of your losses. Depending on the facts of your case, this may include money for medical bills, future medical treatment, property damage, lost wages, reduced earning capacity, pain and suffering, emotional distress, scarring, disfigurement, and loss of enjoyment of life. If the at-fault party acted intentionally or recklessly (such as in a drunk driving accident case), you may also be entitled to punitive damages.
Contingency fee arrangements can vary considerably, subject to these limitations. For this reason, you should read any proposed contract carefully. You should also feel free to ask questions about the agreement. You may even be able to negotiate some aspects of the contract.
Is It Worth It to Hire a Car Accident Lawyer?
When looking at these numbers, you may find yourself questioning whether it is a good idea to hire a car accident attorney. You might even think that you could save yourself money by handling the case yourself. For almost any car accident case (other than very minor claims that only involve property damage), representing yourself would be a mistake.
Insurance companies are in business to make money. Part of how they rake in billions of dollars in profit is by paying out as little as possible on car accident cases and other types of claims. No matter how helpful an insurance adjuster may seem, their goal is to get you to accept a settlement that is far below the true value of your case.
Insurers use a variety of tactics to do this. The adjuster may ask you to make a statement, sign some documents, or accept a settlement while you’re still reeling from the trauma of the crash – and before you’ve had a chance to talk to a lawyer. They will then use your statement or your signature on a release to do things like argue that you were partially at fault for the accident or to dig back into your medical history to claim that your condition was pre-existing.
In some cases, the insurance adjuster will make what seems like a great accident settlement offer. But in reality, the offer will be far below the actual value of your case. If you accept the offer early in the case, you may have no idea what the extent of your medical bills and other losses will be. This could leave you in a situation where your medical bills alone eat up the bulk of your settlement.
A lawyer will protect you from these types of outcomes by handling all communications with the insurance company for you. They will thoroughly investigate your case to ensure that they understand what happened, who can be held responsible, and the true extent of your losses. Throughout the process, they will use their knowledge of New York law and similar cases to fight for you.
Studies show that people who are represented by legal counsel recover an average of 40% more than people who represent themselves in personal injury claims. In other words, the best way to get maximum compensation for your injuries is by hiring an experienced lawyer. Not only will you preserve your rights, but you will also ensure that you get a fair settlement for your losses.
How The Odierno Law Firm Can Help
A car accident can be both scary and traumatic. In the aftermath, you may be overwhelmed by mounting medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses. Our legal team will advocate for you and work hard to get you the money that you deserve for your losses.
Based in Melville, The Odierno Law Firm fights to help accident victims throughout Long Island get maximum compensation for their injuries. We handle all personal injury lawsuits on a contingency basis and never charge a fee unless we recover money for you. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation with a New York car accident lawyer, give us a call at 631-994-1918 or fill out our online contact form.
See Also: Pain & Suffering Lawyers