accident guide
accident guide

How Car Accident Lawyers Charge For Their Legal Services

If you’ve been injured in an automobile accident, you may realize that you need a lawyer. You may also be concerned about how you’ll pay for a lawyer. In this article, I explain how automobile accident lawyers generally charge for their services.

Of course, some lawyers, and some cases, are different. This is more of a general guide than a definitive statement of how any particular lawyer would handle your case.


In most automobile accident cases the lawyer and client enter into a contingent fee agreement. Under a contingent fee agreement, the lawyer only earns a fee if some event – a “contingency” – happens. Normally, that contingency is that the client wins a judgment or the case settles.

The lawyer’s fee in a contingent fee case is normally based on the amount of the judgment that is awarded at the end of the case, or the amount of the settlement.


Normally, in an automobile accident case, if the case is resolved through settlement, that percentage of the recovery that is the lawyer’s fee is 33 percent. If a lawsuit has to be filed, the percentage normally goes up, and in the very rare cases where there is an appeal after the lawsuit the percentage goes up yet again. The percentage of the recovery going to legal fees increases at a few points because these points are where there is a large increase of the amount of work that the lawyer has to do. Yet, at the same time, these points are not necessarily where there is a large increase in the recovery that you would be likely to receive.

The lawyer’s fee in this kind of arrangement is normally based on the gross recovery. There are almost certainly costs of bringing a lawsuit or investigating a claim. These costs include filing fees, expert costs, investigator costs, the costs of getting medical records, deposition costs, and the cost of preparing exhibits, among other things. What the client recovers at the end is reduced by the lawyer’s fee and the costs of the litigation.


There are a number of advantages to a contingent fee agreement. Perhaps the most obvious is that the client’s interests and the lawyer’s interests are aligned. The client and the lawyer want the same thing – a speedy resolution of the case that maximizes the recovery. Other advantages are that you, as the client, do not pay if there’s no recovery, and that no money is required up front.


A contingent fee agreement does, however, require more work on the part of the lawyer before accepting a case. If a case is going to be billed hourly, a lawyer can take the case without worrying about whether the case has merit (or without worrying as much; no lawyer wants to lose a case). When a lawyer takes a contingent fee case, the lawyer is, in essence, going into business with the client for that case. The lawyer is investing his time, energy, and money (remember those court costs) into a case. That lawyer wants to make sure that he knows the case is a prudent investment.

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