How to find the right lawyer
Consider your location. Each state has its own car accident and personal injury laws, but laws may also vary between cities or even zip codes. A lawyer who specializes in the area where the accident happened is likely to have the most relevant knowledge that an out-of-town or neighboring city attorney may lack.
Start your search online. Local lawyer directories are good places to begin compiling your list of lawyers to work with. On Avvo you can compare their experience and read reviews from past clients as well as see if the lawyer offers fixed fee services. Consider using a lawyer who speaks in your native language so that you are able to communicate effectively.
Type of Lawyer. Do you need a car accident lawyer, a traffic tickets lawyer or a DUI lawyer? Understanding the type of lawyer that you need can go a long way to helping your case be handled as efficiently and cost effectively as possible.
Costs of car accident cases
If you are in an car accident that results in injury and/or destruction of property, you may decide to sue for reimbursement for your pain, medical expenses, and lost wages. An attorney specializing in personal injury can help you navigate this process. Your attorney may be able to settle your case out of court, or you may end up going to trial before a judge or jury.
Most personal injury lawyers charge on contingency, which means that rather than paying costs up front, you agree to pay the case expenses and attorney fees from any settlement you receive. Generally if you don’t win the case, the lawyer will waive his or her fees.
Contingency may be charged as a flat percentage rate of any money you are awarded, or on a sliding scale, where the lawyer gets a higher percentage if the settlement is large, a lower percentage if the award is smaller. Some lawyers take a percentage of the gross award — the amount you are awarded before expenses are deducted — while others will take a percentage of the net award, the amount you are left after court costs. Be sure to understand how your attorney has calculated fees before signing a contract.
Any time you hire an attorney the primary cost is the time your lawyer spends on your case. Other costs depend on whether your case is settled outside of traffic court or not. Costs increase the longer a case goes on and particularly if comes to trial. Expenses that may be included in the final fee include:
- Filing fees
- Court Costs
- Paralegal Time
- Secretarial / staff time
- Postage charges
- Deposition and court reporter costs
- Computer research related costs
- Private investigator fees
- Messenger and process server fees
- Experts, consultants, and witness fees
- Travel expenses
The advantage of hiring a lawyer on contingency is that if you lose or are unable to settle your case, you will pay little or nothing. Your attorney will benefit financially only if you win your case and should be motivated to secure the greatest possible settlement for you.
There are disadvantages to contingency fee arrangements to consider. If your case is settled easily, you may be left feeling your attorney did not completely earn his or her fee. And if you win, you will be responsible for paying your lawyer’s fees and expenses even if that ends up leaving you with an amount less than the medical expenses and auto repair or replacement costs you incurred as the result of the original car accident.
Questions to ask your car accident lawyer during your initial consultation
Understanding who your lawyer is and how suited they are to taking your case can greatly influence the outcome of the case. Understanding the difference between someone specializing in trucking accident cases and motorcycle accident cases can make or break a case.
- Who will personally manage my case?
- How long have you practiced car accident law?
- How would you approach my situation?
- What types of cases have you handled that are similar to mine?
- How much do you charge?
Do not hesitate to interview multiple lawyers. The attorney you choose should not only have experience with your legal issue, but also be someone you feel comfortable working with. It is important to understand the fee structure that will be used previous to beginning your work together as it will be difficult to argue a lower price in the future.