You didn’t ask for the car accident, but now you’re wondering how much your personal injury claim is worth. Your first step should be to contact a personal injury attorney who can help you determine a dollar figure for what to expect from a settlement or court award. If you don’t have an attorney to explain this information, here are some points to consider as you look at the value of your claim. The amount will depend on which parties are legally liable for your injuries as well as other factors such as the extent and permanence of those injuries, medical bills that have already been paid by your health insurance, and how much you can expect to be paid overtime for lost wages if the injuries are severe enough to prevent you from working. Personal injury claims are not based on “pain and suffering” as many people think. The compensation is tied directly to the loss of earnings or earning capacity, medical bills that have already been spent.
You might not think that hiring a lawyer for car accident is necessary given that your insurance company will provide legal representation but this is actually not true. Your insurance company has its interests at heart and these may be different than yours. What’s more, if the other party (or their insurance carrier) makes any counter-offers on your behalf, your carrier will take this into account when it negotiates the final settlement with the other carrier. This means they’ll reduce their offer to reflect whatever they paid for those counter-offers.
Or perhaps you believe that all of the costs for hiring legal counsel can be offset by how much money the attorney will help you recover from your claim. This is not true because there are costs an attorney will incur to investigate and pursue your case that has nothing to do with what you receive in a settlement or judgment.
And finally, there’s the fact that an insurance carrier must provide a legal defense for their insured regardless of fault whereas the other party’s insurer only has to pay your damages if it’s at fault.
So when push comes to shove, you may need an attorney more than you think. Here are some items that attorneys charge for when working on a car accident case:
• The hourly rate charged by the attorney
• Expenses such as medical records, photographs, long-distance telephone calls, postage, etc
• Court costs
• Costs for subpoenas and depositions
• Fees to expert witnesses
Most law firms bill their time in increments of 1/10th or ½ hour. So even if your attorney spends 2 hours on a case, you are only charged for one hour. This is to make it easier when the attorney bills his fee for services rendered. So this is where you get into trouble if you do not pay attention. The attorney may bill 10 hours at 1/2 hour, for example, even though he only spent 8 or 9 actual working hours on your case. So make sure you look at the total number of hours billed and multiply it by two (or more) to get an accurate picture of what you need to pay up!
When attorneys work on a personal injury claim they incur various expenses that must be reimbursed by the client. For example, if an attorney needs to request and review your medical records they may charge $20-$35 per page and even more if there are several hundred pages involved. Likewise, obtaining copies of police reports can cost $25-$50 per report plus postage and copying charges. Attorneys also charge for mileage incurred while working on a case as well as long-distance telephone costs.
Any costs involved with filing papers in court are the responsibility of the client. These include filing fees, postage, and service charges. Depending on where you live these costs may be anywhere from $25-$300 per motion or complaint filed with the court. This doesn’t include the daily or hourly cost of having a law firm engaged in your lawsuit.
Depositions & Subpoenas
Subpoenas are legal documents requiring someone to appear at a deposition or trial while depositions are questions under oath that attorneys ask witnesses during this process. Fees for these differ by state but can average $75-$100 per deponent and $50 per party called to testify at trial. There also may be additional charges for translation services if necessary.
Many personal injury cases require expert testimony which is when an expert in the field testifies before the court. For example, many claims involving vehicle crashes require testimony from a mechanical engineer or accident reconstructionist who has testified in similar cases throughout his/her career. Such experts may charge around $250 per hour for their time. However, if they need to prepare reports this price could be higher.
When you are evaluating your claim and thinking about hiring an attorney it’s important to understand that not all attorneys bill the same way nor do they work on a contingency fee basis (where there is no fee unless there is a recovery). Some firms offer alternative billing options like flat fees while others charge hourly rates. Another thing to consider is whether you have other injuries outside of those associated with your car accident claim. If you do, you should talk to your attorney about the cost of treating these injuries because they may not be covered by your health insurance carrier and you’ll have to pay for them out-of-pocket unless your attorney can get reimbursement from the other party’s insurer.
As with any service, you should always check with several attorneys before hiring one to represent you. This is particularly important if the attorney will be representing you on a contingent fee basis because there are so many factors involved it’s difficult to generalize about fees from case to case.
In some cases, an attorney might advance all of the necessary expenses and then seek repayment after your claim settles or a judgment is entered in your favor. This helps avoid having a lien placed against any settlement or judgment but may not be as beneficial as being able to tell your carrier that they’re responsible for paying these upfront costs.
Every situation is unique so it’s best to discuss your specific case with an experienced car accident attorney.