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How Much Does a Lawyer Consultation Cost? Sometimes Nothing!

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How Much Does a Lawyer Consultation Cost

You may need an attorney for a legal issue, but you may be wary of contacting a lawyer because you don’t have the money for even an initial consultation, much less for full representation.

Lawyers get a lot of criticism for how much they cost, and many people think only rich people and large corporations can afford to hire top-quality attorneys. Some lawyers do cost a lot of money, and some rapaciously bill their time to bilk more money from their clients, or they may charge for every photocopy or office item they use in a case to eat up a retainer.

But your case involves a serious personal injury you sustained because of someone else’s negligence or carelessness. You had to get medical treatment, and now you have medical bills along with your other household expenses. You also had to take time off work to recover, and you’ve missed out on wages, bonuses, and other income.

You know you need a lawyer for help getting the compensation you rightfully deserve. However, you don’t have the money to pay your current bills, and you certainly can’t afford to pay a lawyer just to speak with them once or pay them a retainer or their hourly fees to take your case.

Contrary to popular misconceptions, lawyers who represent personal injury victims rarely charge by the hour, and they go to great lengths to make their services affordable and accessible to anyone who needs them. In fact, the first contact between personal injury lawyers and their clients usually happens during a free consultation.

That’s right: personal injury lawyers usually do not charge a consultation fee. Also, many personal injury attorneys offer other benefits to help even the most cash-strapped, financially strained clients get the legal representation they need.

Does This Sound Familiar?

Imagine you sustain an injury in a car accident. The crash wasn’t your fault, but that doesn’t seem to matter to the hospital that treated you in its emergency room. You keep receiving significant medical bills from the hospital along with bills from your personal doctor and other healthcare test and treatment facilities you used to evaluate and diagnose your injuries. You may have also paid for daycare for your kids while you sought treatment and focused on your recovery, and you likely incurred a lot of out-of-pocket costs getting back and forth from treatment and dealing with your injury.

Although your boss may appear sympathetic, they just told you that you have used up all your paid-time-off (PTO) and that you need to come back to work, even though you aren’t fully healed.

Plus, life is really hard right now. You still have your regular bills to pay, and you don’t know how you will keep up with them. Your body hurts all over. You can’t maintain your daily routine, let alone get any satisfaction out of activities that you used to enjoy.

You may feel like this process isn’t fair, and you are right–it’s not. You should not have to bear the burden and expense of injuries that are someone else’s fault. You should not live in physical discomfort and be under the stress of wondering how you will keep your head above water financially.

Although you might think you can’t afford an attorney to handle your personal injury claim and help you get the compensation you need, you can—and here’s why:

Your Initial Consultation With a Personal Injury Lawyer Is Free

To start, talking with a personal injury lawyer about your accident for the first time usually costs you nothing. The vast majority won’t charge anything for an initial consultation, but you should always check when you first call them.

Why don’t personal injury attorneys usually charge for initial consultations? Personal injury lawyers understand the challenges and difficulties that you face in the wake of suffering an injury because of someone else’s careless actions. These attorneys especially appreciate that accidents and injuries cause severe financial strain. They want to help you, and that starts with making it as easy and risk-free as possible for you to reach out and contact them.

In short, personal injury lawyers offer free case consultations because they know most of their potential clients can’t afford to pay a consultation fee. If these attorneys charged people to come to talk to them about accidents and injuries, then only financially well-off victims would show up. That’s not a winning business strategy.

For that reason, you will rarely find a personal injury lawyer who does not offer free case consultations. Even lawyers who handle other practice areas, such as criminal defense or family law, will waive an initial consultation fee for personal injury clients. You should not have to pay a consultation fee to talk to a lawyer about your accident and injury. If any lawyer tries to charge you a consultation fee, it’s a sign that the lawyer does not practice much personal injury law and that you should look elsewhere for legal help.

Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer Costs You Nothing Upfront and Nothing Unless You Win

Of course, personal injury lawyers must generate income to cover their firm’s overhead, pay their staff, and make a living for themselves. If personal injury lawyers handled all aspects of a case for free, they likely wouldn’t be able to survive professionally as lawyers very long.

Clients who cannot afford to pay for one meeting likely cannot afford to pay a lawyer by the hour to work on a case for weeks or months or pay a hefty retainer upfront. That is why personal injury lawyers seldom charge clients by the hour for legal services., and they hardly ever charge clients upfront fees. Instead, most personal injury attorneys work on a contingent fee basis.

How Contingency Works

Instead of charging fees as a case goes along, personal injury lawyers offer instead to do all of the necessary work for a client in exchange for a percentage of whatever money they ultimately secure on the client’s behalf. Lawyers refer to this payment structure as a contingent fee or working on contingency.

After their initial, free consultation, the lawyer and the injured individual will decide whether to work together. The lawyer bases the decision on whether the injured person has a viable case that the lawyer wants to handle. The injured person bases the decision on whether the lawyer seems like a good fit, in the sense that the lawyer has the experience, skills, resources, and reputation to handle the case.

Assuming both the client and the attorney agree to move forward together, they sign a retainer agreement. In the agreement, the lawyer and client agree on the percentage of the settlement that the lawyer secures for the client that the lawyer gets to keep as a fee. This percentage typically depends on:

  • How much time and work the case may take
  • The amount of money the lawyer thinks there’s a reasonable possibility of securing
  • The strength of the evidence.

Clients should always feel free to negotiate this percentage before signing a retainer agreement.

The agreement will also spell out how the lawyer and client will handle the costs of the case, such as travel expenses, court filing fees, and hiring expert witnesses. Sometimes, the client might agree to pay for these costs. Often, the lawyer will agree to pay them. Again, this is something the client can always negotiate before finalizing the agreement.

Regardless of the specifics of the retainer agreement, the bottom line is that the personal injury lawyer will get to work for the client without having received any upfront payment from the client. The lawyer will also have agreed to take the risk that if the case does not succeed, then the lawyer will not get paid for the work done on the client’s behalf. That’s the deal with contingent fees; the lawyer only gets paid if the client gets paid. This is why many personal injury lawyers are selective in the cases they handle and will not take on so-called “frivolous cases” that have no chance of winning or cases where the payout will be too small for their effort.

Why do personal injury lawyers work on contingency? Mostly for the same reasons for which they offer free case consultations. Personal injury attorneys know that their clients cannot afford to pay by the hour or upfront. Contingent fees make it possible for clients to afford to hire a lawyer and make it worthwhile for the lawyer to risk not earning anything. They also give the lawyer and client the same goal: securing as much money as possible, as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Not Hiring a Skilled Personal Injury Lawyer Is Costly

Now that you know you can talk to an attorney for free, you may still have reservations about paying them a portion of your settlement. The real question you need to ask yourself is, “What are my risks of not hiring a lawyer?”

Filing an injury claim without a skilled lawyer can cost you dearly. For one, insurance companies are businesses, and paying out on claims reduces their profits. They do not want to pay you anything—or only the bare minimum. The minimum settlement offer may not come close to covering all your expenses and losses.

As a personal injury victim, you have legal rights that could represent significant monetary value.

These rights may include the right to file an insurance claim that pays all of your expenses related to an injury and/or the right to pursue a lawsuit for compensation. A successfully navigated injury claim or personal injury lawsuit could result in substantial compensation you can use to pay:

  • All medical expenses associated with treating your injury, from emergency room care to surgeries, medication, and physical therapy.
  • All other out-of-pocket expenses that you face because of an accident and your injuries. These include the cost of hiring help around the house while you regain your health or the cost of repairing or replacing damaged property.
  • Any wages and income you lost because of your injury. This can include your having to take time away from work while recuperating or when your injury results in a disability that prevents you from working at all.
  • The pain, suffering, and diminished quality of life you have endured because of your injury. Non-economic damages can cover the ongoing adverse effects your injury has had and will continue to have on your life, including the strain on your personal relationships and your loss of the ability to live your life the way you previously did.

In some cases, you may pursue punitive damages from the person or entity who caused your injury. These types of exemplary damages are meant to punish the at-fault party for their extremely negligent, reckless, or unlawful behavior that led to your injuries. However, insurers usually won’t pay exemplary damages, but you can receive an award from the court if you take your case to trial. You will need an attorney to help you determine if your case qualifies for exemplary damages and have them advocate for you in court.

Regardless, the severity of your injury and its impact on your life could make your case worth significant sums of money.

Don’t Pursue Compensation on Your Own

Sometimes, personal injury victims wonder if they should just handle a claim on their own. They’ve heard that personal injury cases often get settled with a payment from the at-fault party’s insurance company and figure they can save some money by dealing with the insurance company directly instead of through a lawyer.

Big mistake.

Trying to handle a personal injury claim without the help of an attorney is not a smart decision. Indeed, it’s a recipe for disaster. It’s an invitation to defense lawyers and insurance companies to take advantage of you, and a surefire way to guarantee that judges and juries will not take you seriously.

In fact, insurance companies hope that you won’t get a lawyer. That’s why they sometimes offer you a settlement very soon after the accident. They make the settlement seem like easy money. All you have to do is sign a few papers.

Do not take the bait. Insurance companies dangle that money because they want you to bite before you learn from a skilled personal injury lawyer what your case is really worth. They hope you will sign away your rights and take the money so that by the time you figure out that you agreed to pennies-on-the-dollar compared to what a personal injury lawyer could have secured for you, it’s too late.

Hire the Right Lawyer

Your personal injury claim may be worth a lot of money, and you may have a strong case that any lawyer would jump on. However, you need to ask yourself whom you would trust to take on your case and who could give you the best chance of obtaining compensation.

Do you want a lawyer who only dabbles in personal injury cases and handles other practice areas? Or do you want a lawyer who practices personal injury law exclusively?

Even if you choose an attorney who handles only personal injury cases, you still need one with experience handling your kind of case. For instance, if your claim involves medical malpractice, a personal injury attorney who mostly does car accidents and has never handled a medical malpractice case may not be the best option.

You also want to work with an attorney who can provide documented results for other clients with cases like yours.

Just like trying to represent yourself with your claim, choosing the wrong lawyer to handle your personal injury claim can cost you real money.

Start Your Personal Injury Claim Today

Michael T. Gibson
Michael T. Gibson, Personal Injury Lawyer

Many personal injury attorneys are compassionate and understand what their clients are going through. They understand the extreme financial burden their clients’ injuries have had on their lives, and they know that the impact of serious injuries may last for many years or even the rest of the client’s life.

That’s why personal injury attorneys try to make their services reasonable and affordable. Injured parties don’t have to worry about upfront costs, unpredictable hourly billing, or being on the hook for a significant sum of money following an unsuccessful claim.

To learn more about your legal rights and options after suffering an injury that someone else caused, contact a skilled personal injury lawyer today.

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