Lawyers get a lot of criticism for how much they cost. The popular notion is that all lawyers charge hundreds, even thousands, of dollars per hour and bill their clients by the millisecond. Many people think of legal representation as a luxury service, something that only rich people and large corporations can afford.
Attorneys do not always make it easy for themselves in combating these stereotypes. Some lawyers do cost a lot of money, and many do track and invoice their time by fractional times. Not all lawyers work this way, however. 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. Below we discuss the reasoning for that and what else personal injury lawyers do to ensure that even the most cash-strapped, financially-strained clients can afford legal representation.
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, and you keep receiving bills for significant amounts from the facility. It doesn’t seem to matter to your boss, either, who just warned you that you are about to run out of paid-time-off and that you need to come back to work, even though you aren’t feeling 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 under the stress of wondering how you will keep your head above water financially.
At that moment, you may decide that you need the help of a lawyer to see if you can take some legal action for damages. But then you think: “Who am I kidding? I can’t afford to talk to a lawyer just once, much less hire one to work for me!”
Actually, you can. 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. Few reputable personal injury lawyers will charge you for an initial consultation.
Why? Because 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. You should not 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, if all personal injury lawyers offered in the way of affordability was a free initial meeting, then they would not have many second meetings, let alone clients with which to meet.
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. That is why personal injury lawyers seldom charge clients by the hour for legal services. These attorneys also hardly ever charge clients up-front fees. Instead, most personal injury attorneys work on a contingent fee basis.
Here’s the basic idea: 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 is ultimately secured on the client’s behalf. Lawyers refer to this payment structure as a contingent fee or working on contingency.
It works like this. 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, and 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 or asked for a penny of up-front compensation 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.
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 up-front. 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
To summarize what we’ve covered so far, as the victim of a personal injury, you can meet with an experienced lawyer for free, and you can hire that lawyer to work for you without paying a dime out of your own pocket unless the lawyer successfully recovers compensation on your behalf. When you look at it that way, hiring a personal injury lawyer seems like a pretty solid decision.
It seems like even more of a no-brainer when you consider the cost of the alternative: pursuing compensation without legal representation. Filing an injury claim without a skilled lawyer can cost you dearly.
Choose the Right Lawyer
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 that could include payment for:
- 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, like 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, such as when you have to take time away from work while recuperating or when your injury gives you a disability that prevents you from working at all.
- The pain, suffering, and diminished quality of life you have endured because of your injury, which can include the impact of strain on your personal relationships and your loss of the ability to live your life the way you previously did.
- In some cases, punitive damages to punish the extreme behavior by the at-fault party that led to your injury.
The severity of your injury and its impact on your life could make your case worth significant sums.
Now, who would you trust to turn such a valuable right into real money in your pocket? A lawyer who only dabbles in personal injury cases, or a lawyer whose law practice puts personal injury front-and-center? A lawyer with minimal experience with your type of accident or injury, or a lawyer who can point to a years-long track record of representing clients and getting results in cases just like yours?
These questions more or less answer themselves. Choosing the wrong lawyer to handle your personal injury claim can cost you real 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.
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, 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 do not get a lawyer. That’s why they sometimes offer you a settlement directly, 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.
The only choice more costly than hiring an inexperienced or unqualified lawyer to handle your personal injury case is not retaining a lawyer at all.
Start Your Personal Injury Claim Today
Personal injury lawyers get it: suffering an injury that someone else caused can pose a major financial burden on an injured individual. That’s why they try to make their services reasonable and affordable. Injured parties don’t have to worry about up-front 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.