As of May 2021, lawyers earned an average of $152,590 annually. If you need a car accident lawyer in Houston, Texas, this number can make you fear for your financial stability.
However, the money that lawyers charge for their services may or may not come from your wallet. It all depends on how your lawyer decides to charge you. Unlike many other services, legal representation can be paid for in a variety of different ways.
Read on to learn more about the different charging methods your lawyer can use. You’ll also learn about how much each method can cost.
After you choose a car accident lawyer, he or she may request a retainer fee. Lawyers often request this to ensure that they will receive some compensation for the work they do. For your benefit, a retainer fee can act as a way of reserving the lawyer that you want.
What is a Retainer Fee?
In car accident cases, retainer fees usually act as an upfront cost of a lawyer’s services. Don’t confuse them with the monthly or yearly fees an individual or business will pay to keep a lawyer available when they need him or her.
Usually, a car accident lawyer will subtract any legal fees from the retainer fee. In the case of a contingency fee, you’ll get your retainer fee back through a reduction of the lawyer’s settlement share.
The cost of a retainer fee depends on how much the lawyer wishes to charge. Some lawyers will ask for a retainer fee that covers the time they expect the case will take. If the case stretches on for longer than that, they’ll charge their client for another retainer or other legal costs.
Others will charge a fraction of the total cost of the case. When this runs out, the lawyer will start charging the client typical legal fees.
Because retainer fees can vary, make sure that you fully understand the terms of your retainer fee charges. Ask if the lawyer’s legal fees will be taken from the retainer fee. You should also make sure that you’ll receive any unused retainer fees.
Also, make sure that you get the agreements in writing.
Most car accident lawyers work on a contingency fee basis as long as you’re the one filing the case (the plaintiff). A car accident lawyer likely won’t charge you this way if you’re the one defending yourself (the defendant). Usually, only the plaintiff receives a financial settlement that a lawyer can benefit from through a contingency fee.
What Is a Contingency Fee?
A contingency fee is an amount that a lawyer takes from the financial settlement he or she wins for you. This usually comes in the form of a percentage. Typically, this will cover at least most of the lawyer’s fees.
Say that you and your lawyer agree to a contingency fee of 30%. Then he or she gets you a total financial settlement of $90,000. You would get $63,000 and the lawyer would get $27,000.
The average contingency fee percentage is 33.3%. Overall, though, the percentage can range from 25% to 40%. You may be able to lower your lawyer’s contingency fee through negotiation.
Unfortunately, though, agreeing to a contingency fee payment method comes with a risk. If the lawyer fails to win your case, you may not get out of the situation without paying anything. You often have to cover the lawyer’s fees yourself.
Keep in mind that the percentage won’t change if the resulting settlement is much less than you and your lawyer expected. A lawyer can take away a large portion of your settlement if it’s low enough.
Some lawyers charge their clients for costs on top of their contingency fees. Others may waive these fees. It all depends on how much the lawyer expects to make from the particular case.
What Are Lawyer Costs?
Certain services throughout your case will cost your lawyer money to perform. If your lawyer expects your settlement to be big enough, the lawyer may consider themselves preemptively compensated for these costs. In other cases, your lawyer may want to be reimbursed for his or her costs on top of the contingency fee.
Your lawyer can charge you for smaller services like filing and photocopying records as well as getting police and medical records. There are also court fees to consider. These include the fees for a court reporter and an expert witness.
There are a lot of possible extra costs. As such, there’s a wide range of amounts that you can pay. They can also quickly add up to the tune of thousands of dollars or more.
Be sure to read over the contract so that the charges don’t surprise you. You should also negotiate with your lawyer if you believe that the costs for certain services don’t seem reasonable and/or necessary.
Lawyers may allow you to subtract the costs from your financial settlement on top of the contingency fee. However, you should learn if the costs will be deducted before or after the lawyer takes his or her contingency fee. If costs are deducted after this time, your lawyer will get a larger fee.
For example, say you get that $90,000 settlement mentioned above and the costs are around $5,000. Your lawyer gets 33% of $85,000 ($28,050) if the costs get deducted first. If the costs are deducted after, your lawyer gets $27,000
For some car accident cases, you may want to represent yourself and only use a lawyer for specific services (this is not recommended). If you decide to go this route, you may pay the lawyer you choose a flat fee for each service.
What Are Flat Fees?
A flat fee is a set price that a lawyer charges for a particular service. This is an alternative to charging for the time it takes to complete a service. Lawyers will usually use this charging method for simple legal services.
An example of a useful service related to a car accident case is writing a demand letter. This is a letter that a lawyer can write and send to the at-fault driver’s insurance company. It can detail why you should receive compensation for damages accrued from the accident.
The cost of flat fees will vary widely. This depends on the exact services you need and what the lawyer you choose charges for them. A demand letter, for example, can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to over a thousand.
A common complaint about flat fees is that they make the service not seem worth the cost. An excellent lawyer may complete a service in less than an hour, but charge more than the typical hourly attorney rate.
If you’re the driver at fault, lawyers will usually charge you by the hour. Some lawyers may also charge you this way for certain services. Unfortunately, this can be one of the more expensive charging methods.
Most attorneys charge from $100 to $400 per hour for their services. If an attorney has more experience, he or she will usually charge more.
You don’t necessarily need to pay your lawyer upfront if this would put your financial situation at risk. Some lawyers will allow you to pay them monthly fees over time as part of a payment plan.
If you meet certain financial requirements, you may be able to get a pro bono lawyer. You can likely find an organization in your local area that can assist you in this matter.
What Is Pro Bono?
A pro bono lawyer is a lawyer who offers his or her services for free. These services are usually provided through community-based programs. These programs are often funded through state or federal sources.
They’re typically offered to individuals below a certain income level. However, these programs may also help veterans, the elderly, the disabled, and more.
Pro bono clinics are an example of a pro bono community program. They’re usually staffed by volunteer lawyers. Some of these are highly experienced lawyers who are helping the less fortunate in their spare time.
Usually, the volunteers at pro bono clinics just offer free legal advice. Occasionally they will take on cases.
Most of these pro bono programs have very few resources available. Even if you meet their income requirements, you may still get turned away.
Hire a Car Accident Lawyer in Houston, Texas With Us
There are pros and cons to every one of these costs for a car accident lawyer. Consider doing some further research into each of these. This should help you decide which charging system would be best for your situation. You can then prioritize finding a lawyer that offers this payment method.
Also, if you’re in Houston, Texas, and need the best car accident lawyer, consider using one of ours. We can help you start moving forward again. Leave us a message on this page and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.