Hiring an attorney is a major decision, and it is vital for anyone considering filing a lawsuit to understand the cost of legal fees and weigh them against the potential recovery available in the case. For a relatively minor car accident, the drivers involved may come to a mutual agreement and settle the matter through insurance, but more severe accidents may require additional legal action. Additionally, state law will likely come into play as every state has different laws for handling car accidents and auto insurance.
Assess Your Damages
You probably do not need an attorney if your vehicle accident was a minor fender-bender at low speed. For example, another driver hits your vehicle in a parking lot while backing out of a parking space. You meet with the at-fault driver and exchange insurance information. Your damages only total a few hundred dollars in repairs and you suffered no injuries. In this example, hiring an attorney would likely cost more than the claim is worth, so it is in your best interest to simply file a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance policy.
If your accident involves significant damages and/or severe injuries, hiring an attorney may be your best option to ensure a satisfactory recovery. Additionally, if the other driver denies liability for your accident, hiring an attorney may be necessary if the other driver attempts to shift blame for the accident to you.
Legal Fees vs. Potential Recovery
It is generally inadvisable for an individual with no legal training to attempt self-representation. While doing so could save money on legal fees, the average person may not know how to navigate the court system, uncover available avenues of compensation, or handle the insurance claims process. If a car accident resulted in significant damages, the injured driver may face mounting economic problems from medical bills, missed time at work and lost wages, and property damage to his or her vehicle.
Hiring an attorney is rarely cheap, and most personal injury attorneys offer contingency fee billing to help offset the typically high cost of legal fees. With a contingency fee agreement, a lawyer takes a percentage of the final settlement or case award as legal fees and the client pays nothing upfront and nothing if the lawyer loses the case. This offers peace of mind to those who need legal assistance for their car accident claims but cannot afford it out of pocket.
In any case, hiring an attorney will not come without expense. Even with a contingency fee, an attorney will likely take a sizeable chunk of your final settlement or case award in exchange for handling your case. This can be reasonable in a complicated car accident claim, such as one involving multiple drivers or significant economic damages, but in less severe accident claims the attorney may take 30% or more of your recovery after settling the case with just a few phone calls.
How to Tell If You Need a Lawyer
Ask a few questions to help determine whether you should hire an attorney.
- Is liability clear? If an at-fault driver assumes responsibility right away you may not need to hire an attorney to handle the situation.
- How substantial are your vehicle damages? If the total value of your claim is only a few hundred dollars for vehicle repairs you likely do not need an attorney.
- How severe are your injuries? Seek medical treatment immediately after any accident, even if your injuries seem very mild. A doctor can identify serious problems and internal injuries that may not have symptoms immediately. More significant injuries should compel you to hire an attorney.
Most personal injury lawyers offer free consultations to potential clients, so consider taking advantage of such an offer and meet with a local attorney to gain a better understanding of your legal position and the potential recovery available for your claim.