If you’ve been involved in a Houston, TX, accident and were injured because of another’s negligence, you may be wondering if you should pursue legal compensation. The best advice we can give is to speak to a motor vehicle accident attorney. They will determine if you have a case and also discuss their fee arrangement. You can then decide if it’s best to move forward with your case and representation.
How Much Do Motor Vehicle Accident Attorneys Get From an Injury Settlement in Houston, TX?
Personal injury lawyers typically manage cases on a contingency fee basis. This arrangement means you do not have to pay money upfront for legal representation. Instead, your attorney will wait until your case has reached a resolution and then receive a percentage of the court decision or settlement proceeds.
Because of the nature of contingency fees, it’s impossible to name a dollar amount you might expect to pay your motor vehicle accident attorney. What we can tell you is this: you and your attorney will agree on the contingency fees at the very beginning of your case. These fees usually range from 30 to 40% and vary depending on factors like your attorney’s experience and the complexity of your case.
What Are Contingency Fees?
Contingency fees are simply forms of payment rendered for Houston, TX, legal services. In contrast to a fixed hourly fee, which lawyers charge for many forms of representation, contingency fees are paid only if the lawyer helps you receive a monetary award. In addition, the amount paid to the lawyer is contingent upon your case results. The higher your compensation, the more the attorney also earns.
Contingency fees improve access to legal representation, especially in difficult or ongoing cases. They also incentivize attorneys to advocate diligently on your behalf. Last but not least, these fees keep money in your pocket even as your claim moves through the legal process, allowing you to pay bills and seek the medical care you need without worrying about how to pay your lawyer.
We mentioned this earlier, but it’s worth repeating: an attorney’s earnings usually increase as a case progresses. This is known as shifting percentages, with the lowest percentage earned if a settlement is reached prior to filing a lawsuit.
The lawyer will earn a mid-range percentage if the case settles after filing a lawsuit but before going to trial. Finally, the attorney receives the highest percentage if the case goes all the way to trial and the court issues a personal injury award. The percentage shifts because the amount of work required increases.
A Mathematical Example
A contingency fee agreement with shifting percentages might give the attorney’s fees as 33%, 36%, and 40%, depending on when the case is brought to resolution. Using these percentages, let’s say your case goes to trial, and a verdict for damages in the amount of $50,000 is issued in your favor. Your attorney’s fees would be $20,000 (40% of $50,000), and you would receive $30,000 before legal fees (more on this topic in a moment).
The Governing Body
In Texas, contingency fees for motor vehicle accident attorneys are governed by the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. These rules mandate that contingency fees be allowed only in civil cases, meaning such a payment arrangement is not possible for criminal representation. The rules further state that contingency fees must be reasonable and based on factors like:
- The time and labor required by the case
- The skill necessary to properly perform the legal service
- The experience, ability, and reputation of the lawyer or legal team performing the services
- The time limitations imposed by the case or client
Every contingency fee agreement must be in writing and state if different percentages are accrued in the event of a trial, settlement, or appeal. Likewise, the agreement must state all legal expenses to be deducted from the recovery and whether they are deducted before or after the contingency fee is calculated. At the close of your case, your lawyer will provide a detailed statement describing the outcome and, in the event of recovery, all expenses accrued.
Common Legal Expenses
Speaking of expenses, it’s important to know that personal injury cases necessitate costs that cannot be compromised. These costs usually increase over time, especially if your case goes to trial. Common examples include the following:
- Court reporter fees if depositions are taken
- Fees to obtain police reports and medical records
- Document copying costs, including those relative to witness statements
- Court filing fees
- Transcript fees for depositions and if your case goes to trial
- Postage costs
- Expert witness fees
- Investigator fees and expenses, such as when evidence is needed to support your claim
- Trial exhibit fees
Many times, attorneys pay these fees up front and then bill them back to you. Some attorneys, however, request that clients pay expenses as they occur. It’s best to ask your attorney before representation begins how costs are to be paid. Also, keep in mind legal fees are paid on top of the contingency fee percentage, and both should be determined in advance of commencing with your case.
Voice Your Concerns
You can maintain a good relationship with your attorney by addressing fee concerns sooner rather than later. Review your monthly statements and ask your lawyer to explain why your bill says what it says. To illustrate, if you’re charged for postage but don’t know why, ask your attorney to substantiate that charge. The two of you may even discuss ways to reduce costs in the future without jeoparding your case outcome.
Your lawyer will perform a number of services to help improve your chances of success. They’ll also protect your rights, advocate for your interests, and seek the highest compensation possible. This information helps explain why lawyers charge the fees they do.
How Much Is Your Case Worth?
You’re likely wondering at this point what your Houston, TX, case is worth. Several factors must be considered when calculating any claim’s value, meaning it’s imperative that all of your costs and special damages be accurately calculated.
Many people immediately think of medical expenses when they start calculating their costs. These figures can be significant but are far from the only ones used to identify your case’s value. Predicted loss of income, future medical wages, property damage, pain and suffering caused by the injury, and emotional distress – such as loss of enjoyment – are just a few of the other damages that must also be accounted for.
Assigning a Dollar Amount
Some factors, such as pain and suffering, do not have a pre-determined value. These damages are known as non-economic and are assigned a number from your attorney. That number is based on the severity of the accident or injury and is multiplied by your economic damages. The resulting figure then gets added to your total case value.
Negotiating With the Insurance Company
Insurance companies are not known for readily paying fair compensation to victims. They will often do everything possible to undermine your claim and either minimize its value or dismiss it altogether. This is when your attorney becomes an invaluable proponent. They will use negotiation tactics to help reach a fair settlement or pursue your case in court. They’ll also prepare and present all the evidence and walk you through each step of the legal process.
Most vehicle accident attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, meaning you’ll pay for legal representation only after your case is settled. Contingency fees range from 30 to 40% and may increase as your case continues. In addition to legal representation, you’ll also need to pay fees for postage, expert witnesses, and other common expenses. To learn more, contact Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner today.