If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident caused by someone else, it’s highly advisable to hire a lawyer, who can help make sure you receive compensation from the other party (or their insurance company) to cover your medical bills and other costs. Most personal injury lawyers work on contingency, which means that if they take your case and you receive an award at trial or settle out of court, they receive a certain percentage of the total amount awarded. The exact percentage may vary regionally, but a contingency fee of 30%-40% is common. This means you’ll pay nothing upfront to hire a lawyer, who will receive compensation once your case has concluded. Tim Riemann, a partner with Funk Riemann LLP, in Kansas City, Missouri, recommends asking if the firm takes its fees from the gross or the net award. His firm takes its fees from the net, which means that clients get to keep a higher percentage of the award.
Typically in vehicle accident cases, there are two phases in the proceedings:
- Your lawyer advocates on your behalf and deals with the claims adjuster from the other party’s insurance company to determine of they can reach a settlement or if a lawsuit will need to be filed.
- Your lawyer either works out the details of the settlement or represents you in the lawsuit.
When you hire a lawyer on contingency, they work for you free of charge until you reach a settlement or win your case in court and receive an award. Generally, the attorney's firm will cover any court fees or related expenses that may be incurred, then deduct them from the client’s portion of the award when they take their contingency fee. Riemann cautions consumers to avoid a lawyer who charge by the hour, require a retainer or do not handle fees this way.
A key question in a car accident is which driver is at fault, although in some cases both parties are deemed to bear some percentage of fault. If you’re in a car accident in that results in vehicular damage and/or injury to drivers or passengers, you should always call 911 so that injured parties can get medical help and a police or highway patrol officer can be dispatched to the scene. The officers will take statements from the drivers and review evidence at the scene, then write up an accident report that explains who was at fault and why.
As in many types of legal proceedings, personal injury cases resulting from vehicle accidents are usually settled out of court before a lawsuit is filed. However, it’s helpful to have a lawyer to advocate for you to ensure you receive compensation to cover the cost of medical treatment for your injuries or any other expenses incurred by the accident. Funk Riemann LLP typically charges a lower contingency fee in cases where a settlement agreement is reached than for a trial.