It oftentimes comes up that accident attorneys make a lot of money, perhaps undeservedly, off the pain and suffering of victims.
So, it is a natural question to wonder why those attorneys do earn so much.
What is it that they possibly do, to command rates of pay that are higher than even some surgeons?
There are no single answers to that question, but there are some general truths about the practice of accident law that apply to most, if not all practices.
The Price of Service
The contract of representation sets out how much money the attorney is poised to receive once a settlement or judgment is reached in the case. In most cases that amount is somewhere between 30% – 40% of the gross proceeds of the case, exclusive of costs.
What that means is that if a policy settles for $100,000, the attorney would get $30,000 – $40,000 before payments for costs.
Costs might include medical treatment, expert witness fees, or filing fees and any other costs related to the case that bring it to a resolution.
Now, that might sound like a lot of money on one case, but here are some reasons why:
Lots of Time Wasted (Due To Bad Insurance Companies)
First and foremost, insurance companies do not make it easy for victims to collect what they should get for theirs. They know that injuries develop over time so if they can get the victim to take a quick settlement they will.
That’s why attorneys have jobs anyway…because insurance companies won’t pay people what they deserve.
So attorneys have to spend a lot of time on the phone, on fax, through emails and in court over long periods of time (6 months – 2 years) to get a case resolved (all without getting paid). Imagine working your job for months at a time without a paycheck and without the certainty that you will get paid.
It is a little scary if things don’t work out in the way that you planned.
An attorney can spend hours on a case, and at the end of the day, not get paid for her time.
So, essentially she collects a risk premium for taking on that risk of not getting paid.
Crazy Amounts of Risk
The risk is not just related to the hours spent that might go unpaid.
The privilege to serve a client means that the attorney has to take on a lot of risk related to expenses that may never get paid back, which is reason number two why lawyers get paid so much.
Each case is an investment of time AND MONEY for the lawyer.
Costs that a lawyer is likely to spend on to prove your damages in your case include medical visits with a top-rated doctor, expensive medical procedures including surgery, court filing fees, forensic accounting fees, medical expert witness fees, etc. The list can be expansive and reach upwards of $50,000 or more (depending on how much insurance money is available on your case).
The lawyer is not compensated for any of it until a case settles or a judgment is reached, which can take months or years to be reached.
And, even if it is reached, it does not always mean that the amount of time expended or costs paid out will be guaranteed to be completely paid by a court judgment or an insurance company.
So, just a like a loan company that provides high percentage loans to people who may have bad credit and thus may not pay back their loans, personal injury lawyers get paid this risk premium for working and paying out costs FOR FREE, in the hopes that they get paid back at some uncertain time in the future.
Increased Settlement Value
An experienced attorney will increase the amount of overall money you put in your pocket and so she should get paid for doing that.
By hiring a car accident lawyer you are already increasing the chances that you will be paid more by the insurance company than if you don’t.
The value that this brings to your table is reflected in her fee.
By investing her time, money and, most importantly knowledge and reputation into your case, which she has taken time to build, she deserves to command a high fee.
This extra settlement value is supposed to help you get paid more than if you did it alone and spent your time and money on the case.
All in all it’s not all roses and gold being a personal injury lawyer. There is a lot of risk in expending time, money and expertise on each case. These are just some of the main reasons why personal injury lawyers, get paid some big bucks when you ultimately get paid. So, don’t fret, you are making the right decision to hire one, and, hopefully, now understand what you will end up paying for.