How Much Does a Lawyer Charge for a San Diego Car Accident Case?

Attorneys’ fees for a car accident case depend on several factors. The value of your claim is often the most important factor in how much you pay for a personal injury lawyer.

Many personal injury lawyers take car accident claims on a contingency fee basis. However, some attorneys charge an hourly figure instead of a contingency fee.

Contingency Fees vs. Hourly Rates

Many attorneys charge an hourly rate for their services. Family law attorneys, corporate lawyers, and probate attorneys often charge by the hour. Other attorneys may charge a flat fee for their services, such as bankruptcy lawyers and real estate attorneys.

The law does not require attorneys to charge hourly fees, flat rates, or contingency fees. It depends on the lawyer’s preferences. However, the fee schedule used by most lawyers in a specific geographic area usually determines what other lawyers do.

Most San Diego personal injury attorneys accept injury and accident cases on a contingency fee basis. The client agrees to pay a percentage of any verdict or settlement the lawyer obtains in their favor in exchange for not paying hourly fees. The client only owes the attorneys’ fees if the attorney recovers money for the client’s claim. 

The more money the attorney recovers for the client, the higher the attorneys’ fee. Therefore, attorneys have a strong incentive to maximize the client’s economic damages and non-economic damages to increase the client’s compensation. 

For example, if the attorney recovers $500,000 for a car accident claim and the client agreed to pay the attorney 30 percent as a contingency fee, the attorney would receive $150,000. However, if the attorney does not recover any money for the client’s client, the client does not owe any attorneys’ fees.

Contingency fees allow accident victims to obtain legal representation even if they cannot afford to pay a lawyer. Many accident victims incur lost wages because of the accident. The loss of income combined with other factors can create financial hardship for car accident victims.

Lawyers understand clients might go through financial hardship after a car crash. A contingency fee is an answer to the problem. 

Who Pays the Costs of the Case?

There are certain costs that the attorney incurs while investigating and pursuing a car accident claim. 

Examples of costs associated with car accident claims include:

  • Cost of obtaining copies of accident reports or videos of the accident
  • Travel expenses and mileage
  • Copy costs and postage
  • Expert witness fees
  • Court filing fees
  • Deposition costs

Before hiring a San Diego personal injury lawyer, ask the attorney who is responsible for the payment of costs. Each attorney sets their own policy regarding costs. The attorney may pay for some costs, but you might be liable for other costs.

How is the Percentage Set for a Contingency Fee?

Contingency fees for personal injury cases generally fall between 25 to 40 percent. The attorney may charge a lower contingency fee if the case settles without filing a lawsuit. The contingency fee may increase if the lawyer must take the matter to trial.

Several factors could impact the percentage an attorney charges for a contingency fee, such as:

  • The complexity of the case
  • Whether the case goes to trial
  • The attorney’s level of experience and record
  • The geographic area where the attorney practices
  • An attorney’s education, specialized skills, and certifications 
  • The type of case, such as a car accident case versus a medical malpractice or wrongful death case

Generally, attorneys with more experience and who hold specialized certifications can justify charging higher rates for their services. In many cases, a high success rate also increases the contingency fee. 

It is important to remember that attorneys who have more experience and vast resources to investigate cases may obtain larger settlements and jury verdicts. If so, you and the attorney receive more money.

When you meet with a personal injury lawyer to discuss your car accident case, ask the lawyer about their experience and success rate. You should also ask the attorney if they have specialized training or certifications.

If you were injured in a car crash, do not delay discussing your case with a car accident lawyer. There are deadlines for filing personal injury lawsuits. In most cases, accident victims have two years from the accident date to file a lawsuit.

However, some exceptions could change the deadline for filing a car accident claim. It is best to speak with an attorney as soon as possible after a crash. You do not want to lose your right to hold the at-fault driver liable for your damages and injuries.