Asker: I was hurt in a car accident recently, but I can’t afford my own attorney at this stage. Why are lawyers so expensive? Do they always charge up front for fees? I want to sue, but can’t afford the fees right now.
Attorney: I’m sorry to hear about your accident. You’re not alone if you’re having financial problems resulting from it. Most of the clients my law firm helps have medical expenses and what we call ‘lost wages’ – money accident victims miss out on earning while they’re out of work because of their injuries.
As a matter of fact, there is a secret to being able to afford a lawyer – actually, there are two of them: the free consultation and the contingency fee. Believe it or not, taking advantage of these two options will allow you to hire a lawyer without paying so much as a dollar out-of-pocket. Let me explain.
The “Lawyers Are Expensive” Belief
It’s not really a misconception that “lawyers are expensive” – certainly some of them are. Lawyers in some disciplines of law charge upwards of $200 per hour, so it’s no surprise that your initial thought is that you can’t afford an attorney. Honestly, who could afford that kind of hourly rate, when faced with rising medical bills and lost income?
What a huge number of people don’t know is that personal injury lawyers operate differently than lawyers in many other disciplines. Instead of charging these steep hourly fees that can quickly rack up an excessive bill, personal injury attorneys in general work on what’s called a contingency basis. That means any personal injury attorney you meet with should only ever charge you after they have actually recovered money on your behalf. Even then, the fees you pay will only be a percentage of what the lawyer won for you, and it will come out of your settlement or verdict. You’ll never once have to open your wallet or reach into your bank account to come up with the money to pay your attorney.
The idea of a free consultation flows naturally from this contingency fee arrangement. Lawyers want the opportunity to represent you, so they won’t charge you anything to hear out the details of your accident. If the case sounds promising and they think they can do a good job representing you – meaning both that you will come out of the process with the money you deserve for your injuries and the law firm will make the money it needs to succeed as a business – then they will take your case on. If not, at least you haven’t wasted any money of your own finding out, and you might even be able to get some free advice on what you can do in this situation.
Without a contingency fee arrangement, it would be very hard for accident victims to ever afford a lawyer. Because virtually every personal injury attorney works on contingency, it means that you have nothing to lose and a lot to gain.