Multi-million dollar lawsuits over auto accidents capture news headlines, sometimes giving the impression that car accident attorneys are becoming rich from personal injury claims. Most auto accident claims, however, don't make lawyers rich. Unless you've suffered lifelong debilitating injuries, your car accident attorney won't likely become a millionaire from your claim. Here's a look at what they might make, based on average figures. (The exact amount they earn for handling your claim will vary.)
Most Auto Injury Lawsuits Settle for Around $24,00
As of 2013, the average settlement for a personal injury claim arising from a car accident was $24,000. This is the amount paid to cover all associated costs, including medical treatment, legal counsel and reparations. Your own claim may settle for more or less, but this figure provides a realistic reference point to use when estimating how much your car accident attorney will earn from your case.
Legal Fees Are Often Thousands of Dollars
Legal fees include many expenses that don't go to your attorney, and they can total thousands of dollars. Even if your case doesn't go to court, you may need a deposition and expert witness to solidify your claim. For a deposition, you may need to pay:
- $325 to $375 for a 100-page transcript
- $555 per hour for an expert medical witness
- additional fees for any expedited services
All of these costs are deducted from your settlement, before either you or your car accident attorney are paid from it.
If your deposition lasted two hours, and the resulting deposition was 100 pages, it would reduce your settlement amount by more than $1,000. Even if the deposition was only $325, and you didn't need anything expedited, you'd still have to pay $1,110 for the expert medical witness. Assuming your settlement was for $24,000, it would be reduced to $22,890 after these expenses.
Your Car Accident Attorney Will Probably Charge 33 Percent
Most car accident attorneys work on a contingency fee schedule. Instead of billing hourly or asking for a retainer, they earn a percentage of your settlement. This lets you hire them to represent you, even if you can't afford an attorney.
The percentage that your attorney receives will be detailed in the agreement you sign when hiring them. Most car accident attorneys, AllLaw says, charge 40 percent of the settlement amount if a case goes to court. If a case is settled outside of court, they only receive 33 percent. In both cases, these charges are assessed after all other legal fees have been deducted from the settlement.
Often, cases don't go to court. Going to court only increases everyone's expenses, so it's not in anyone's best interest unless the claim is for an abnormally large sum. Your case will likely be settled outside of court (although it may still require a deposition). Your attorney, therefore, will probably receive 33 percent of your settlement amount. In the given example, that would be $7,553.70.
Your Attorney's Fees Pay for More Than Their Salary
$7,553.70 might sound like a lot of money, and it is. This amount, however, isn't paid directly to your car accident attorney. From this amount, they must pay for the following expenses associated with operating a legal practice:
- their staff's salaries
- rent for their office space
- utilities for their office
- their travel expenses
- their advertising costs
Once all legal and business expenses are paid, your car accident attorney will be paid. The final amount they receive will provide them with a living, but it probably won't make them rich. It's more likely to be closer to their mortgage payment than pay for a second home.
For more information about how the cost of a car accident case breaks down, contact a company like Gelman Gelman Wiskow & McCarthy LLC.