Now that you’ve started to heal, and the accident bills are rolling in, you’re probably thinking about what to do next. And you may have realized that you probably need an attorney to help you through everything that comes with a car accident. It’s not an enjoyable experience, but an attorney who has experience dealing with the aftermath of car accidents can make it a little easier.
A car accident attorney can help you:
- Deal with insurance companies and adjusters
- Obtain medical records from providers (hospitals, doctor’s offices, etc.)
- Find and obtain evidence of liability and damages
- Negotiate with lien holders
- Negotiate your final settlement
But can you afford to hire an attorney to help you resolve your case?
· Billable hours or “hourly”—in other types of legal cases, such as a divorce, an attorney may work on what’s called “billable hours.” That is, he or she is paid by the client on an hourly basis, and given an invoice monthly for the work that’s been done. Car accident attorneys don’t normally use an hourly arrangement, but it does happen occasionally.
· Flat Fee—this is simply a set amount of work for a set price, such as a will, prenuptial agreement or other type of contract.
· Retainer—much like an ad agency or other service business, an attorney is paid a regular amount of money to work on a case (usually monthly.)
· Contingency fee basis—many law firms who specialize in personal injury cases like car accidents use this arrangement. A contingency fee is one where an attorney gets a percentage of the settlement you receive for your case, minus administrative fees like court costs. Their fee is “contingent” on them winning your case and getting a settlement for you. Most personal injury attorneys favor this type of arrangement, although some also use a hybrid of retainer and contingency fee arrangements.
How The Contingency Fee Helps You
If you think you can’t afford an attorney, you might be surprised if you talk to one. Since car accident and personal injury attorneys prefer to work on a contingency fee basis, you may not have any out-of-pocket expenses until your case settles. Their fees and other administrative costs will be paid out of your settlement.
Administrative legal fees include:
- Court filing fees
- Process servers
- Expert witness fees
- Postage for mailing
- Court reporters
- Documents (medical records, police reports, etc.)
These fees are part of any legal case, and aren’t negotiable.
The generally accepted standard is 33% of your settlement. Depending on how it’s settled, the attorney’s fees are usually 20% to 40% of your settlement amount.
The Retainer Agreement
When you meet with an attorney, he or she will discuss your case with you. The attorney evaluate your case and advise you on whether he or she will agree to represent you.
You’ll be asked to sign a retainer agreement, detailing your legal counsel services, what the costs are, and other details. Read this document carefully before you sign it so you understand what you’ll be getting and what you’ll be responsible for.
Some attorneys will charge you directly for the administrative legal fees, some will not. This will be spelled out in the retainer agreement. You’ll need to know before you are surprised with a bill from your attorney’s office.
What’s The Hurry?
You have a short time frame to file a claim on a car accident.
In New York, you’ll only have 90 days to file a complaint and a claim if you’re suing a municipal entity like the NYCTA, NYCHA, a subway or city bus. You’ll have three years to file a claim and/or lawsuit against a private individual. But the sooner you start, the more leverage you’ll have.
Do I Really Need An Attorney?
If your accident is a minor fender-bender, the damage is small and you weren’t injured, you could probably handle it yourself if you wanted to. But if your car is totaled, or you have serious injuries, insurance companies will do whatever they can to shrink your settlement as far down as they can. Who’s going to replace your car? What about your medical care? If you need to answer these questions, it’s time to call a car accident attorney.
We’re Ready To Fight For You
Hoffmaier & Hoffmaier has been helping car accident victims in New York City for over 25 years. Call us at (212) 777-9400 for a free evaluation. We’ll be happy to talk with you about your case and help you through the difficulties you’re facing as a result. Don’t let the other party get away with leaving you without the compensation you need. We’re ready to help you get the help you deserve. If you’ve been hurt in a car accident in New York City, call us TODAY.