Negotiating Fees with a Car Accident Lawyer

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Written by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021

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A car accident lawyer will often take a case on a contingency fee basis, which means the accident lawyer takes a percentage of the settlement or award. This percentage can vary, so if your car accident lawyer charges 40 percent and you want to negotiate a lower percentage, you may try to do so. This doesn’t mean you’ll be successful and it also doesn’t necessarily mean that you should find a cheaper accident lawyer.

Negotiating to Reduce Attorney Fees

If you’d like to convince your lawyer to take a smaller percentage of the victory, you should know that that there’s little risk in asking. Paying your lawyer less will not result in lower quality legal representation. The lawyer owes the same duties to you as he or she owes to a higher-paying client. However, a car accident lawyer who sets a fee structure may not be willing to reduce his or her fee structure and, if that is the case, you’ll have to either pay or go elsewhere.

In any case, it is best to make your concerns regarding attorney’s fees clear before beginning any attorney-client relationship, and make sure you know what will be charged whether you win or lose, and whether the case goes to trial or is settled out of court. And get it in writing!

What Will High Fees Really Get You?

If your car accident lawyer tells you that her fee is 40 percent, you can ask her if there is any room for flexibility. If she says no, there may be no further negotiation options available to you. You should, however, think about the important things that your car accident lawyer does that are worth paying for. For example:

  1. A good accident lawyer will investigate and research your case, file all the papers on time, attend court hearings, file and argue motions, take and defend depositions, write interrogatories and communicate with you about the case. 
  2. The attorney should take the case to trial if warranted or else negotiate a reasonable settlement, regardless of the fee. 
  3. An experienced attorney negotiates ably and creatively to win you the largest settlement possible

All of this may be worth a higher percentage fee in the long run. An experienced and more expensive accident lawyer may be a form of “building the fee into the cost,” meaning he or she will cost more but also win more in return.

As with any other professional service, some attorneys are simply more expensive than others. The fee charged can also vary depending on things such as the complexity of the case, the time commitment required, seriousness of the injury, and even the location where you live. In larger metropolitan areas, for example, where cost of living is higher in general, attorney fees tend to run toward the higher end of the scale.

Finally, remember that if your lawyer is part of a large law firm, he or she does not necessarily set such fees by choice or alone. Many law firms have set percentage fees for various types of cases their attorneys accept, and any negotiation of the fee would not be merely the decision of your lawyer, but potentially that of the other lawyers in the firm.

Related content: When to Hire a Car Accident Lawyer in the Insurance Claims Process.

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