I Had a Car Accident—What If I Can’t Afford to Hire a Lawyer?

January 25, 2024 | Article by Chain | Cohn | Clark staff

Car accidents in California are a common, everyday occurrence. But if you were in a crash, it most likely came as an unpleasant surprise—especially if it was caused by someone else’s recklessness or carelessness. Now, you may be trying to recover from injuries while facing mounting medical bills, a damaged or totaled car, and missing time from work.

People who hire a car accident attorney consistently receive larger insurance settlements and can pursue personal injury lawsuits, if necessary. But with rates for California lawyers averaging around $300 an hour, you may wonder, “How can I afford to hire a lawyer to handle my car accident case?”

Fortunately, you don’t usually need to pay anything upfront to hire a car accident lawyer.

Most car accident attorneys—including those at Chain | Cohn | Clark—don’t charge for their services unless they win you a settlement or damages awarded by a jury decision. This arrangement is called working on contingency.

Let’s take a more detailed look at how contingency works and consider other options if hiring an attorney isn’t right for you.

Hiring a Lawyer on Contingency

A contingency is a possibility that something may happen. When you hire a lawyer on contingency, the possibility is that you’ll receive a jury award or an insurance settlement.

Here’s how it works:

You bring your car accident case to a personal injury lawyer. The lawyer reviews your case and agrees to represent you for a percentage of any compensation you receive. The percentage ranges from 25% to 40%, depending on the specifics of your case.

The lawyer handles your case, taking care of things like negotiations with the responsible driver’s insurance company, court filings, and finding expert witnesses. In the meantime, you usually don’t need to pay anything out of pocket.

When there’s a settlement with the insurance company or a jury finds in your favor and awards you damages, the lawyer is paid the percentage you agreed on at the outset of your case. For example, suppose your lawyer is working for a contingency fee of 33%. If you agree to an insurance settlement of $50,000, the lawyer’s fee will be $50,000 × 0.33, or $16,500.

Is it Worth it to Hire a Car Accident Attorney on Contingency?

Since you typically don’t need to pay anything out of pocket to hire a car accident lawyer on contingency, it’s clear that you can afford an attorney. But you may wonder if it’s worth it.

Here are two things you should consider:

  1. You’re more likely to recover money from your case if you have a lawyer. One industry estimate indicates that nearly 75% of people with a lawyer receive compensation, while just over half of those without an attorney do so. Suppose the at-fault driver’s insurance company refuses to give you a settlement, arguing that you are at fault. Will you be able to prove fault and negotiate a settlement on your own? You are much more likely to succeed with the help of an experienced auto accident attorney. It’s better to pay a contingency fee and get a settlement than it is to go it alone and receive nothing.
  2. You’re likely to recover more money from your case if you have a car accident lawyer on your side—in some instances, perhaps two or three times more. This is because a good attorney knows the value of your case, knows how to negotiate with insurance companies, and, if necessary, can take your case to court. Suppose you’re negotiating on your own. The at-fault driver’s insurance company offers you a settlement of $10,000. This seems like a lowball offer, so you hire an attorney who charges a 33% contingency fee. The attorney negotiates a $20,000 settlement. After paying the contingency fee, you receive $13,400—significantly more than you would have received on your own.

Bakersfield Car Accident Lawyers

It’s hard enough recovering from car accident injuries caused by another driver’s negligence—but it’s even harder when you’re mired in medical bills and fighting alone. The experienced car accident attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Clark can take the burden of dealing with insurance companies and legal filings off your hands and help you get the compensation you deserve.

For a free, no-obligation review of your case, contact us today.