By Francis M. Smith
Despite the clear benefits of working with a motorcycle accident lawyer when pursuing an injury case, some injured riders try to go it alone, and the most common reason for this choice is the fear of attorney's fees. When you're racking up medical bills right and left, and you can't go back to work until your injuries have healed, the prospect of another major expense can be very intimidating. In fact, that's something insurance companies often count on – the injured claimant's belief that hiring a lawyer will be too expensive, and thus going up against the insurance adjuster without any help.
You do have the option of paying an attorney on an hourly basis, but why do that when your finances are threatened by medical bills and loss of income? Just about all motorcycle injury lawyers work on what's called a contingent fee. This is an arrangement in which your motorcycle accident lawyer agrees to accept a percentage of your eventual settlement or damage award as his fee, rather than charging you an hourly rate up front. This gives accident victims who would not otherwise have been able to afford a lawyer the best chance at getting the compensation they deserve for their injuries.
A motorcycle accident lawyer, like any personal injury attorney, takes a risk when working on contingency. If the insurance company resists all efforts to negotiate a reasonable settlement, and the case fails in court, then the injured person doesn't receive any compensation for their injuries – but the attorney working on their case doesn't get paid for the hours he put into working on the case. That's another advantage of contingent fees – you can feel confident that your motorcycle accident lawyer is putting his best effort into your case, because he only gets paid if you win.
If the insurance adjuster is resistant to reaching a fair settlement, you may need to prepare your case for trial. This process carries its own set of expenses: expert witnesses must be brought in, court reporters must be hired to take those witnesses' depositions, medical records must be ordered, and evidence exhibits must be produced. In addition, there are various court costs associated with filing a lawsuit that must be paid. Most injured plaintiffs don't have the funds available to pay all these costs on their own, so generally your motorcycle accident lawyer will cover these expenses. When you receive your settlement or damage award, your attorney will be reimbursed from it for the costs and fees he paid while building your case. This arrangement is often vital to accident victims seeking compensation, because frequently the strongest cases that have the potential to yield large compensation awards require the testimony of multiple doctors and specialists and various evidence exhibits – the cost of which can easily reach tens of thousands of dollars.
One of the most important things to remember when you seek to hire a motorcycle accident lawyer for your injury claim is that you're in control. The lawyer is an expert who has valuable resources and experience to bring to your case, but you have the final say over what happens – including whether to hire a particular attorney and under what terms. When you hire an attorney to work on your case, you will have to sign a contract called an "Agreement to Provide Legal Services". The exact terms of the lawyer's payment will be spelled out explicitly in that contract. The usual contingent fee in personal injury cases is 33 and one-third percent (1/3)of the net (after disbursements) compensation award or settlement figure. This percentage is set by Supreme Court rule in New Jersey and cannot be exceeded. You should understand and be comfortable with the contract before you sign it. Ask whatever questions you need to in order to feel at ease with the terms of the contract. Prior to signing that contract with the attorney, finding a different lawyer is simple. Afterwards, it's still possible to change your mind and have someone else represent you, but the first lawyer will still get some of the fee for the time and expenses he put into your case, and another lawyer may be unwilling to take you on as a client if he has to share the fee with your first lawyer.
When your case is resolved successfully, either with a jury verdict or an agreeable settlement negotiation, you'll receive a check for the amount of your damages or settlement figure, with the agreed-upon percentage of your attorney's fees and expenses subtracted out. A "closing statement" is usually prepared showing you the gross amount of the settlement, all checks written for expenses incurred by your attorney, the fee calculation, and your net recovery. That represents what is yours to use as needed.
If you or a loved one have been injured in a serious accident, please contact me or call me at 908-233-5800 for a free consultation.