Accidents happen. Getting yourself back to square one after an accident is hard enough when it comes to getting your car repaired and in the unfortunate case that you were injured in the accident, getting yourself repaired too. In accidents where it becomes necessary for you to get professional legal help to make yourself whole again, just getting the help can be another mountain which seems impossible to climb. With all the different British Columbia accident lawyers out there, it can seem like you would never be able to find the right person for the job.
As difficult as it may seem, getting a personal injury lawyer does not have to be as daunting of a task as it looks like at the beginning. In order for you to help yourself feel more confident in hiring a lawyer, it’s best practice to educate yourself on the process. As you probably have set your sights on winning a case to get a settlement to cover your loses, you will probably want to know how much it will cost you to achieve those results. Here are some of the things to consider when thinking about how much a personal injury lawyer will cost you.
The Fee Structure
It is very important you have a clear understanding of the fee arrangement the lawyer will charge you before you agree to have them represent you. There are 2 common practices when it comes to charging fees for personal injury cases.
1. Contingency Agreements
The first and most common way is to charge fee based on the settlement or judgment obtained. The advantages of this structure are that you will not pay for professional legal representation up front and you can be sure the lawyer has your best interest in mind, as the bigger the settlement the bigger the fee.
You may be thinking you don’t want to end up paying all of your settlement to your lawyer, and that is a very valid concern. To protect against that very thing from happening, the Law Society Rules (Part 8) cap the fee your lawyer may charge on your settlement at 33.3%. With this cap in mind, you can rest assured you will be keeping most of your settlement, no matter how large it ends up being.
When first obtaining legal services, your lawyer may start at a lower percentage of the settlement and gradually increase as the case becomes more complex or requires more of the lawyer’s time. It is important to keep in mind the value of the lawyer’s time, as a case that goes to trial may end up being very time consuming and could prevent them from taking on other work.
Another important factor to look at when evaluating a contingency agreement is who will fund the lawyer’s expenses, which are commonly referred to as disbursements, before the case is settled. Many lawyers will expect the disbursements to be repaid by the ICBC when your settlement is completed, but some lawyers also charge interest on disbursements, which may come out of your settlement.
If you agree to a contingency arrangement with a lawyer and end up terminating your agreement or choose to switch lawyers, you may be on the hook for the time your lawyer has already put into your case based on an hourly rate for the work already performed. In some cases your new lawyer may pay these fees, but this is important to keep in mind when evaluating any agreements.
2. Hourly Fee
The second way a lawyer may charge for personal injury legal services is by the hour. In this case, you will get charged for every hour the lawyer and his or her staff work, regardless of the outcome. While you may pay more up front, if you get a very large settlement, you may end up getting to keep more of it. This fee arrangement is much simpler than a contingency agreement, as you just pay as you go while your lawyer works on your case. If you are comfortable paying your fees up front and are confident you will receive a large settlement, this arrangement may be a better option for you.
Regardless of your fee arrangement, be sure to evaluate all aspects of your retainer agreement before deciding on a lawyer to make sure you are comfortable with how your case will proceed. With some background knowledge on how ICBC cases work behind the scenes, you will be able to make a more informed decision and will be well on your way to having the whole thing behind you. In the case of auto accident claims, time is of the essence, so make sure to act quickly!