Following an automobile accident, the first thing to worry about is getting the medical attention that will lead to the road of recovery. That medical attention can become a new source of worry for the victim, as the costs add up and become a further cause for concern.
A victim deserves fair compensation for losses from an automobile accident that was at least in part caused by someone else. With the help of an experienced New Mexico personal injury attorney, a victim can file their claim or court case correctly and on time.
But how much will an experienced attorney cost? The short answer is: It depends.
Common Types of Accident Attorney Costs
Accident attorneys commonly offer a first meeting, called an “initial consultation,” for free. The purpose of this meeting is to assess the victim’s case and determine if they have a valid claim. After the initial consultation, fees and costs can vary quite a bit.
Contingency Fee Arrangements
The most common fee arrangement made between a victim and the accident attorney they work with is a contingency fee. With this arrangement, the attorney agrees to a fee that is a percentage of the final settlement when and if the case is successfully completed. In other words, the attorney is paid only after winning the case.
The percentage cost that an accident attorney receives with a contingency fee agreement varies, but typically ranges between 25 to 40 percent. A 33 percent fee is the most common. So, if the injured victim has a 33 percent contingency fee arrangement in place with their accident attorney and they recover $90,000 at the end of their case, the attorney will receive $30,000.
With a contingency fee arrangement, there is a lower risk for the victim because the attorney only gets paid if they successfully recover compensation for the victim. This also means that an attorney will only take on a case that they believe they can win. And since the accident attorney costs are not paid until the claim or case is settled, the victim does not have to pay huge costs upfront for the attorney to take on their case.
Keep in mind, however, fees are different from costs. Even with a contingency fee arrangement, the injured victim will typically pay out-of-pocket for any litigation costs, like court filing costs or those charged by expert witnesses, regardless of whether the case results in the successful recovery of any claimed amounts.
For example, here at the Law Office of Samuel I. Kane, we always handle personal injuries on a contingency basis. We feel that it is the only fair way to help our clients without adding further financial burden during this stressful time.
Other Fee Arrangements
Other types of attorney fee arrangements might involve being charged by the hour with a monthly bill to pay, statutory fees that are set by some states to regulate the amount an attorney charges for services, or flat fees that are straightforward amounts for this specific type of case. (Flat fees in personal injury cases are extremely rare.)
Yet another type of accident attorney fee arrangement option is a retainer fee, where the victim pays an amount in advance. This is sometimes referred to as a deposit. The attorney draws from this amount as they perform their work on the victim’s behalf.
Factors Impacting Accident Attorney Cost
Attorney fees vary and often depend on a variety of factors, such as:
- The strength of the claim or case itself
- The amount of the losses or damages being claimed
- The depth or difficulty of the legal issues surrounding the accident, claim, or court case
- The attorney’s experience and reputation
- The newness or longevity of the relationship between the victim and the attorney
- The fees other attorneys are charging in the area to represent similar cases
- The timeline and its impact by the victim’s needs, the claim’s circumstances, and legal statutes
Other Considerations in New Mexico Auto Accident Claims
The timeline is a crucial factor to consider because there are laws that dictate not only how, but also by when, a victim must file their automobile accident personal injury claim.
This is known as the statute of limitations. In New Mexico, the timeline for filing a claim following an automobile accident is:
- Three years from the date of the accident for personal injuries suffered
- Three years from the date of the victim’s death if a loved one died from his or her injuries and you must file a wrongful death action
- Two years from the date of the accident for a claim against a governmental entity
Comparative Negligence: What It Means to a Claim
Another crucial factor is that the victim and their attorney must prove that the other party acted negligently – that the other party was at fault. The other party will often counterclaim, arguing that the injured victim was at least partially at fault in the accident.
New Mexico applies a legal theory of pure comparative negligence in deciding these cases. What this means is that the amount a victim is awarded in a claim may be reduced by a percentage of which they are determined to be at fault themselves for the accident and resulting damages.
For example, let’s assume again that a victim’s total damages and losses were $90,000. In New Mexico, if the automobile accident is determined to be 100 percent the other party’s fault, the victim could be entitled to the full amount of $90,000 from the other party. However, if the victim is found to be 50 percent at fault in the accident, they could only receive $45,000.
Other states follow laws under comparative, modified comparative, or contributory negligence rules. Each comes with its own factors that weigh in on a case that also affect the costs of an accident attorney’s help with the victim’s claim. This is yet another reason why working with an experienced accident attorney is beneficial.
A truly ethical personal injury attorney will work on a contingency, taking their fee only if and when the injured victim wins something, and from whatever amount of settlement is won. If an attorney asks to charge fees upfront or to charge for a meeting just to talk, such demands should be considered red flags by the injured victim.
Please note that this article was created for advertisement purposes, and it does not constitute any contractual legal relationship, nor imply one.