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Know what types of legal fees your attorney plans to charge

On an average day, expenses for navigating the civil justice system isn't likely at the forefront of your thoughts; that is, unless you were recently injured in a motor vehicle accident caused by another motorist's negligence and you are considering filing a claim against that person. In that case, you might be thinking a lot about legal things, such as how exactly to go about filing claim as well as where the best place to turn for support might be if you need it.

Finances are, of course, an important matter to most people who plan to take action in court. You may have heard various stories about hidden fees or exorbitant costs related to the legal process and perhaps that has made you a bit gun shy with regard to investigating possible options to retain effective representation as you seek justice for the injuries you suffered. It's often possible to implement a plan that doesn't break your pocketbook and increases your chances for obtaining a favorable outcome.

Several types of legal fees you should be aware of

Various factors may affect the amount of money you'll spend if you choose to enlist the services of a personal injury attorney to help you present your case in court. The following list explains the most basic types of legal fees that may affect your decision when choosing an attorney:

  • Fee for initial meeting: Otherwise known as a consultation fee, many lawyers will charge you a flat rate, or a price per hour the first time you meet with them to discuss the basic facts of your particular situation to determine whether they can be of help. If you don't want to pay a fee from the start, you may want to choose an attorney who offers a free initial consultation.
  • One size fits all: Some attorneys charge a flat rate, meaning one overall fee for the service of representing you in court. Typically, if your situation is relatively non-complex and is easily addressed and rectified, an attorney may charge a straight fee rather than by the hour.
  • Retainer fees: This type of fee is akin to a down payment for services. Your attorney places the money in a special account and accesses it to pay for services as provided. 
  • Contingency fees: If you are concerned about finding the most cost-effective means to solve your problem in court, you may want to align yourself with an attorney who provides services on a contingency fee basis, meaning you pay nothing in attorney's fees unless and until the attorney obtains a settlement or verdict on your behalf. Your attorney receives a percentage of the settlement or award as payment, if any. Expenses often remain your responsibility.

The most important part is to know ahead of time how your attorney will calculate fees for your particular matter so you are better prepared to meet the expenses. Your fee agreement isn't necessarily going to be the same as another client's agreement with the same attorney. No two cases are exactly alike and you are free to ask any questions regarding finances you wish so you can gather as much information as possible and choose your options carefully.

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