computer keyboard contingent fee keyBy definition, car accidents are unexpected, and so are the costs of injuries associated with those accidents. So it stands to reason that most people who are injured in a car wreck aren't financially prepared for the cost of hiring a lawyer. This sets up a dilemma if you've been in an accident in Nashville: you need a lawyer to help you recover damages from your accident, but you can't afford to pay a lawyer's hourly fees. You may be wondering (as many accident victims do) whether you could convince an attorney to take your case for free.

The short answer is no. Personal injury attorneys expect to be paid for their services—and rightly so. But that does not mean you can't afford an attorney, especially once your settlement comes through. Many attorneys also understand your financial situation—and that's why you should look for an attorney who will work on a contingency fee basis.

What Is a Contingency Agreement?

A contingency agreement is an arrangement in which the attorney agrees to represent you in exchange for a percentage of any compensation you may receive in your case. Contingency agreements are most commonly used in personal injury cases, where clients may be unable to pay an attorney's hourly rate upfront. If the case is successful, the attorney will receive an agreed-upon portion of your settlement or verdict. If the case is unsuccessful, you don't owe the attorney anything.

Advantages of Contingency Fee Agreements

Hiring a lawyer on a contingency fee basis offers several key advantages to you:

  • You get the benefit of a good attorney without the added up-front financial burden. When you've been injured in a car wreck, you're probably already dealing with financial strain between medical bills and lost wages. The last thing you need right now is the added cost of hiring a lawyer—and yet, ironically, that's the time you need the lawyer the most! With a contingency agreement, the dilemma is solved.
  • Your lawyer is motivated. Remember, when a lawyer takes your case on a contingency basis, they don't get paid until you do. That means they're highly motivated to help you receive all the damages you're entitled to receive.
  • You'll likely get a bigger settlement. Most injury victims who hire a lawyer get a much higher settlement than those who attempt to face the insurance companies alone. The difference is typically much more than enough to cover the lawyer's fees.

Will There Be Any Out-of-Pocket Costs With a Contingency Agreement?

It depends. In many cases, the attorney will absorb all filing fees and court costs with your case, and these costs will come out of the contingency fee if you win. In other cases, you may be asked to cover some of these fees upfront, although they are considerably less than paying a lawyer a retainer fee. If you lose your case, you may also have to cover some of these administrative fees—but you won't pay the attorney fees unless you win. Be sure you understand the terms of your contingency fee agreement before officially hiring the attorney.

How Much Is the Contingency Fee?

Most contingency fees are calculated as a percentage of the total settlement, so the more the attorney wins for you, the more they collect, also. This percentage may be negotiable from lawyer to lawyer, but Tennessee law caps the contingency fee for lawyers at 33 1/3 percent. That means the most you'll pay an attorney is one-third of your settlement.

Will the Contingency Fee Prevent Me From Covering All My Bills?

It shouldn't. Your attorney will calculate their own fees into the settlement demand as part of the damages you are owed. If you win, there should be more than enough to cover your attorney fees along with all the costs associated with your recovery.

Have You Been Injured In A Tennessee Car Accident?

If you've been injured in a car accident you need to speak with an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our office directly at 615.220.4180 to schedule your free consultation. We will schedule a time to meet with you at one of our offices in Smyrna, Nashville or Murfreesboro—whichever location is most convenient for you. 

Joe Weir
Helping personal injury victims win their case and lose their stress