Drunk Driver Lawyer- Are they Paid for Not Winning?

by Fred Burkey on January 13, 2014

Drunk driver accidents require lawyers who can provide quality legal help.  Personal Injury lawyers who pursue a drunk driver here in midtown Atlanta and Fulton County are typically paid on what’s referred to as a “contingency fee.”  A contingency fee means that the personal injury lawyer earns his attorney’s fees based on a percentage of the recovery (amount of settlement or verdict) obtained.  Personal injury lawyers in midtown Atlanta, Decatur and Fulton County typically charge a contingency fee rate of 1/3 (or 33.33%) of the recovery for a “pre-suit” case (a claim where a lawsuit has NOT been filed).  Personal injury lawyers typically increase their rate to 40% where a lawsuit must be filed.  Personal injury lawyers increase their rate when filing suit because the time and money required to litigate increases dramatically compared to a pre-suit case.  Most people assume that personal injury lawyers who represent people who have been injured by a drunk driver collect very large profits.  This is not necessarily true.  Compared to other practice areas such as wills & estates or business transactions, personal injury law  is very labor intensive.  Personal injury lawyers must collect information from a wide variety of sources in order to sustain the burden of proof necessary to win a case against a drunk driver.  This means that the personal injury lawyer must collect medical records, medical bills, doctor narratives, witness statements, accident reports, photographs of the scene, photographs of the vehicles involved, hire accident reconstruction experts and so forth.   This requires a great deal of time and money and explains why a personal injury lawyer is consistently paid at the rates mentioned in this post.  Resist the temptation to select a personal injury lawyer who advertises for a lower contingency rate or agrees to cut his fee.  This is usually a reflection of inexperience  or a desire to create a volume practice, which tends to result in lower quality.

Here are some facts to know about contingency fees: (1) if the personal injury lawyer pursing a drunk driver does not obtain a recovery, the lawyer does not get paid; (2) if the personal injury lawyer pursuing a drunk driver does not obtain a recovery, the client is not required to pay the lawyer; (3) the client does not pay the lawyer during the time the lawyer works on the DUI case; (4) the lawyer is only paid at the end of the case from the proceeds of the recovery; (5) this means that the lawyer must win before he gets paid; otherwise, he collects no money for his time; (6) contingency fees are designed to provide access to quality legal help for people who do not have the money to pay a lawyer on the traditional hourly fee schedule; (7) if there were no contingency fees, then people injured by drunk drivers would have to “retain” a lawyer based on his hourly rate.  Here in midtown Atlanta and Fulton County, a litigation lawyer with twenty years experience can easily command up to $500 per hour.  This would be prohibitively expensive for most anyone who is injured in a DUI caused accident.

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