Posted on: 29 July 2015Share
Million-dollar personal injury settlements capture headlines, but most people who file a personal injury claim don't receive seven-figure sums. In fact, even those who do receive sizeable settlements see much less than their due. Court fees, attorney's costs and medical bills all must be paid out of a settlement. If you have a personal injury claim related to an auto accident and are hiring a personal injury attorney, make sure your expectations are realistic. Here's a breakdown of all the fees you should be prepared to pay, which will reveal how much you might actually walk away with after a claim is settled.
Automobile Personal Injury Settlements Average $24,000
Unless you have a life-long, debilitating injury, you're unlikely to be awarded seven-figure, or even six-figure, sums. Looking at internal data kept by insurance companies, The Law Dictionary found that the average auto-related personal injury claim was $24,000 in 2013. This is only an average, and your claim might be worth more or less, but it puts claims that arise from automobile accidents in perspective.
Court Costs Are Deducted First
Before anyone--including you, your attorney and your physicians--receive anything from your settlement, all court costs must be paid. These include everything from making copies to obtaining depositions and statements from expert witnesses. While the price for copying a paper might be negligible, other court costs quickly add up:
- O'Brien & Balls places the cost of a one-page deposition between $364.00 and $412.75
- Seak notes that the average expert medical witness costs $555 an hour
- expediting services can add to these expenses
Your attorney will list these expenses on their bill, making it clear that they've been taken out first.
To see how these expenses might impact your settlement, assume your case required a two-page deposition and an expert witness for one hour. Your court costs would total at least $1,283 ([2 pages x $364 per page] + $555 per hour). If you're awarded a typical $24,000 settlement for your auto-related personal injury claim, these costs would reduce it to $22,717.
Personal Injury Attorneys Take 33 or 40 Percent
Personal injury attorneys work on contingency fee agreements, which don't require you to pay them if you aren't awarded a settlement but include sizeable payments if the case is won. According to AllLaw, contingency fees are often either 33 or 40 percent, with the higher figure being assessed if your attorney must file a lawsuit.
This fee is assessed on the remaining settlement amount, after your court costs have been deducted. If your case required a deposition and expert witness, then your attorney likely filed a lawsuit. From the $22,717 left in your settlement, they would take $9,087 ($22,717 x 40 percent). Your remaining settlement would now be $13,630.
Medical Charges Must Be Paid
Finally, any medical charges that were delayed while your claim was being settled need to be paid. Personal injury attorneys often send hospitals, doctors and other medical providers letters of protection, which guarantee payment for care that's provided upon settlement of your personal injury claim. If these letters are not honored, you could be sued by medical providers, and your attorney could face disciplinary action from the state's bar.
If your medical care included an ambulance ride and overnight stay in a hospital, your bills could easily reach $5,000. Paying these would reduce the remaining balance of your settlement to $8,630 ($13,630 - $5,000).
In this example, the final amount you would receive for your pain and suffering would be $8,630. Your specific case may be higher or lower, but it's important to have realistic expectations when contacting a personal injury attorney. While some cases are worth millions of dollars, most don't make attorneys or claimants rich.