Car Accident Lawyer Fees in New York

Howard Raphaelson
Partner, Attorney
woman discussing lawyer fees in new york

After a car crash, one of the most crucial choices you'll make is deciding whether to hire a car accident attorney and understanding their fee structure.

Many injury victims find it surprising that car accident attorney fees in New York often operate on a contingency fee basis — meaning you only pay if you are awarded compensation.

However, the specifics of these agreements can vary widely, and not all costs are covered under the "no win, no fee" model. There's a lot to consider, from the percentage taken as a fee to handling other legal expenses.

In this article, you'll learn the fees and costs of hiring a car accident attorney in New York and three questions you should always ask before hiring a personal injury attorney for your case.

How Much Are Auto Accident Attorney Fees in New York?

New York auto accident attorney fees are limited to one-third (33.3%) of the settlement or final verdict amount.

Most injury attorneys (including the award-winning personal injury lawyers at Raphaelson & Levine) get paid on a contingency fee arrangement, which means they get paid if you win your personal injury case.

Before signing a retainer agreement with an attorney, read the documentation and ask questions. The content will state the legal fee pay structure and terms of verdict payment.

Let's break down how much auto accident attorneys charge and the different fee arrangements offered to you as a client.

How Much Do Lawyers Get From A Settlement?

In New York, personal injury and wrongful death claims have specific guidelines for contingent attorney fees.

Under New York Consolidated Laws, Judiciary Law - JUD § 474-a, contingency fees cannot exceed the amount of compensation in cases involving minors, dental, or medical malpractice.

The contingent attorney fees are on a pay scale:

  • 30 percent of the first $250,000 of the recovered sum
  • 25 percent of the next $250,000 of the recovered sum
  • 20 percent of the next $500,000 of the recovered sum
  • 15 percent of the next $250,000 of the recovered sum
  • 10 percent of any amount over $1,125,000 of the recovered sum

The New York Judicial Department believes the pay scale to be "fair and reasonable."

What Is A Contingency Fee?

A contingency fee agreement lets you pursue justice without the burden of immediate legal costs.

Your lawyer is paid a pre-determined percentage of the compensation after winning or settling your personal injury claim. Past sufferers felt having an experienced ally in their corner was a wise investment and increased the chances of receiving a favorable judgment.

Agreeing to a fee structure benefits those who might not have the resources to afford a lawyer otherwise. It levels the playing field against large insurance companies.

Hourly Rates

In rare instances, a lawyer may charge an hourly fee or a flat rate for legal work related to a car accident. Often, if a case does not include a personal injury claim, it is not eligible for a contingency fee arrangement.

Situations of this nature are far less common, and a conversation would have to occur before the attorney agrees to work on the case.

According to a recent legal trends study, lawyers in New York charge between $158-$677 per hour, with a personal injury lawyer averaging $224/hour.

Other Factors Influencing Your Attorney Fees in New York

Retainer agreements can differ in the level of expenses associated with your claim.

A contingency fee agreement requires the plaintiff to pay all case expenses. However, some personal injury attorneys will pay the costs directly and expect reimbursement after the case settles.

When litigating a personal injury claim, a law firm may spend money on moving your case forward, which could include expenses for:

  • Investigate the incident
  • Hire private investigators, accident scene reconstructionists, and other experts
  • Hire expert witnesses
  • Gather medical records
  • File a lawsuit and pay court fees
  • Serve the defendants
  • Take depositions

The next step is to discuss how all the expenses will be paid. Also, ask about the potential for additional fees before signing a written retainer agreement. The answers provided will ensure you have a better understanding of the legal proceedings.

Calculate Your Lawyer's Contingency Fee: Schedule A vs. Schedule B

According to New York Codes, Rules, and Regulations of Professional Conduct (22 NYCRR § 691.20), it states there are two options for a structured contingency fee agreement:

Schedule A: Many lawyers call this method a sliding scale to calculate a contingency fee:

  • 50 percent on the first $1,000 of the recovered sum
  • 40 percent of the next $2,000 of the recovered sum
  • 35 percent on the next $22,000 of the recovered sum
  • 25 percent on any amount over $25,000 of the recovered sum

Schedule B: A lawyer can receive a percentage not exceeding 33 1/3 percent of the recovered settlement. However, additional compensation can occur if the written retainer agreement allows for renegotiation.

Also, when deciding how to pay your lawyer, you have two options to choose from:

  • After expenses: The definition of this legal term is subtracting the costs of the case (paying for medical experts or private investigators) from the final settlement. A lawyer will get their fees paid from the remaining settlement amount.
  • Before expenses: The definition of this legal term is a lawyer will get their fees paid before other costs associated with the case. If the lawyer agrees to pay for the auto accident case costs upfront, it must be included in the written retainer agreement.

3 Questions to Ask Your Car Crash Attorney About Their Legal Fees

Understanding your contingency fee agreement is like knowing the rules before playing a game. Establishing transparent benchmarks with your lawyer mitigates the chance of unforeseen circumstances emerging later.

Before hiring a car accident attorney, consider asking the following:

  • What services are in a fee agreement?
  • Are there other additional costs I should be aware of?
  • Can you provide me with a detailed breakdown of fees?

These questions can help prevent any surprises from arising as the case moves further along.

The Value of Legal Representation — Up to 10X More Compensation

If you have suffered a severe injury in a car accident, having an experienced auto accident lawyer by your side can significantly alter the outcome.

Studies have shown that individuals represented by legal counsel recover 40 percent more than those who defend themselves. The trial attorneys at Raphaelson & Levine have earned their clients over ten times more compensation than their initial settlement offers.

Why is this difference so stark?

Insurance companies are in business to make a profit. Our firm's auto accident attorneys are experts in personal injury law. They have the experience to build a compelling defense, negotiate with insurance companies, or argue your case in court to obtain a satisfying settlement when necessary.

Injured In A Crash? Get A Free Case Evaluation

If you have suffered a serious injury, it's crucial to make informed decisions, seek appropriate legal assistance, and understand your attorney's fee structure. 

At Raphaelson & Levine, our attorney fees are simple — you pay if we secure your claim.

We firmly believe in providing affordable and top-notch legal representation to all. That's why we proudly offer contingency fee arrangements to any accident victim in New York.

If you're unsure about your next steps after an accident in New York, our seasoned legal team is here to help. We'll guide you through your rights, address your concerns, and recommend a clear path forward.

To learn more, call 212-268-3222 or complete our online case evaluation form.

Howard Raphaelson
Partner, Attorney
Howard A. Raphaelson founded Raphaelson & Levine Law Firm, P.C. in 1992 after graduating from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City, NY. With over thirty years of experience as a personal injury lawyer, he has earned a trusted reputation from his peers, judges, and top leaders, including recognition among the top 5% injury attorneys as a “Super Lawyer” (Thomson Reuters) and “New York’s Best Lawyers” (New York Magazine).

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