If you count yourself among the 1,500,000 Americans who have suffered a traumatic brain injury in the past year, the thought of legal action has probably crossed your mind. If your accident was the result of someone else’s negligence, you can file a legal action to hold them accountable for both the monetary costs of your injuries and the pain and suffering that they caused.
However, the legal process can be expensive. Data from Thomson Reuters shows that firms are becoming more profitable by the year—which means higher legal fees for clients. Going into the legal process without a lawyer will significantly reduce your chances of success, and you will still be on the hook for hefty court fees.
This page will go over some of the costs associated with a personal injury lawsuit, as well as some resources to help people who are suffering from a TBI. If you are ready to begin legal action, use Expertise.com’s legal database to find a lawyer who fits your needs.
Do I Need a Traumatic Brain Injury Attorney?
A study by the University of Chicago Law Review showed that when plaintiffs represent themselves in tort cases, including personal injury, the court only rules in their favor 3% of the time. That’s 9.8 times less than plaintiffs who hire an attorney. While you have the right to represent yourself without an attorney, or “pro se,” doing so will hurt your claim’s chances.
A personal injury attorney will benefit your claim significantly. You might feel that the defendant in your claim is clearly liable, but if you are not able to compellingly argue their liability based on tort law, you will likely not receive damages. Your lawyer should have extensive knowledge of state and federal liability law and use it to craft a convincing argument on your behalf. They will also be able to advise you on whether or not an offered settlement is sufficient.
Traumatic Brain Injury Lawyer Costs: What to Expect
Whether you hire a lawyer or go pro se, the legal process can be lengthy and expensive. Before beginning your claim, it’s important to prepare yourself by researching some of the costs that might pertain to your case. Keep in mind that attorney fees are only part of the equation. Bringing a case to court can be costly as well. Below are some expenses to anticipate if your claim goes to court.
Most personal injury attorneys establish a contingency agreement with their clients. Under a contingency agreement, the attorney will only take legal fees as a portion of the client’s settlement. If the claim does not result in a settlement, the attorney will not charge any legal fees. Contingency contracts usually ask for 30% to 40% of the settlement. Contingency is the most popular payment schedule for personal injury law because it allows low-income and middle-class clients to hire representation without any upfront cost. Before signing a contingency agreement, make sure that you understand how your attorney will have you cover court fees and other expenses.
Some personal injury attorneys charge clients an hourly rate rather than a percentage of their settlement. Personal injury attorneys charge, on average, $250 an hour. Personal injury claims can vary widely in how long they take to resolve. It is possible that your legal team and the defendant's legal team may come to a settlement agreement in a few months. However, there is also the possibility that the claim could take years to resolve and may result in you having to file a lawsuit. If you pay your attorney by the hour, a longer process will mean substantially higher fees.
If your lawyer does not work on contingency, they might charge you a retainer before they can begin work on your case. There are several varieties of retainer.
A law firm might charge a client a general retainer for the right to do business with them over a certain period of time. General retainers are primarily applicable to high-end and corporate firms.
A security retainer is placed in a bank account or trust and is only transferred to the attorney once they reach agreed-upon benchmarks, such as winning a settlement.
Advance retainers work as an upfront payment for expected legal fees and expenses. A new ruling by the American Bar Association states that advance retainers should also be placed in trust or escrow to ensure that attorneys do not misappropriate them.
Retainers can cost anywhere from $500 to $5,000, depending on the firm and its area of practice.
When filing a claim or a lawsuit, you will have to pay a court fee. Civil court filing fees vary by district and state but range from around $200 to $350.
If you are unhappy with the outcome of your case and decide to appeal, you will owe an additional fee, usually less than the original filing fee. Courts also charge fees for evidence, witnesses, subpoenas, and other elements of the legal process.
If you hired your lawyer on contingency, your contract might state that they can take court fees out of your settlement in addition to the agreed-upon percentage. You might also be responsible for court fees even if you do not receive a settlement.
If your claim leads to a lawsuit, your legal team and the defense will have to go through a process called discovery. In discovery, each side obtains information that the other has already collected. The process can be costly for both sides. If information is processed and retrieved electronically, it will go through an electronic discovery service, which can charge over $2,500 per gigabyte of data.
One side may also initiate a deposition, which is a pre-trial process for collecting witness testimony. If your attorney requests a deposition, you must hire a court reporter, whose rates typically start around $25 per hour, and pay for a transcript. Transcript fees vary by state but range from $1 to $7. These costs can add up quickly, and you can end up paying over $1,000 for a 200-page transcript. You will also have to pay your witnesses a nominal fee plus reimbursement for travel. Lay witnesses are inexpensive, but a medical expert witness might charge around $500 per hour.
Discovery is a costly process. Most personal injury lawyers will pursue an out-of-court settlement for your claim to avoid these costs and will only recommend a lawsuit as a last resort.
If you are pursuing a traumatic brain injury claim after a traffic accident, you run the risk of a counterclaim. If the defendant’s legal team believes that you were at fault for the accident, they may respond to your injury claim by filing one in response. This will lead to more court fees and higher legal fees if you are paying your attorney by the hour.
Resources for Victims
A traumatic brain injury is a life-altering event. Sudden cranial trauma can cause long-term or permanent damage to your senses, cognition, and mobility. Coping with all of these unexpected changes can seem overwhelming. However, many people live happy and fulfilling lives after a TBI. The following resources can help you face some of the challenges.
Social Security Benefits
If you became disabled as a result of a traumatic brain injury, you could be eligible for Social Security benefits. If your injuries have made it difficult for you to earn a living, you might qualify for Supplemental Security Income. If you are temporarily unable to work, you may be able to collect Social Security Disability Insurance. Your state likely provides additional benefits for disability.
Brain Injury Association of America
A TBI is a traumatic and emotionally difficult experience that many sufferers struggle to cope with. Connecting with others who are going through similar challenges can be a major help.
The BIAA is a nonprofit organization that provides support to people suffering from TBIs. They offer virtual support groups to give injured folks a place to share their experiences and strategies for living with a brain injury.
Your local BIAA chapter can also help connect you with state financial assistance programs for people living with neurological damage.
If your traumatic brain injury has left you with mobility issues, you have probably been faced with the challenge of assessing how accessible a public place is before visiting. A trip to a nearby restaurant, shop, nature trail, or even a healthcare facility can quickly be derailed if the space doesn’t provide ramps, handrails, nearby parking, or wheelchair-accommodating restrooms.
AccessNow is a free iOS and Android application that lets users find accessible places near them. They provide information on a number of factors that can make a space more suitable for people with physical or cognitive disabilities, including braille signs and menus, disability-friendly customer service, and quiet and scent-free spaces.
Be My Eyes
Vision loss is a common TBI complication affecting anywhere from 20 to 40% of sufferers. After a brain injury, you could experience permanent or temporary reduction of your field of vision, loss of visual acuity, or blindness.
Be My Eyes is a free app that connects vision-impaired people with volunteers who provide guidance via video chat. A Be My Eyes volunteer can assist you with daily tasks that are otherwise difficult with vision impairment. Users have shared stories about receiving help with cooking, packing, clothes shopping, and even watching sports matches.
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