Having been involved in a motor vehicle accident is bad enough, but not being able to afford legal representation makes it far worse. If you are plaintiff, you will not likely need a pro bono attorney due to the fact the attorneys usually work on a commission basis, however, there are always exceptions to the rule. If you are the defendant, however, depending on how involved your insurance company is involved as well as the severity of the case being brought against you, you may need to hire a car accident attorney to defend you. We are going to look at both scenarios to present you with your options.
Qualifying for a Pro Bono Attorney as a Defendant
If you are unfamiliar with the term, it is short for pro bono publico, with translates to “for the public good.” In the legal world, this means you get legal representation free of charge (or at a significantly reduced rate) regardless of the outcome of the case. While public defenders generally provide this service in criminal cases, law firms and independent attorneys will also provide free legal services to those that qualify. This is a way for attorneys to both give back to their local communities as well to provide expert legal services to those that would otherwise be unable to afford them. This also happens to be required by law, as Rule 6.1 of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct requires all licensed attorneys to provide at least 50 hours or pro bono work every year.
This “rule,” per the American Bar Association, specifically states:
Every lawyer has a professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay. A lawyer should aspire to render at least (50) hours of pro bono publico legal services per year. In fulfilling this responsibility, the lawyer should:
a. Provide a substantial majority of the (50) hours of legal services without fee or expectation of fee to:
- Persons of limited means or
- Charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental and educational organizations in matters that are designed primarily to address the needs of persons of limited means; and
b. Provide any additional services through:
- Delivery of legal services at no fee or substantially reduced fee to individuals, groups or organizations seeking to secure or protect civil rights, civil liberties or public rights, or charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental and educational organizations in matters in furtherance of their organizational purposes, where the payment of standard legal fees would significantly deplete the organization’s economic resources or would be otherwise inappropriate;
- Delivery of legal services at substantially reduced fee to persons of limited means; or
- Participation in activities for improving the law, the legal system or the legal profession.
In terms of qualifying for a pro bono attorney, the general rule of thumb is you must make no more than 125 percent of the federal poverty level.
Finding a Pro Bono Attorney
Finding an attorney that will provide free legal services is not as hard as you would think. The American Bar Association offers free information for an attorney that will provide pro bono services on its website. You can see that by visiting AmericanBar.org/groups/center-pro-bono/ or just click here.
Do Plaintiffs Need Pro Bono Attorneys?
If you are the plaintiff in the case, chances are you not going to need a pro bono attorney even if you have no money to pay for legal services, especially if you have an open and shut case. In civil suits such as this, attorneys usually work on a commission basis based on the final settlement. However, in these cases, attorneys will sometimes require their client to front the costs for investigators, document retrieval, etc.
If you are unable to pay for an attorney, it is unlikely that you would be able to front the costs of these upfront expenses. If that is the case, you will need to discuss this aspect of the case with your attorney. Many larger firms will cover these costs as part of their fee, but they will usually compensate themselves for this risk with their percentage of the settlement.
Working out the settlement details is where things can get very tricky. If you are not careful, you could cost yourself significant money. Even if the firm is covering these costs, you should insist on the firm’s percentage being taken AFTER fees have been deducted. As an example, let’s assume you have a $100,000 settlement on a 60/40 split (in your favor) with $15,000 in fees. If the attorney were to take his or her cut prior to the fees being deducted, the attorney would receive a total of $55,000, leaving you with a settlement of $45,000. If the attorney took his or her cut AFTER fees were deducted, the attorney would only receive $49,000, leaving you with a settlement of $51,000.
If you were recently involved in a motor vehicle accident and need legal representation, please click here. Your initial consultation is free of charge, so you are under no obligation to use our legal services for requesting a consultation.