Recently, I received our first email from an unhappy client since opening Garguile Law over two years ago. The client did not believe a traffic lawyer was worth it. They were upset with the result of their case. I represented this individual on a speeding ticket they had received and was able to reduce the ticket to a non-moving violation successfully. This reduction kept the speeding ticket off their driving record and prevented it from affecting the individual’s insurance rates. I was shocked and frustrated because they thought our service was a scam!
The client’s main issue with the outcome of the case was that they still had to pay a fine to the court for the reduction of their speeding ticket on top of the fee that was charged for our services.
I pride myself on making sure that every client is informed of all the potential outcomes for their case when they hire our office. There are two main things that we can do when fighting (contesting) a traffic ticket. First, we can argue the ticket and try to get it dismissed. This is the best outcome because the ticket goes away and it’s like it never happened. With a dismissal, there won’t be any additional fine or administrative fee owed to the court. The second strategy is to negotiate out a deal with the prosecutor to reduce the client’s infraction to a non-moving violation. When this happens the client still has to pay a fine or administrative fee to the court but gets the benefit of not having a moving violation added to their record.
I understand that the client was hoping for a dismissal, but no traffic attorney can guarantee that outcome. The client asked, “Why would I pay $416 when I could have paid $166 (which was the original fine on the ticket) to begin with, and be done with it?”
This is a common question we get from individuals. To answer this question, it is essential to understand the difference between “price” versus “cost.”
Before we can answer whether a Traffic Lawyer is worth it, we need to look at the difference between price versus cost. In the simplest terms, the price is a one-time thing, and the cost is a lifetime thing. It is essentially seeing the forest from the trees.
For example, if you receive a speeding ticket and pay the fine outright, the price would be the original fine amount, but the cost would be the increase in your insurance rates.
Before we move on with our price versus cost analysis of whether a traffic lawyer is worth it, there are a few other questions that need to be addressed.
In Washington State, the cost to hire a lawyer for a traffic ticket varies from lawyer to lawyer. However, the going rate, among most attorneys in the greater Puget Sound runs anywhere from $200 to $350. Typically, the traffic lawyers that focus their practice on fighting traffic tickets are usually on the higher end of the range. While lawyers that dabble in traffic ticket defense will be on the lower end of the spectrum, just as anything else in life, you get the of representation you pay for. As the saying goes, you buy nice, or you buy twice.
In Washington State, a traffic ticket will stay on your driving record for three years. Some insurance companies calculate this three year period from the date you received the traffic ticket. While others will use on the day the traffic ticket was resolved in court.
This is tough to say with certainty because each insurance company uses different formulas to determine their rates for their clients. What makes it even more difficult is that insurance companies do not make these formulas public. Therefore it is almost impossible to know what a traffic ticket will do to your rates.
However, Insurance.com studies the quotes and rates of insurance companies closely and has been able to provide averages after looking at hundreds of thousands of policies over the years. Here are the percentage increases they found for common infractions:
|Speeding 30+ MPH over the limit||30%|
|Speeding 16-29 MPH Over Limit||22%|
|Improper or Illegal Pass||20%|
|Speeding 1-15 MPH Over Limit||20%|
|Following Too Closely||20%|
|Failure to Yield||20%|
|Failure to Stop||19%|
|Talking on a Cell Phone||16%|
These are the rate increases for individuals with no other infractions on their driving record. These percentages substantially increase as tickets pile up on your driving record. Individuals with two moving violations paid 34% more for insurance while drivers with three tickets on their record were looking at a 53% increase in their rates.
The average car insurance cost in Washington State is $884.24 per year for a single driver. However, in cities like Seattle and Tacoma, rates are significantly more expensive. In Seattle, the average price is $1,453 per year and in Tacoma, the average is $995 per year.
The client who was unhappy with the result of the ticket believed that it would have made more sense financially just to go ahead pay the fine for the infraction instead of hiring us to represent them. Their original ticket was for Speeding 14 MPH Over Speeding. In Washington State, this type of infraction carries a fine of $166. So, yes, if the client had just paid the fine on the ticket outright, they would have had less of a financial burden initially. However, this client was thinking strictly in terms of the price they paid and did not consider the long-term cost of having the ticket become part of their driving record.
The client lived in Seattle. So, let’s look at the numbers based on the averages we cited above.
I charged this client $250 to represent them in court. The client did not have to go to the hearing (what is your time worth?), and their infraction was reduced to a non-moving violation with an administrative fine to pay to the court of $166. Overall, the client spent $416 ($166+$250) to resolve their infraction and keep it from adversely affecting their insurance rates.
So, is a traffic lawyer worth it? I believe most people would agree that it makes sense financially to pay more upfront so that you can save a significant amount of money down the road. By hiring a traffic lawyer for an additional $250, my client avoided a potential “cost” of $871.80 in increased insurance rates over the next three years.
Unfortunately, the majority of drivers today don’t consider the long-term costs of merely paying a ticket. Before deciding whether a traffic lawyer is worth it, I encourage you to take a moment and consider the long-term financial consequences of not fighting your ticket. If you are okay with paying more for insurance down the road, then it makes sense just to pay the fine and move on.
However, if you’d prefer not to pay more over the next three years, give us a call. At Garguile Law, we fight traffic tickets throughout the greater Puget Sound. Call us today at 253-201-2001 for a free consultation on your traffic ticket and let us help you keep your insurance rates low.
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