Frequently Asked Questions
1. Do I need a lawyer?
A: One of the things I try to figure out in an initial meeting is whether my client really needs a lawyer. Some cases just aren’t cases. The law, unfortunately, does not provide a remedy for every wrong. If I know there is a strong defense to the case it is my obligation to tell you that. In some cases I may think you could do better on your own, without paying a third or 40% of your recovery to a lawyer. If I believe that I will tell you and will try to give you a little guidance on how to deal with the insurance people on your own. The law and legal system are very complex. I’m still learning, and the law is always changing. Therefore, it makes sense for you to consult a lawyer just to see if you need one or not. If you do, perhaps I am a good lawyer for you.
2. Will I be charged for the initial consultation?
3. What is a contingency fee?
Contingency fees are fees earned by an attorney as a percentage of the compensation recovered on behalf of his client. Hourly fees are those that are charged by the hour for a lawyer’s work. Most of us could not afford to pay our lawyers’ expenses and hourly fees since court cases tend to be costly.
Contingency fees used to be considered unethical. But beginning about 1830 in the United States they became commonplace since it was the only way most people could hire lawyers and obtain access to the courts. In our firm most often the fee is 1/3 of what we recover if no suit is filed, and 40% if suit is filed, plus our expenses. In some cases the fees will be different because of the complexity of the case or the type of case — medical malpractice or product liability, for example.
In any case a contingency fee must be in writing, and approved by you as well as by our firm, and must be within the ethical guidelines which lawyers are required to follow: the Rules of Professional Conduct.
4. Will you owe us anything if we lose?
5. Will I owe the other side anything if we lose?
Possibly. In most cases in Oklahoma the loser does not owe the opposing party its attorney fees. There are exceptions, such as cases involving negligent injury to property. However, the losing party may be required to pay the other party’s court expenses such as deposition costs, filing fees, and exhibit costs. In most cases these are less than $1500.00. Finally, if the defendant makes an “Offer to Confess Judgment”, and you have demanded in excess of $100,000.00, in some cases attorney fees can be shifted to you if you do not beat the Offer.
In 27 years, over many thousands of clients, I can only remember three cases in which my clients had to pay any money to the other side after the case was over.
6. How much is my case worth?
I don’t know.
It is impossible to evaluate a case after just having an initial meeting. I will need to see evidence: medical records, medical bills, doctor’s reports, accident reports, witness statements, perhaps expert reports and income tax records and employers’ statements regarding time off work and lost wages.
At a point in your case where negotiations are possible or we are in trial, I will have a pretty good idea of the range of value of your case and be able to tell you what it is and why. It is then up to you to decide whether to take the offer or go to trial. I can advise you, but I will not tell you what to do. It is your case, not mine.
7. Why do cases take so long?
Actually they don’t take nearly as long in Oklahoma as they do in some other states. In California they have a “five-year rule”. Judges are required to bring cases to trial within 5 years of the date they were filed. Most of the time they run right up against that deadline. Here, we can usually get a case to trial within 9 months after it is filed. But it still takes time. Both sides gather records, conduct discovery, and sometimes file motions and briefs on unusual or complex issues. I try to push my clients’ cases forward as fast as possible, but still we have to follow all the steps of the process in order to get you your best outcome.
8. I’m not in it for for the money; I just don’t want this to happen to anyone else.
Then I may not be able to help you. My job is to determine if you have a valid case, and if you do to prosecute it and obtain the best possible compensation for you. In the law, compensation is in the form of money. We can’t take away the hurt so we try to make the responsible person pay for your losses. Cases are about people; but cases are also about money because that is usually the only redress the law can give you.