No, unless informed otherwise before your initial consultation with an attorney. While most attorneys offer an initial free consultation to prospective clients in personal injury cases, do not assume that your first consultation is always free. In some cases, especially matters handled on an hourly fee basis, the time spent in the initial meeting may be included on the client’s first bill. In some rare cases lawyers will charge for the initial visit whether or not they ultimately undertake your representation. The best time to ask this question is during the phone call to set the appointment. Simply ask whether you will be expected to pay for the meeting and if so, how much. For the most part, Hofland & Tomsheck does not charge for the initial consultation.
Depends. Generally, injury cases are handled on a contingent fee basis. This means that the lawyer will receive a percentage of the total recovery in exchange for the legal services provided. That percentage may increase or decrease depending on which stage of the process the case is in at the time of settlement. For example, a typical contingent fee agreement may allow for attorney’s fees of 33% if the case settles prior to litigation being commenced and increase to 40% if litigation is commenced. Most other matters are handled on a “payment for services rendered” on an hourly basis. Hourly rates can vary depending on the type of case, the market, the attorney’s expertise and many other factors. Finally, some cases are handled under a “hybrid” arrangement where the lawyer agrees to a reduced hourly rate for services rendered in addition to a reduced percentage of any recovery. As with any contract, the terms of a contingent fee agreement may be negotiated by the parties. Make sure you get all of your questions answered before signing any fee agreement.
Hofland & Tomsheck always informs the client at the beginning what to expect if a case does not settle. Many clients assume that once they hire a lawyer, that lawyer will represent them until their case is completed. However, many lawyers and law firms never file a lawsuit or go to court. Some lawyers and law firms offer discount contingency fees for handling an injury case because they have no intention of ever actually filing a lawsuit or taking a case to trial. If the case cannot be settled through pre-litigation negotiations those lawyers and law firms will either refer the case to a firm which does litigate cases or will simply withdraw from the case, leaving the client without a lawyer. Continuity of representation can be a key factor in maximizing the potential recovery in a case. Make sure you have a clear understanding of exactly how far the lawyer you are considering is willing to take your case.
Yes. In many cases, several forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) are available. These can include arbitration (where an individual with either legal experience or experience in the subject matter of the dispute acts as a finder of fact and decides the case) or mediation (where an impartial third party attempts to assist the parties in finding a compromise acceptable to both sides). Some jurisdictions also provide expedited methods of litigation which include abbreviated jury trials for certain cases. While it may not be possible or appropriate in every case, ADR is generally a less expensive and time consuming alternative to traditional litigation.
Depends. Litigation is the process initiated when a party, known as the “plaintiff,” initiates a lawsuit by filing a Complaint in a court of law. That Complaint must then be formally delivered to, or “served” upon, the party being sued, the “defendant.” The defendant is then obligated to Answer the Complaint in writing within a specified time period, usually 20 days. Once the defendant answers the Complaint, the parties engage in a process of fact finding and investigation known as “Discovery.” Modern rules of litigation require the parties to each cooperate and participate in the Discovery process by providing documents and other evidence to the opposing side as well as by answering questions in both oral and written form posed by the other side. Discovery can last from as little as 6-9 months to as long as two years or more depending on the complexity of the case. Once the Discovery process is complete the plaintiff and defendant each prepare their respective cases for presentation to a finder of fact. That finder of fact may be a judge or a jury depending on the particular case. Each side will have the opportunity to present their side of the dispute to the finder of fact during a “trial.” The trial itself can last as little as a single day or as long as several months, depending on the case. The average length of a trial in a personal injury case is less than a week. Overall, the entire litigation process, from the filing of the complaint through the trial, typically lasts from 2-5 years, depending on the case.
Hofland & Tomsheck makes every effort to return all phone calls the day they are received. As lawyers who may be handling several dozen cases at a particular time, it is sometimes difficult to remember that the individual client probably has only one case. However, Hofland & Tomsheck strives to remember that communication with the client is key to a successful attorney-client relationship. Make sure that you discuss this important aspect of your representation with your lawyer to ensure that you both understand exactly what the expectations are for maintaining an open and efficient line of communication.
Yes. In almost every case which proceeds to litigation, the plaintiff’s deposition is taken by the defense lawyer. A deposition is a question and answer session where a party or witness is required to answer questions under oath. While it is a routine part of any litigated case, it can be intimidating or confusing to the uninitiated. Hofland & Tomsheck feels that it is always preferable to have the attorney who knows you and who knows your case be the one to accompany you to your deposition.
Yes. This can be a very important factor in choosing a lawyer to handle your case. Again, continuity can be a key factor in the success of your case. Common sense says that the lawyer who has worked on your case from the beginning and who has participated in the Discovery process will be better prepared to argue your case than one who is trying to learn all of the facts and nuances just prior to trial.
This is an area that is all too often overlooked. The client’s cooperation and participation are absolutely critical to the successful prosecution or defense of a lawsuit. The client can help keep costs and expenses down by providing information, documents and other items to the attorney in a timely matter. Unnecessarily repetitive requests to you for assistance can significantly increase the time and cost required to resolve your case. In addition, keep in mind that information is the central ingredient to ensuring that your case is handled in the most efficient and effective manner possible.
Listen very carefully to the answer to this question. No lawyer can ever promise or guarantee a specific outcome to a client. While it may be permissible to offer estimates or opinions on your case’s value, in most cases your damages are still not known at the time of the initial consultation. The damages which have been suffered or will be suffered in the future, including both economic and non-economic damages, are a significant factor in determining the value of any case. The amount of your damages are usually open to interpretation depending on many factors. Your case is ultimately worth whatever amount is awarded by a jury, judge or obtained through settlement.