Articles Posted in Hiring a Lawyer

This week, the International Society of Barristers (ISOB) inducted John Day as a fellow.  The ISOB is dedicated to preservation of the adversary system, the right to jury trial and an independent judiciary.  Membership is by invitation only and includes a rigorous screening process involving both judges and fellow lawyers.  The ISOB extends membership to those lawyers “of exceptional talent, whose qualities including integrity, honor and collegiality embody the spirit of the true professional”.  Of course, those of us at The Law Offices of John Day, P.C. have always known that John possesses these traits but we are certainly pleased that the prestigious ISOB has recognized it as well.  Congratulations, John!

Virtually all, if not all, Tennessee personal injury and wrongful death lawyers will work on a contingent fee – which means the lawyer receives a percentage of the total recovery for the client in the case.  If there is no recovery, the lawyer charges no fee whatsoever.

However, not all personal injury lawyers have the same approach on the question of expenses incurred during the preparation and trial of personal injury cases.  Litigation expenses can be relatively small – $100 – $300 in a case involving minor injuries which is settled before a lawyer is filed – to hundreds of thousands of dollars in complex medical malpractice and product liability lawsuits.

Here are the common approaches to the issue of case expenses in personal injury and wrongful death cases in Nashville and throughout Tennessee:

It is that time again.  Time to assess our lives and look for ways to improve in the new year.   While losing weight is usually the most popular resolution, we wanted to give you some things to consider from a legal perspective.   

1.  Evaluate your uninsured/underinsured insurance coverage.  I know.  Yawn.  But, in the event you are injured in an accident, the type of insurance you have and the amount of your coverage can make a critical difference to you and your family. 

Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage protects you in the event the person or company who causes your injuries either does not have insurance or does not have enough insurance to compensate you.  For example, let’s assume you are involved in a car accident with a person who only has mandatory minimum liability coverage of $25,000, but your medical bills are $75,000 and your injuries prevent you from returning to work for 3 months.  Clearly, the value of your claim greatly exceeds the at-fault party’s $25,000 in coverage.  In this situation, your own underinsured coverage could help make up the difference in your compensation.  Without your underinsured coverage, unless the at-fault party has assets (which is unlikely — otherwise, they would almost certainly have more insurance coverage), you would not receive adequate compensation for your injuries.

If you look around it seems like there are thousands of lawyers who say that they represent people who have  personal injury and wrongful death cases. In Tennessee and many other states, any lawyer, regardless of their experience, can say that they do personal injury and wrongful death litigation.  Thus, it is up to the consumer to figure out who should he or she should turn to for legal representation.

This Guide will help you conduct the right research and ask the right questions so that you can hire the best lawyer and law firm  for your case.

1. Is the lawyer a member of the American College of Trial Lawyers?

Rumor has it that some lawyers have "relationships" with tow truck operators.  These tow truck operators encourage people involved in Tennessee car or truck accidents to hire their lawyer friend.

The ethics of these type of relationships are questionable and, depending on the circumstances, are just plain wrong.  However, from your standpoint as a consumer who needs an experienced Tennessee personal injury lawyer, you have to give serious consideration to whether or not you  want to accept a recommendation of a lawyer made under these circumstances.

All lawyers are not equal.  Any lawyer who would push ethical boundaries to gain a client is a lawyer to be very concerned about.

Tennessee ethics rules for attorneys who represent people involved in personal injury cases or wrongful death cases on a contingent fee basis provide that the lawyer must have a written fee agreement with their client.

It is important that, as a prospective client, you read the agreement and make sure you understand what the fee is and how it will be charged.   

If you are pressured to sign it the same day you meet with the lawyer, be careful.  If you must take it home to read it carefully, or to review it with a family member, you should do so.  Do not be forced into signing such an agreement before you have had the opportunity to study it.  Do not be afraid to ask questions about any provision of the agreement that you do not understand.

There are lots of lawyers who are willing to represent you in Tennessee automobile and truck accident cases, Tennessee medical malpractice cases, and other types of Tennessee injury and wrongful death cases.  How do you figure out who to hire for your case?

One place to look is for sites listing "top lawyers" or "best lawyers."  However, the qualifications for some of these listings require nothing more than a credit card and really tell you nothing about the actual qualifications of the lawyer or what his or her peers think about his or her legal work.

Here are some "best lawyer" sites that you can trust to help you find the right lawyer for your case"

In the legal profession they are called "runners" – non-lawyers who approach Tennessee personal injury victims and families of  Tennessee wrongful death victims and try to persuade them to hire a particular lawyer or law firm.  They may come to the scene of an accident, a hospital room, a residence, even a funeral home.  Sometimes they are paid for their services, sometimes they do it just to have an "in" with a lawyer.

Runners may be ambulance drivers, tow truck operators, nurses or hospital technicians.   Whoever they are and however they approach you, what they are doing is wrong.  It is improper for a lawyer to employ the service of a non-lawyer to solicit personal injury clients or wrongful death clients.  It is also improper for the lawyer to conduct this type of activity himself or herself.

So why do some lawyers do such a thing?  Why would a lawyer put his or her law license on the line to get a new client?  Because they have trouble getting clients based on their reputation or any of the other ways good lawyers find good clients.  And the reason that they have trouble getting clients in an ethical way is that they aren’t good lawyers.

Lawyers who work on personal injury and wrongful death cases in Tennessee and other states often work on a contingent fee.  These lawyers also often include a provision in the fee agreement with a client that addresses the subject of litigation expenses.  This post addresses the topic of litigation expenses, and will educate potential personal injury and wrongful death clients what types of litigation expenses they will be asked to pay.

At the outset it is important to remember that the fee agreement with the lawyer controls the amount and basis of the attorney fee and will address the subject of litigation expenses.  The vast majority of personal injury and wrongful death lawyers advance all litigation expenses and expect that the litigation expenses will be repaid at the end of the case if the case is successful.  Some lawyers advance litigation expenses and expect to be repaid the expenses whether or not the case is successful.  Other lawyers do not advance the expenses of litigation or will agree to fund only a certain amount of litigation expenses.

Litigation expenses often include the following types of expenditures:

The litigation of certain types of personal injury and wrongful death cases, particularly medical malpractice, products liability, and tractor-truck cases, can be very expensive. Most Tennessee personal injury and Tennessee wrongful death lawyers are willing to work on a contingent fee, but there must be money available to finance the other expenses of litigation (court reporters, expert witnesses, demonstrative aids and exhibits, etc,)

A personal injury lawyer who accepts those cases for consumers must have the financial ability to advance money for those expenses because most consumers are unable to do so. Some lawyers are very under-capitalized, i.e., they lack the ability to adequately finance a case to completion. The lack of financial resources can affect the outcome of the case, because the lack of financial resources can impact the quality of expert witnesses the lawyer employs to assist in the case, the number of expert witnesses, the number of depositions that are taken (court reporters are paid to transcribe depositions, and they are expensive), the quality of demonstrative exhibits at trial, etc.  

So how does a consumer evaluate this factor? It is very difficult. Most lawyers will not turn over their balance sheets to prove to you that they have the financial resources to finance the case. One way a client can gain information about this issue is by determining if the lawyer is asking the client to borrow money or pay interest on the money the lawyer borrows to finance case expenses. This indicates one of two things: either the lawyer lacks the ability to finance the case, or the lawyer has the ability to do so but is shifting the cost of financing case expenses to the client (which increases the total cost of hiring that lawyer and increases the lawyer’s profit).