Can I afford a lawyer?


When attorneys charge for their time by the hour, their bills can quickly add up and be beyond the budget of most people. Although the insurance industry and corporations can have dozens of attorneys “on the clock”, that isn’t possible for the rest of us. Fortunately, consumers have a way to level the playing field. Attorney fees in cases of serious injury or wrongful death are generally based on a “contingency fee basis”. This means that the attorney is only paid if there is a recovery, and the fees are set as a percentage of the recovery made. If there is no recovery, you owe no attorney fees.

Under a contingency fee contract, attorney fees are generally between 33.3% and 40%, but there is
nothing sacred about these numbers. In more complicated and difficult cases or in cases that require significant expenses, the percentages may be higher.

You should expect that a contingent fee agreement will be in writing. Make certain that you understand this agreement. Ask questions. You should expect to be provided a copy of the agreement for your records. How expenses will be paid is an important part of the agreement. Cases for serious injury or death can require sizable expenditures, tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars. Ask what kinds of expenses the attorney considers essential to prepare your case and maximize your recovery.

Routine costs in lawsuits can include charges for filing fees, process servers, facsimile charges, couriers, express mail, Federal Express, UPS, copying of medical, employment, court and other records, deposition reporter’s fees and transcripts, experts’ and consultants fees, telephone toll charges, in office copying, postage, attorney’s travel by car, parking, overnight hotel and meals, focus groups, trial exhibits, computer research, mediation fees, jury fees and investigators’ fees.

The most significant expenses in many cases are for experts who hired to explain what the defendant did wrong, medical details related to the death or injury, and future expenses or losses that have resulted. Doctors, engineers, life care planners, and economists are commonly employed. In most cases, attorneys with contingent fee agreements will advance the expenses on a case, and then deduct them from the settlement when the case is resolved.

Although it is difficult to estimate the expenses of a case in advance, ask for a general estimate of what those costs will be.

It is our firm’s policy to advance the expenses for your case until your recovery is made. Although no attorney can guarantee what the outcome of a given case will be, that does not prevent the attorney from promising to use his/her best efforts on your behalf. The “right attorney” is never unwilling to make this commitment to his/her client and to put that commitment in writing.


The information on this Web site cannot replace the careful consideration of personal factors and
changes in the law, which may apply to your legal problem. While this information may help you, do not rely on it as the answer to a legal question.

What is Workers Compensation?


Workers’ Compensation is a law passed by the Tennessee legislature to give workers financial benefits when they are injured on the job, regardless of whether or not the employee contributed in some way to the injury occurring. Tennessee Worker’s Compensation law applies only when an employer has five or more employees. This law does not apply to farm labor, domestic help, state, or public employees.

How Do I Find The Right Lawyer ForMe?


This is an age of specialization. If your case involves serious injury or death, your attorney should be a specialist who exclusively handles those kinds of cases. An attorney who routinely handles criminal cases, divorces, wills, and other legal matters is unlikely to be a specialist in serious injury or death cases, and may not have the experience you deserve.

Finding an attorney who is a specialist is easy and gives you some assurance that the attorney has the trial experience and expertise needed. Verify that the National Board of Trial Advocacy has certified your potential attorney as a “civil trial advocate”. Board certified attorneys have to meet rigorous requirements involving trial experience, ethics and legal knowledge. Attorneys certified as “civil trial specialists” and are experienced in serious injury and death make up less than 2% of the attorneys licensed in most states.


Do your research on which attorneys are specialists


Choose an attorney because they handled a friend or family member’s divorce, DUI, or bankruptcy. Don’t expect to find the “right attorney’ by calling a local bar association. These are voluntary organizations designed to serve the needs of the attorneys and they do not wish to alienate any of their members.

Can I Determine What My Claim Is Worth?


If your injury or illness is serious or if it affects your arms, legs, neck, or back you should talk to a lawyer about your claim. People who handle their own claim often make innocent, but terrible mistakes. First, you will be dealing with an insurance adjuster who does this for a living, you can never be as good as they are. The adjuster’s goal is to minimize the amount paid to you, and they will say things that justify paying little or nothing. Are they telling the truth? You have to take anything said with a grain of salt. The question, “How much is my case worth?” is complex enough to consider getting help from an attorney experienced in Tennessee Worker’s Compensation.

How is an amount arrived at for a settlement?


There is a complex stew of factors that will determine what a case is worth. Among the things that are considered are the amount of the medical bills, and the reimbursement of medical bills paid by an health insurance carrier, or other source.

An injured person is also entitled to make a claim for any proven loss of income. When someone has a weekly paycheck, this is straight forward as long as the doctors involved confirm the necessity of being off from work. When someone is self-employed, the proof is more complicated and typically requires the review of tax returns for several years prior to injury.

A part of any settlement may include compensation for pain and?suffering that is supported by medical evidence.
If there was a death that resulted from the wreck the wage earnings potential of the victim is an important factor in determining case value. However, not everyone is a high income earner and their lives have just as much value to their families who can receive compensation for the loss of aid, comfort and society of the deceased family member.

Finally, there are factors that may not have contributed to the collision but do affect the value of the case. Someone who was drinking, or who has had a criminal history, is probably not going to receive the same settlement as someone who does not have that in his/her background.

What If I Need Money While My Claim IsPending?


Attorneys are legally prohibited from lending money to clients for living expenses. Yet cases for serious injury and death rarely settle quickly and during the interim income losses, medical bills, and other expenses can make getting by difficult. A family that has experienced these kinds of losses may have to endure them for several years before they get any financial relief.

There are a few practical steps that you can take, but don’t delay:

      1. Eliminate non-essential expenses immediately;


      2. Ask family members for help, including moving in with them if that is practical;


      3. If a car note (or other obligation) makes it impossible to pay your bills, consider replacing the


      car so that you don’t have that monthly bill;


    4. If you have creditors that are bothering you, ask your attorney to intervene and try to defer payment until your case is over.

There are companies that now specialize in loans to families that have claims for serious injury and death. These companies can provide you cash, but their interest and other charges can cost you more than twice what you have borrowed. Most attorneys do not recommend borrowing money under the terms offered by these companies.


The information on this Web site cannot replace the careful consideration of personal factors and changes in the law, which may apply to your legal problem. While this information may help you, do not rely on it as the answer to a legal question.

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