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1. Can I afford to hire an attorney?
2. When is the best time to contact an attorney?
3. Once I meet with an attorney, what happens?
4. How long does the legal process take?
5. How long do I have to file a lawsuit?
6. I’ve just been in a motor vehicle accident, what should I do?
7. How much is my injury claim worth?
8. I’m getting divorced, can I handle it on my own without an attorney?
9. I want to start a business, what do I need to do?
Personal injury cases, medical malpractice, and worker’s compensation cases and certain collection matters are usually handled on a contingent fee basis. This means that only if the attorney reaches a settlement for you or obtains a verdict for you in your favor in Court, will the attorney be entitled to receive a percentage of what you recover as a fee. If you do not receive such a settlement or verdict, you do not have to pay a legal fee. However, you will still be responsible for any costs that are associated with pursuing your claim. For example, filing fees for a Complaint, the cost of obtaining medical records, hiring experts to testify, etc. Sometimes an attorney will require that these fees be paid as the case proceeds, other times, the attorney will advance the costs and then be reimbursed at the conclusion of the case.
Any time you believe that you may have a legal issue or legal case that may require legal representation, you should contact an attorney right away. If you are unsure whether you require legal representation, it is especially important that you contact an attorney. This is because if you fail to, you can lose your legal rights that you may have. In addition, if too much time passes, witnesses may disappear and evidence may be lost. Therefore, the sooner an attorney can evaluate your case, the better your chances are of preserving the evidence and your rights.
Typically, you will meet with an attorney for a consultation on your legal matter. Depending on the type of matter, the attorney will advise you of your rights and various options available to you in assisting you with your legal matter. Consequently, while many cases are similar, such as the formation of a business, a lawsuit to collect a debt or for a personal injury, the facts of each case are almost always different and the complexity of the case may vary. Consequently, the attorney will explain to you the circumstances of your legal matter and what will be involved to handle the matter for you. Sometimes several meetings are necessary in order to completely gather all the information necessary to answer all of your questions and effectively represent you in your legal matter.
As stated above, there is a very broad range of legal matters and of those matters, various complexities associated with each case. Therefore, it is difficult to estimate the time needed to complete the legal process. For example, a formation of a business entity such as a limited liability company or the purchase or sale of a business from the initial client interview to the filing and the completion of the setup or transaction, can usually be accomplished within several weeks. Divorces, if they are amicable, can be resolved within three months of the service and filing of the divorce complaint. Other matters such as litigation, including breach of contract, collection matters, or personal injury cases, can take years to resolve. However, a settlement is often able to be reached in many of these cases, which can significantly reduce the time it takes to resolve them and the costs and fees.
All legal claims are the subject of what is called a “Statute of Limitations”. It is the time period which is set forth under Pennsylvania or the applicable jurisdiction which states when a lawsuit must be filed. If it is not filed within that time period, you may lose your legal rights and be unable to file a claim.
The most often cited example is a personal injury or negligence case. If you are involved in an automobile accident, the statute of limitations typically runs from the date of the accident or when you knew or should have known that the other driver’s conduct caused you damage or harm. In that situation, there is a two year statute of limitations. In a breach of contract case, say for the purchase of a car, or the repair or improvement of some part of your home, the statute of limitations is four years.
Obviously, if you feel you have been injured, do not attempt to get out of your motor vehicle until emergency medical technicians or other medical professionals arrive. If you are injured or if your car is no longer operable because of damage, the police will be called, or should be called to prepare an accident investigation report. They will collect all the necessary information from the drivers involved, including their names, the owners of the vehicle and insurance. If it is not a reportable accident or there is simply minor property damage, you should still exchange driver’s license information, registration and insurance information with the driver of any vehicle involved in the accident. Be sure to check the license photo identification with the person involved or the person who was operating the vehicle as well as comparing names, registration and insurance information. Also, you should obtain identification information for any witnesses and obtain their contact information and a brief statement of what they observed. If you have a cell phone or camera, take pictures of the accident scene, damage to the vehicles or persons involved.
You should, if you feel you are injured, receive a full medical examination at the scene, the emergency room, or at some point after the accident. You should do this no matter how minor the injuries seem, as often times, you may feel unharmed at the time of the accident, but shortly thereafter discover your injuries are much more serious.
If the police have not already asked you to give a statement, they may at some point. But, you can only provide the information which you have knowledge. If you recall additional information after you have given the statement or the information to the police, you should contact them and provide that additional information or correct any inaccuracies in the information that you gave. In any event, you should write down as much as you can remember about the accident while it is still fresh in your mind.
Lastly, you should contact an attorney regardless of the extensiveness of the accident since the nature and extent of your injuries or damage to your vehicle may not be entirely known for quite some time.
Lastly, you should avoid giving a statement to the insurance company for the other driver until you have contacted me. I can then help you determine the extent of your injuries and the actual amount of money required to cover your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and other damages and pursue any claim against the responsible parties.
Since each case is different, there is no simple way or formula to determine an exact dollar amount. There are numerous factors that go into arriving at a potential value of a case for purposes of settlement of what a jury could expect to decide.
A number of things must be considered, including the nature and extent of the injury, the amount of treatment received, lost wages, medical expenses, property damage, pain and suffering, mental anguish, permanent or partial impairment or limitation of function and other losses. After that information is obtained and perhaps an expert opinion is obtained concerning what the injured party can expect in the future in terms of limitations, treatment, or expenses, other things have to be considered as well. This includes the extent to which the parties involved were at fault, for example, was it 100% the fault of the other driver? The believability of the parties involved and the other factual evidence concerning the injuries and the occurrence obtained from doctors and other witnesses.
Most often, cases are valued after obtaining and reviewing all of this information after careful consideration and consultation with the client. A demand is then made on the insurance company in an effort to settle the case. If the case cannot be settled, the matter is placed in suit. While most cases settle before they go to verdict, sometimes a case must be tried and a jury decides how much to award.
While getting a divorce with no other issues may seem like a relatively simple matter and which the courts have tried to make user friendly for the public, even a simple uncontested divorce should be reviewed by an attorney. It is not uncommon for people to believe that there is no property or claims or other matters that must be resolved prior to obtaining an uncontested divorce. But, if you should obtain one without addressing these issues, your rights will be lost. In addition, there are other issues that need to be considered in terms of the division of assets, including retirement plans, and other property, debts, taxes, child custody, child support, alimony, etc.
Simply starting a business generally doesn’t require the assistance of an attorney. Somebody starting a business can begin doing business as a sole proprietor providing you have the necessary permits or approvals from the municipality where the business is located. If you want to do business under a name other than your own, you need to register that fictitious name with the state. This requires the completion of a form and paying a filing fee. Your income would be reported on your tax return and you can simply do business under your social security number. However, depending on the type of business, tax and other issues, especially liability, you may need to consider whether to form a business entity such as an LLC or a corporation.
The type of entity may also depend on whether you are going into business with anyone. There are companies out there such as Legal Zoom and other self-help sites that offer the service of forming a business entity. However, from an attorney’s standpoint, these are not recommended since they will typically charge a recurring fee and they don’t always complete the services correctly. Therefore, it is best to consult an attorney as well as an accountant, if you decide to form a separate entity. There are various documents that must be completed and filed and other things that you must do in order to comply with the law and tax authority requirements.