Contingency Fees

A contingency fee – also referred to as a contingent fee – is a type of conditional payment arrangement between a lawyer and a client. The payment is made on the condition that the case is resolved successfully. Your lawyer is paid for his legal services only if and when he successfully resolves your case and receives a money award or financial settlement. This is the most popular method of payment for personal injury cases, class action lawsuits and workers’ compensation. The common factor is situations where money is being sought to resolve the legal matter.

Contingent fee arrangements are barred in some legal areas: criminal defense, domestic and family matters, bankruptcy, immigration, intellectual property registration, business origination, contract drafting, and estate law contracts. In other areas it’s rare or strongly discouraged: real estate, large debt collections, wage issues, employment law, and business litigation.

The Payment Arrangement

Your attorney will claim a set percentage of any monetary recovery that you receive for your case. Your lawyer’s fee comes right out of the award. If you lose your claim or case, your attorney will not be paid for his legal services.

With some arrangements, you lawyer may take a smaller percentage of your recovery if he receives the settlement through negotiation or mediation and doesn’t have to proceed to court. However, because there is more work involved in the courtroom, the percentage he will earn would increase if your claim moves to trial. This is called a sliding-percentage scale.

The Percentage

The average contingency fee percentage is about one-third of your monetary recovery. With a sliding-percentage scale this will often increase to about 40% if your case moves to trial. Additionally, with very complex cases, like medical malpractice and complicated product liability claims, the average frequently starts around 40%.

You will sign an agreement with your attorney agreeing to the percentage that will be charged and under what circumstances. A judge can change the amount if he ascertains that it is unfair or unreasonable, but this is pretty rare.

Several factors help determine whether a contingency fee percentage is fair and reasonable:

  • What is the industry standard?
  • How much time has your attorney spent preparing your claim?
  • Did his work on your case prevent your lawyer from accepting other clients/cases?
  • How big is the monetary award?

Many states set a cap on the percentage your lawyer may charge for your workers’ compensation claim. Several states also cap the amount of damages you may recover for certain claims. This often impacts the percentage your lawyer charges for his contingency fee. If he knows the total amount he can recover for you is limited, he may be more likely to charge a higher percentage in order to cover costs and still ensure a reasonable fee for his services.

Additional Costs and Fees

Some contingent fee agreements set out the payment of costs and other related expenses separate from your lawyer’s contingency fee. In these contracts, if your lawyer recovers money damages, he will pay himself back for his expenses out of the award first, then take his agreed percentage out of the remaining amount.

Some common additional costs include the following:

  • Court Costs
  • Expert Witness Fees
  • Travel
  • Depositions

Be wary of any contingency fee agreement that makes you responsible for costs even if you lose your case.

Contingency Fee Tips

  • Visit your state bar website to learn about any contingency fee limitations in your state.
  • Ensure your fee percentage is clearly stated in your attorney-client retainer agreement.
  • If your contingent fee agreement provides for costs separately, ask your attorney to send you a bill detailing these costs regularly.
  • Consult with a tax professional to determine how your award will be taxed. In many cases, if you pay your lawyer at least one-third of your money damages, you will be taxed on 100% of the recovery.

Find out up front what happens if you fire your attorney: will you owe fees and how much.
If you’re in New Jersey ensure your lawyer will not be charging you for your costs if you lose your case. However, it is important to discuss with your New Jersey accident lawyer the possibility of being responsible for the costs of the prevailing party if your case is unsuccessful.

Will Google Glass Spark Personal Injury Claims?

Google Glass is the newest wearable tech device that allows users to view and interface via a small screen on a pair of glasses. Known as “face computers,” these Glass devices are a much-hyped roll-out for lovers of new technology. However, amid an increasing public outcry against distracted driving and an over-indulgence of social media, many are worried about potential accidents that could be caused by users of Google Glass.

The question that lawyers, lawmakers, and the general public are all voicing is whether or not Google Glass will trigger more accidents, and spark more personal injury claims.

In some states, laws were already drafted against the use of Google Glass before the devices were even made publicly available. West Virginia has proposed legislation that would ban the use of Google Glass while driving. Lawmakers argue that their moves to prevent texting while driving took so long to enact. Therefore, they are trying to make a preemptive move by adding Google Glass use as an amendment to those recently-passed distracted driving laws.

Other states are starting to take up the same initiative. However, Google is now placing its own power toward lobbying that would stop these proposed legislative limits on their new product. Google claims that use of Glass for things like GPS would be safer than on smartphones because Glass requires users to look up instead of glancing away from the road. Because the technology is so new, it remains to be seen how legislation will play out in terms of overall bans on the devices.

Whether or not Google Glass will spark new personal injury claims, though, remains to be seen. So far, only a few cases have been brought against individual users of Google Glass. In California, charges were dropped against a woman ticketed for speeding and distracted driving while wearing Google Glass. The court claimed there was not enough evidence to prove that the driver was actively using the device while driving.

At some point in the near future, there will most likely be an influx of claims against users of Google Glass who have caused accidents due to distracted driving. However, whether or not those incidents will result in lawsuits against Google as a company, is still not clear.

For assistance with your personal injury claim, contact The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall by visiting their website.

How to Settle an Accident Claim

how to settle an accident claimWhen an insurance company is responsible for paying the compensation you are due for an accident, you and your personal injury attorney will need to arrive at an acceptable dollar amount, and negotiate with the insurance adjuster to obtain it.

Determine a Settlement Amount

Compensation falls into the category of either property damage or compensation for your injuries. Property damage amounts are fairly simple to determine. In a car accident, use the blue book value of your vehicle if it was totaled in the collision or the repair bills if your car is salvageable. Other related expenses may include car rental and public transportations fees.

Your actual medical expenses are fairly straightforward as well. Total the bills you have amassed due to your injury, such as hospital, doctor, rehab and chiropractic treatment bills. Add the cost for any medication, mileage used to get to your appointments, lost income due to your medical treatment and related childcare expenses.

Pain and suffering for your injuries is a harder figure to determine. You will look at factors like how severe the injuries are, if your condition is permanent and if not, how long it will take for full recovery. Your personal injury attorney can help you arrive at a fair dollar amount for this part of your settlement. You can also use a personal injury calculator to get a rough idea of what your settlement might be.

Determine a Percentage of Fault

Unless you live in one of the four states and D.C. that observe the Pure Contributory Negligence Rule, you should be able to recover damages even if you were partially at fault for your accident. But in those jurisdictions if you are even 1% at fault, you cannot recover any damages. As in all things though, there are exceptions.

Other states recognize a Pure Comparative Fault Rule, where you can recover damages even if the accident is 99% your fault, but you will receive a percentage in comparison to the amount of fault. There is also a Modified Comparative Fault Rule that follows either the “50 percent Bar Rule” or the “51 percent Bar Rule.” You can only recover damages if your fault is under the 50 or 51 percent threshold.

Demand Letter

Your demand letter presents your arguments to the insurance company, how much you deserve and why. It describes your injuries, the treatment you received and the cost, any wages you lost, why the other party is liable and details any other damages you have suffered.

Negotiations

The insurance company will typically offer a low settlement to start. A talented personal injury lawyer can handle this part of the process adeptly to convince the insurance company that you deserve the compensation you are demanding.

Each state has laws addressing the amount you may recover from an accident claim. The type of claim plays a role, as does the party who is paying the claim. Your attorney will be able to guide you through the claims process and ensure you and the other parties adhere to the applicable rules. If you are in need of a knowledgeable and experienced New Jersey accident lawyer, please contact The Reinartz Law Firm to learn how we can help you with your accident claim.

How Many Drinks is .08 BAC?

In the United States, the law is fairly clear. Whether you’re driving in Houston, Texas, Juneau, Alaska, or Secaucus, New Jersey, a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher is considered over the legal limit. Naturally, the law applies to drivers over the legal drinking age (21 years old). However, you might find it interesting to know that states vary the BAC limit for minors from a no tolerance policy (0%) to 0.02%. So just how much is too much?

Well, this is a difficult question to answer that is dependent on a number of factors. But, to start with, let’s first define “a drink.” Technically, a drink should be the equivalent of one serving of an alcoholic beverage. In the case of liquor, one 1.5 oz shot of 80 proof liquor is considered a serving. Meanwhile, 5 oz of wine or 12 oz of beer can be counted as a one serving drink. In order to calculate BAC, the Widmark formula is frequently used, which takes into account weight, the body’s water content, metabolic rate, as well as the number of drinks consumed in a specified number of hours.

In the Widmark formula, the constant percentage of body water (80.6%) is multiplied by the number of drinks consumed, which is then multiplied by 1.2 to convert the measurement into a Swedish standard unit. The product of this multiplication equation is then divided by the product of the individual’s weight in kilograms multiplied by another body water constant (for women – 0.49 or for men – 0.58). Once divided, you must subtract the product of the metabolic constant (0.017) times the number of hours that the drinks were consumed over from the resulting number. Are you confused?

Let’s look at an example…
The average males weighs approximately 88 kg, or 194 lbs. If this male consumed six 12 oz beers over a 4 hour time frame, we would calculate his blood alcohol content as follows:

BAC Limit Calcualtion
However, it’s important to point out that the Widmark formula is not perfect. Different people metabolize alcohol at different rates, and not every drink that you consume is a single serving. Your best choice is to simply not drink and drive. However, if you’ve been charged with a DUI, an experienced defense attorney will know how to fight your case. Contact qualified NJ DUI Lawyers if you’ve been arrested and need representation.

Traffic Tickets Fines and Penalties in New Jersey

Traffic Ticket - Doh!We’ve all been there – or at least most of us – where we’ve seen blue lights in our rear-view mirror and lapsed into a Homer Simpson moment of “Doh!” The first thought we usually have is, “Please let me get away with a warning,” followed by “How much is this gonna cost me?”

In the State of New Jersey, traffic tickets or traffic citations will generally include the violation code number, as well as an explanation of how to respond to or pay the fine associated with the ticket. You must then decide whether to pay the fine or appear in court in response to your traffic citation.

The majority of traffic violations in New Jersey are considered “strict liability” violations, meaning the only evidence required to convict a driver is proof of committing the act, such as speeding, not paying parking meters, not using turn signals or illegally parking in a handicapped zone.

Traffic citations are also classified as moving or non-moving violations. Some moving violations include speeding, running a stop sign, driving without a seat-belt, and DWI. Non-moving traffic violations include driving without a valid registration, having expired plates, illegally parking in a handicapped zone, and leaving your vehicle unattended while it was running. The majority of traffic citation fines in New Jersey range from $26 to $730, depending on the severity of the traffic violation. More serious traffic violations carry even higher fines and the potential for incarceration.

Most people who receive a traffic citation simply pay the fines associated with the ticket and do not go to court; however, if you have questions regarding the accuracy of the citation or wish to avoid the consequences of a traffic citation, you’ll need to fight your traffic ticket in court by entering a ‘not guilty’ plea on your scheduled date of court. Hiring a New Jersey traffic ticket lawyer to defend you in court is sometimes a good option. Paying the ticket outright without legally disputing the violation is the same as entering a guilty plea, the consequences of which can vary in severity, affecting not only your driving privileges, but your insurance premiums as well.

Your best bet to avoid traffic court altogether and higher insurance premiums is to simply drive cautiously from the beginning. Stay safe and be smart on the road – and avoid unwanted New Jersey traffic ticket fines and penalties. If you find yourself getting a citation and are serious about beating your charges, contact Bergen County Ticket Attorney today.

Sexual Harassment Case Study: Even “Bad” Employees Have Rights

Renee MihalikA 42-year-old Hoboken, New Jersey resident is stirring up news in the employment law arena. Her claims of sexual harassment will proceed to a federal court trial, in spite of the defense claiming that her poor job performance and employment termination are the reasons behind her ‘retaliatory’ lawsuit.

A recent verdict by the federal appeals court in New York sided with Renee Mihalik, believing that a jury should decide whether her claims of job termination were on the basis of sexual harassment and her refusal of sexual advances by a top executive at Credit Agricole Cheuvreux North America Inc. Mihalik claims she received unwelcome sexual advances from her boss and CEO of the company, as well as suffered through a hostile work environment. Her claims include disparaging sexual remarks, sexual overtones in the office, and viewing of pornography by male employees via the Internet during office hours while ‘rating’ the sexuality of their female co-workers.

Mihalik worked for the New York brokerage company for 10 months during 2007-2008. Credit Agricole Cheuvreux claims that Mihalik was simply a substandard employee and that her job performance was severely lacking. They further state that her claims of sexual harassment are merely retaliatory in nature.

The ruling court found substantial evidence of Mihalik’s poor job performance and agreed that her performance was less than adequate. However, the court further stated that her poor job performance did not excuse the inappropriate actions of Cheuvreux’s CEO, nor did it excuse the encouraged improper atmosphere of her work environment. Opinions expressed by the court further suggested that CEO, Ian Peacock, may have discriminated against Mihalik for refusing his sexual advances and used her poor job performance as an excuse to punish her. It was ultimately determined that a panel of jurors should weigh the evidence and decide if sexual harassment and retaliatory actions were truly perpetrated.

New Jersey resident, Mihalik, will now have her day in court. Referencing New York City Human Rights Law, the court recognized that no employee, no matter job performance standing, should suffer from sexual discrimination in the workplace – ever. If you feel you’ve been a victim, contact a sexual harassment lawyer.

How to Become a Plumber in New Jersey

In order to become a professional plumber in New Jersey, you must be licensed by the state. Obtaining your plumbing license requires multiple steps, such as completing an apprenticeship program, passing exams, and filing formal paperwork. So where do you start?

Hands On Training and Coursework

If you’ve already earned a high school diploma, you are in a position to immediately enter a plumbing apprenticeship program. After four years in an apprenticeship program completing hands-on training with applicable coursework, you can promote to the level of journeyman plumber, which requires an additional year of field work. Then, once you’ve completed five years of experience and passed the New Jersey plumbing exam, you are eligible for licensing as a master plumber.

Vocational Plumbing Schools in N.J.

However, this is not the only option. In New Jersey, many high school level students choose to participate in Career and Technical Education through their location county vocational school district. Many of these ‘vo-techs’ have plumbing programs at the high school level. Entering such a program allows a high schooler to complete his or her apprenticeship program while earning a high school diploma, and thus, finishing four of the five years of required experience before ever leaving high school. Once graduated, the student would immediately move up to journeyman level for one year before becoming qualified to be a master plumber.

Bachelor Degree Can Prepare You

Still, there is another path to becoming a plumber in New Jersey. Graduating from an accredited school with a bachelor’s degree in plumbing, sanitary engineering, or mechanical engineering will adequately prepare you to become a plumber. After graduating, you are still required to complete a year of field experience as either an apprentice or journeyman plumber. Then, when ready, you would take the state plumbing exam and apply for a license.

So, whether you’re fourteen and considering a career in plumbing or twenty-five and looking to begin a new career, New Jersey has a path for you. Becoming a master plumber is a long and challenging process, which lets you rest assured that your New Jersey professional plumber is qualified for the job. Once you complete your education, contact our New Jersey Roto-Rooter office to seek employment.

Filing for a No-Fault Divorce in New Jersey

In New Jersey, there are several grounds on which you can file for divorce, including desertion, extreme cruelty, adultery, and no-fault.  By referencing a ‘no-fault’ divorce in New Jersey, you are essentially saying no fault will be assigned to any party in the divorce by the courts.  No-fault divorces are settled by distinguishing irreconcilable differences in conjunction with an 18-month separation time period.

How to File For Divorce In N.J.

To file for a divorce in New Jersey, you must meet certain residency requirements.  These requirements state that one or both of the parties involved in filing for divorce, either the petitioner or the respondent, must have resided in the state of New Jersey for a 12-month consecutive time period prior to filing papers for divorce.  Before filing, it is important to note that the parties involved must have experienced a minimum of six months of irreconcilable differences or have lived apart for the 18-month separation period with no hope for reconciliation.

New Jersey Divorce Paperwork

As is true with any legal matter, you will need to complete several forms for filing your no-fault divorce.  The Petition-Marriage Form and the Summons Form must be completed and turned into the appropriate divisions.  As well, marriages with children will need to complete several additional forms.  For a full list of forms which will need to be completed prior to filing for divorce in New Jersey, contact the local county clerk’s office for guidance.  They will be able to assist you with the forms required.  If each party agrees to the terms of the divorce, you can proceed with a Divorce Settlement Agreement.  Most importantly, contact a New Jersey divorce attorney for any questions or concerns that are beyond your comprehension to ensure that you are met with a favorable outcome in your divorce.

We can’t say it enough – copies, copies, copies!  Be sure you have several copies of the appropriate completed forms.  You will need to send the original completed forms, as well as two copies, to the court.  Keeping two copies for yourself is a good rule of thumb.  Remember to double-check that each form has been signed, dated and completely filled in.

Filing for Divorce at the County Clerk’s Office

Once you have taken the above steps, you are ready to deliver your completed forms to the county clerk’s office along with the appropriate payment for fees.  Include a self-addressed, stamped envelope with your materials, so that the court can easily return your filed copies.  After filing, you will be given a docket number. Be sure to write this docket number on all of your photocopies.

Plastic Surgery “Lifts” Moods as Well as Body Parts

Whether we like it or not, our society is constantly bombarded with images of thin, attractive, lean, athletic beauties. For men and women alike, seeing pictures and videos of perfect-looking models can make us view our own appearance differently. With the onslaught of the Internet and social media, those images will only continue to increase, which causes increased depression and anxiety that we can’t compete.

Exercise Only Goes So Far

For many people, exercise and diet can only go so far to improving our appearance. For others, medical issues like mastectomy and other surgeries can cause even greater depression over body image. And still for others, genetics play a role in keeping us from achieving our ideal size and shape. More and more, these depressed moods over self-image are getting a much-needed lift from plastic surgery.

Self-Esteem and Plastic Surgery

Whether the procedures are breast lifts after nursing, breast augmentation after surgery, liposuction after childbirth, or tummy tucks after weight loss, skilled plastic surgeons can help people reach their goals for their appearance with very real effects on their moods, as well.

Even cosmetic facial surgeries are on the rise. A recent study shows that there has been a 31% uptick in reconstructive surgery due to how people want to portray themselves on social media. The use of social media by the individual has been documented in 73% of all 2012 cosmetic surgical procedures, including breast surgeries, liposuction, and rhinoplasty as the forerunners.

Cosmetic Surgery Benefits

Whatever the cause of the increase in cosmetic surgery may be, one surprising benefit has been discovered. In one study by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, there was a notable decrease in patients taking anti-depressants after surgery. Another similar study linked positive psychological benefits with long-term staying power to patients who underwent cosmetic surgery. In other words, those who make the proactive choice to improve their appearance through surgery have better moods and experience a higher quality of life post-surgery and into the long term.

With both social media use and resulting depression over self-image on the rise, it’s no wonder that cosmetic surgeries are increasing as well. Men and women of all backgrounds and histories are deciding to enhance their least-appealing body parts for a boost in mood and self-esteem. The practice is working.

Free Consultations

If you are considering plastic surgery to enhance your own appearance, discuss the risks and benefits with an experienced professional. Top experts in the field can provide you with a consultation to discuss your personal concerns and goals.

Severance Laws in New York City

The unfortunate masses that have experienced layoffs secondary to the economic climate are now searching for answers to New York City’s severance laws.

Frequently asked questions include:

  • Do my employers have to provide severance pay?
  • My employer told me that I have to agree not to sue in order to receive severance pay; is that legal?
  • Do I get benefits if my employer has a severance plan?
  • What happens if I try to negotiate for a better severance package?
  • Why do I have to wait a period of time before I can accept my severance agreement?
  • I don’t know what my severance rights are; what should I do?
  • I can’t find enough legal information about severance rights in New York City; where should I look?

While New York City severance and employment laws are entirely too robust and extensive to cover in a single article, we’d like to briefly outline some general rules of thumb.

Is Severance in NYC Required?

In a nutshell, New York City businesses are not legally required to provide severance pay when an employee has been laid off or terminated, unless a pre-existing employment agreement, contract or company policy states otherwise. If such a document or policy exists where the employer has agreed to pay severance to the employee, they are almost certainly required to pay according to the severance agreement terms.

Although New York City employment laws do not require a business to provide severance pay, creating such a policy or package with a specialized New York City severance lawyer will increase the likelihood of acquiring and retaining quality employees. Typically, severance packages are negotiated as a general employee benefit during pre-employment agreements and oftentimes are found in the employee handbook or as a stated policy of the company. These policies or drafted employment agreements are best created with the help of a law firm that specializes in severance or employment law. These specialized attorneys can customize handbooks and agreements to reflect the individual needs of each company, including fulfillments obligations by the employee, stock options, insurance benefits, unemployment benefits and more.

Contact an Attorney

If you’ve been laid off or terminated from a job in New York City, contacting a professional lawyer versed in severance pay to discuss your employee rights is the first step in securing your future.