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.

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.

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.

Should I Sign My Severance Agreement?

So you’ve been offered a severance package from your employer and New Jersey labor laws have you running in circles – what do you do? The first step in a severance agreement process is understanding why companies offer severance in the first place.

Employers Protect Themselves

So why are severance packages offered? According to research, companies feel offering a severance package is the best option for avoiding future lawsuits, it ‘looks good’ on paper when attracting new talent, and ‘makes nice’ with the former employee who could potentially become a future customer.

Now that you understand the reasoning behind your company offering a severance package, you understand that it is not necessarily your best interest they have at heart. With that said, if you’re not looking out for number one, who is?

You Should Look to Protect Your Own Interests

Don’t attempt to take on New Jersey’s labor laws or severance laws by yourself. Find a good New Jersey employment law firm which specializes in severance cases and set up a consultation.

Meanwhile, here are some basic tips you can follow if you are offered a severance package by your employer:

  • Take your time. Severance agreements are critical, so be sure you take the time to fully analyze what has been offered.
  • Research. Start gathering information to determine if you have room to negotiate. Start with your original employment offer, documentation of your salary, your employee handbook, and other relevant information like bonus plans, health, life and disability insurance, vacation time, and stock options. Make a list of existing benefits and sources of compensation you have, such as commissions, stock, bonuses, etc. You may even have business expenses that have not been reimbursed.
  • Review, review, review. Thoroughly examine the severance agreement to see if they have left out compensation sources, insurance or other benefits. Then do a comparison to industry standards.

Severance Negotiation

Examine why you were fired. Wrongful termination may be grounds to pursue legal action. Questionable motives may help you negotiate your severance package better. Remember, if you sign the severance agreement without legal counsel or negotiation, you could be signing away your rights forever.

Negotiate, or not. Oftentimes, negotiations are expected in severance matters; however, there are some employers who will remove their severance offer from the table if it is rejected. Take careful consideration of what has been offered. Once you’ve decided to negotiate your severance package, you must now focus on exactly what to negotiate. This includes monetary considerations, insurance considerations, disability benefits, letters of recommendation or voluntary separation, and more. Speaking to an attorney from a New Jersey employment law firm will further expand upon these options.

Severance Attorneys

Hire a severance attorney specialist. You know what they say about, “When in doubt…” Don’t negotiate with your employer by yourself. Disputing a severance package or even understanding the severance agreement that is put before you is a big deal. Hire a severance lawyer to review your severance offer and/or negotiate on your behalf . The financial implications of a severance matter are significant and should not go unrecognized.

Signs Your Marriage is Headed For Divorce

In October of 2012, The Huffington Post shared six signs that your marriage is headed for divorce thanks to Leslie Petruk of YourTango.com. So how do you know if your marriage is headed for Splitsville?

  1. If conversations between you and your spouse start out bad, it’s never a good sign. Using criticism, sarcasm, or insults in the beginning will almost guarantee an ugly end to the exchange.
  2. Four particular behaviors – contempt, criticism, stonewalling, and defensiveness – are significant identifiers for potential divorce. When you deliberately try to hurt your spouse’s feelings or criticize them, chances are that your spouse will response by becoming defensive or even shutting you out completely. None of these behavior are constructive communication strategies.
  3. An overwhelming amount of negativity in any relationship is bad. Constantly putting your partner down, judging their actions, badgering them, etc. may cause your spouse to resent you.
  4. The effects that these types of behaviors have on individuals bring about changes in the human body, referred to as the ‘fight or flight response.’ As a result, it becomes increasingly difficult to resolve the situation amicably.
  5. The ability to resolve your conflicts is important to you and your spouse’s relationship. Couples need to be able to disagree or fight, talk about the problem, and move past it. Without resolution, spouses may hold grudges and/or internalize feelings that surface later.
  6. Viewing your marriage in a negative light will only increase the likelihood that the disappointment will come to fruition. A marriage should be a healthy, positive, and stable bond between two people. So you should think of yours that way.

Do you and your spouse fall into this pattern of emotional abuse? Does your relationship suffer from destructive interactions? If so, you may be headed for a divorce.