What To Expect If I File A Personal Injury Lawsuit Part I Selecting Retaining And Paying An Attorney
March 2, 2015
Personal injury cases in this state are almost always handled as follows: The plaintiff (injured person) retains an experienced personal injury attorney who handles the case on a contingency fee basis (the attorney will only receive a percentage of the money recovered after winning or settling the case). The defendant is the person/company who caused the injury. The defendant’s insurance company hires an experienced defense attorney who handles the case on an hourly fee basis, with the hourly fee being paid by the insurance company, not the defendant himself. The defendant’s insurance company also pays for all damages and other expenses. The defendant himself pays nothing.
Contingency fees are restricted by law in this state. A plaintiff’s attorney charges 331/3% on the first $500,000 recovered; 30% on the next $500,000 recovered; 25% on the next $500,000 recovered; and 20% on the next $500,000 recovered. Contingent fees for recoveries in excess of this amount are set by the court (i.e. a judge). Contingent fees in cases involving children and incompetent people are reduced to a maximum of 25% unless the case is not settled.
Nowadays, like most other fields, lawyers specialize. They are no different than doctors. It would be foolish to hire a cardiologist to do your brain surgery, or an allergist to handle your heart problem. Therefore, it is important and advisable to retain an attorney who specializes in personal injury work. Approximately 2% of all New Jersey attorneys are “Certified Civil Trial Attorneys”. This means they have been certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey after taking extensive continuing legal education and ethical training, receiving the recommendations of judges and other attorneys, and after taking a rigorous written examination. The other 98% of attorneys are not Certified. They may be very talented attorneys, but may be generalists who handle real estate closings, traffic tickets, wills, etc. You should consider this in selecting an attorney for your personal injury case.
Come back next week for Part II: What Happens after an Attorney is Retained and the Case Begins.