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The Importance of Personal Injury Clients and Lawyers to Size Each Other Up

4 Reasons To Choose a Small Personal Injury Law Firm

Choosing a lawyer for your personal injury or wrongful death case is a decision that is similar to picking a partner for marriage. It may be a long relationship and it is always one that commands the two parties, the attorney, and the client, to trust each other. If one party does not trust the other, the common goal of justice cannot be obtained. This is because justice without trust in the result is no justice at all.

I am writing this entry to encourage face-to-face interaction with those seeking legal representation and the actual lawyer who would be trusted with that case. My biggest competitors are out-of-town, big-city lawyers who, in my estimation, rarely actually meet with the injured/aggrieved parties in my area. So it is no surprise that I often get calls from nearby clients of these lawyers telling me that they are not happy with their lawyer because they don’t know what is going on with their case and they do not trust in what they are being told. I always encourage these folks to try to work it out with these lawyers and I do press them to seek a face-to-face meeting, as that nearly always satisfies client concern, at least for the short term.

Personal Injury Attorney in Springfield, Vermont - Brady / Donahue — Brady  / Donahue

I know a lot of my competitors, and I will say that most of them are very good lawyers and that their firms are usually reputable. But, to me, there is no substitute for the old-fashioned face-to-face meeting. And I do believe there is still something important in the ability to look someone in the eye.

“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.” – Albert Einstein

Before I talk about the benefits of personal interaction for personal injury clients, I want to stress the benefit of the lawyer to meet with the client. I nearly always demand to meet with my potential clients face-to-face before my attorney-client relationship begins. I’ve been doing this long enough to be able to identify most potential trust issues early on. For example, when I ask a potential client if they’ve ever had the medical condition that they are complaining of now and they either look down or away, fidget, leave moisture on my glass table, and they answer “no,” then I know to pause and inquire further. I advise them that it does not usually matter if they did have prior issues and that I value trust over preexisting injuries in my clients. If they persist in their denial, I have other methods of verifying the truth, but if I get a bad feeling about a potential client, I will turn down cases on that alone. If I can’t trust my client in the initial meeting, I realize that a jury may have a hard time trusting them at trial.

For injured victims of negligence in Ohio, choosing a personal injury lawyer is easy. If you are in a car accident, your mailbox will likely be flooded with mailings with catchy phrases, DVDs, and all kinds of letters from lawyers all over the state. You can be in Portsmouth, call a lawyer in Toledo, and have a lawyer at your doorstep in a matter of a few hours, or less. But choosing a personal injury lawyer you trust is something entirely different. In the instance of this traveling Toledo lawyer, you will likely never see this person again. He or she is probably just a runner, paid to sign you up as a client. Who is actually handling your case – – at all stages, is a whole other story. While you may still get quality representation, you won’t be able to lock in trust because you will likely feel a void in the relationship.

Legal Resume Objective | A Comprehensive Write-up For Freshers

When new clients don’t meet with the actual lawyer will end up handling their case, they are many times deprived of judging sincerity, which goes directly towards how that person can rely on the lawyer. Meeting with the actual lawyer on your case can also give you the opportunity to judge for yourself that lawyer’s commitment to your case, which goes hand-in-hand with whether you believe that person has integrity. Lastly, by meeting face-to-face with your lawyer, you can judge for yourself their competency and whether you feel they will be consistent in providing results.

If you don’t like the lawyer you meet with, move on to the next one. Because if you don’t like them, a potential juror might not, either, and it is important that you find someone you feel comfortable talking to. And to me, there is no substitute for sharing a cup of coffee with the folks I’ve asked to trust me.

The Lawyer-Client Relationship in Personal Injury Cases

Keys to a Good Attorney-Client Relationship - Morrow, Gates & Morrow, LLC.  Opelousas, LA

Personal injury lawyers are civil litigators who represent clients, often referred to as plaintiffs, who are alleging physical or psychological injury as a result of negligence or careless acts by another person, company, organization or government entity. 

Personal injury law is a broad term that encompasses a number of different situations where a victim has endured physical or psychological damage.  The types of cases that personal injury lawyers typically handle fall within the area of tort law that include slip and fall accidents, motor vehicle accidents, flawed products, and other recreational accidents or accidents that result in serious personal injuries.

The role of a personal injury lawyer is to act on behalf of their injured client to negotiate fair compensation for damages sustained during an incident. 

Lawyers who practice personal injury law help their clients obtain compensation for losses incurred, such as loss of income, loss of capacity to earn, inability to perform activities of daily living, pain and suffering, loss of companionship, emotional distress and legal costs.

Individuals that seek advice or representation from a lawyer should be aware that the lawyer is bound by strict standards of professional and ethical responsibility.  In Alberta, lawyers are governed by the Law Society of Alberta and the Code of Conduct sets out the lawyer’s obligations to their clients, courts, counsel and to the public.

FIDUCIARY DUTY TO THE CLIENT

Lawyers are under a ‘fiduciary duty’ to their clients.  Lawyers owe a duty of good faith and must act honourably.  It is a lawyer’s predominant duty to perform legal services on behalf of his/her client to the standard of a competent lawyer.  A client is entitled to expect that his/her lawyer has the ability and the capacity to deal with legal matters. 

Lawyers have a fiduciary obligation to their clients and must act honestly and be candid at all times.  Lawyers must also act in good faith to advance their client’s best interests.  A lawyer is obligated to take all actions and give advice that will benefit their client and must use professional skill to protect their client’s best interests. 

SOLICITOR-CLIENT PRIVILEGE

One of the most important principles of the lawyer-client relationship is the right to have your private communications with your lawyer protected by solicitor-client privilege.  Your lawyer can’t reveal any information that you disclose in confidence, unless you give your express permission.  However, this privilege does not apply to communications for the purpose of committing a crime or an act of fraud.

The duty of confidentiality allows clients to participate in honest and frank communication with their lawyers.  This, in turn, allows lawyers to provide their clients with the most effective representation, equipped with all of the relevant facts.

In order to claim solicitor-client privilege, three pre-conditions must be met.  The communication must be:

  • Between the lawyer and the client;
  • For the sole purpose of seeking or giving legal advice; and
  • Intended to be confidential by the parties.

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST

Lawyers also have a duty not to act or continue to act for a client where a conflict of interest exists.  A conflict of interest may occur where there is a risk that a lawyer’s representation of a client will be adversely affected by the lawyer’s own interest or his/her duty to another client or third parties. 

For example, a conflict of interest may arise where a lawyer is asked to represent a client in a matter where the lawyer has a personal stake in the outcome.  Another example is where a lawyer is asked to act for a client in a case against a former client.  In these situations, the duty to avoid conflicts of interest requires that the lawyer refuse to act in these circumstances.

YOUR ROLE AS A CLIENT

Duties of an advocate towards his client. By- Pulkit Goyal - LEGAL UTILITY

In general, there are a variety of ways that you as a client can establish the most effective relationship with your lawyer.  These include the following:

  • Be truthful with your lawyer;
  • Preserve all evidence including photographs and videos;
  • Be cooperative and respond to requests for information by your legal team in a timely manner;
  • Always keep your lawyer informed of any changes in your medical condition or if new evidence becomes available as time progresses;
  • Attend meetings and legal proceedings, such as discoveries or mediation, advised by your lawyer and be punctual, and if you cannot attend a meeting let your lawyer know as soon as possible; and
  • Be considerate and polite with your lawyer and the entire legal team.

Hiring a lawyer is one of the most important decisions you make following your accident and the quality of legal representation you receive can have a major impact on your recovery.  When you hire Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers, you are hiring award-winning lawyers with over 20 years of experience.  You can rest assured that your case is in the best hands.

If you or a loved one have suffered serious personal injuries as a result of the negligence or carelessness of a third party, it is important to have an experienced personal injury lawyer by your side.  The professionals at our service are very familiar with how personal injuries can negatively impact one’s life and we want to help you during this difficult time by advocating on your behalf.  Call our office for a free initial consultation online or at 403-571-0555 to determine how we can help you with your personal injury claim. 

Tips for Maximizing Compensation in Your Personal Injury Case

Types Of Personal Injury Compensation In Injury Cases - Florin|Roebig

Once you decide to file a personal injury claim, you want to do everything you can to maximize your potential compensation. A crucial part of making a full recovery is ensuring you have adequate compensation to do so.

What you do after your injury matters, and there are distinct things you can do to make the most of your claim. Having an understanding of what aspects of your injury case are in your control can help you get the maximum amount possible. Here are ten ways to maximize compensation in your personal injury case.

1. Preserve Evidence

The jury is going to decide your case by looking at the evidence. Even the other party is going to decide whether to offer you a fair settlement based on the strength of your case. That means the more you can do to preserve evidence, the greater the chance of winning your case is going to be.

You should take photos of the accident scene and your immediate injuries if you’re able to. It’s important to try to collect names and contact information for witnesses. If there’s a police report, you will want to get a copy as soon as possible. Your attorney can follow up on this information to collect detailed witness statements and prepare the case.

2. Get Medical Treatment

Florida Personal Injury Cases | Brooks Law Group

Winning your personal injury case means getting a fair payment for your injuries and other losses. To do this, you need an accurate picture of your damages. You will need doctors and other health care professionals to document your injuries and formulate a treatment plan. This documentation can encourage the other side to come to the table and offer a higher settlement.

You should get medical treatment, even if you’re unsure about the extent of your injuries. If your doctor recommends a treatment plan, you should carefully follow it. This should include seeking any necessary physical therapy and treatment for things like flashbacks and post-traumatic stress.

3. Value Your Claim Fully

Don’t assume that you’re limited to any one type of damages. There are several different types of damages you may suffer because of your injury. You may not even be aware of all of the kinds of injuries and losses that you have.

You can claim compensation for loss of regular use of body functions and even emotional damages. These are in addition to recovering your out-of-pocket losses. An experienced Nevada personal injury lawyer can consult with you to evaluate these categories of damages individually.

4. Don’t Be Too Eager

When you’re hurt, it’s easy to want a check in your hands as soon as possible. Sometimes, accepting the first offer you receive can prevent you from maximizing your compensation.

To get the best recovery in your case, you have to let the other side believe that you’re willing to go the distance. This can mean rejecting the first, second or even third offer. It’s important to work with an attorney for an expert opinion about whether to accept or decline a settlement offer.

5. Explain Why the Offer Is Inadequate

Part of getting maximum compensation means convincing the other side you have a strong case. When you get an insufficient settlement offer, you can respond by explaining to the other side why it’s unacceptable, with documentation that reinforces your assertions.

This settlement rejection can show them that you’re committed to getting the compensation you deserve and that you have a strong case under Nevada law. An attorney can help you handle all of the considerations related to rejecting a settlement offer, and providing documentation on why it’s considered inadequate.

6. Don’t Forget Future Damages

A personal injury can bring losses both immediately and long into the future. You might not fully recover from your injuries before your case goes to trial. It’s crucial to make considerations about future recovery when negotiating a settlement amount.

Related: Negotiating Process in Personal Injury

You can include future damages as a part of your claim. In some cases, future damages might even comprise the majority of your losses. You need to work with medical professionals to document these losses and include them in your claim.

7. Build Your Case

Doing the work to build your case methodically can maximize your damages even if your case never goes to trial. This case preparation includes serving discovery demands to the other side and having your attorney conduct depositions or request records. You may need to be seen by various medical professionals, and your attorney might work with other expert witnesses to build the strength of your case.

Having a strong case prepared for trial can pressure the responsible party to offer you a fair settlement. If the other side senses that you’re not doing the work to build your case, they’ll be more likely to low ball your settlement offer. If they know you’re ready to go to trial and win, they’ll be more inclined to pay you an adequate amount.

8. Don’t Wait to File Your Case

After an injury occurs, you have time limits to bring your case. It’s important to bring your case as soon as possible because you don’t want to risk time running out. After the statute of limitations expires, you may not be able to recover at all. Also, filing your case lets you begin to gather evidence formally.

This can be a critical aspect of being able to preserve the evidence necessary to build your case. It also lets the other side know that you’re serious about getting a fair recovery and moving the case through the courts as quickly as possible.

9. Stay off Socials

Most people are familiar with the phrase that states that everything you say can and will be held against you in a court of law. Unfortunately, not all people realize that this phrase also applies to what you say on social media.

If you’re claiming devastating injuries, but your Facebook page tells a different story, it can ruin your case. The other side is watching, and your best bet is to keep quiet and let your attorney do the talking. It’s also a good rule of thumb not to talk about any aspect of your injury case with anyone, or anywhere until a settlement is reached.

10. Make a Good Impression

The other side is going to make a settlement offer based on what they think a jury might do at trial. Juries make their decisions based on what they see and hear at trial. It’s important to put your best foot forward.

This means being polite and respectful at all times and looking your best when you’re due in court. All of these little things can help you convince the other side that a jury is going to be sympathetic to what happened in your case. This small effort can nudge the other side to offer you a fair settlement.

An Attorney Can Help

A qualified personal injury lawyer can help you determine what needs to be done to help maximize your compensation. At each stage, they can help you build your case and communicate with the other side to pursue a fair settlement.

If your case goes to trial, your attorney will be there to help you present yourself and your case in the best way. The legal process takes patience, but your attorney can help you navigate Nevada’s complex legal system and pursue a course of action that results in the maximum compensation possible for your case.

WHAT TO DO WHEN GOING THROUGH A HIGH CONFLICT DIVORCE

What Is a High Conflict Divorce?

Divorce is never a pleasant or easy process, but it can be even more difficult when a couple struggles to work together. A high conflict divorce is one that is marked by greater than average animosity or conflict between the parties. These divorces can be incredibly difficult emotionally and often take longer to resolve than the average divorce.

Common hallmarks of a high conflict divorce include:

  • Everything is a battle
  • Excessive fighting
  • Most (or all) divorce matters are contested
  • A win-lose mentality
  • Difficulties communicating
  • Refusal to compromise

In high conflict situations, you may also see one party seeking to control or punish the other. You may also have instances of one spouse trying to hide assets or dissipating marital assets as a means to prevent the other spouse from accessing them. Both dissipation and hiding assets are illegal, and if you believe this is happening with your case, you should contact your lawyer right away.

Why High Conflict Divorces Are So Challenging

High conflict divorces are not only difficult in a literal sense. They are extremely difficult emotionally as well. This is especially true in cases where children are involved. Unfortunately, some people use their children as pawns to get back at their former spouses during a divorce. It also makes establishing a healthy co-parenting relationship extremely difficult.

Issues that are made more difficult by a high conflict situation can include:

  • Child custody and support
  • Property division
  • Spousal support

Tips for Navigating a High Conflict Divorce

Many people report feeling isolated and alone when going through a high conflict divorce. It can be difficult for outsiders to understand what you’re going through, and finding support can be difficult. At Hunt Law Firm, we have helped many clients going through all types of high conflict divorces, and we understand what you’re going through. Below we’ve provided a few tips for helping you navigate this difficult process.

Get Help from Your Attorney

Your lawyer is your best resource. When going through a high-conflict divorce, turning to your attorney for guidance is your first step. Not only will a knowledgeable lawyer be able to help you with the legal process of divorce, but they can use their experience to help you know what to expect and provide you with guidance.

For example, if you suspect your spouse is hiding marital assets, your lawyer can help you interpret the situation and advise you on how to proceed. Your lawyer is also an invaluable resource when it comes to helping you find other professionals to help you, such as family counselors, financial advisors, and more.

It is important to remember that your lawyer is on your side. They are here to represent you and your best interests throughout the divorce process and beyond. While you may feel like you are alone, with a good lawyer by your side, you can be sure someone is fighting for you.

Establish Clear Methods of Communication

Communication is one of the most difficult aspects of a high-conflict divorce. Discussions about seemingly small issues can devolve into an outright fight. When dealing with someone who refuses to cooperate, knowing how to talk to them can feel impossible. Though it may take time, establishing clear methods of communication can help.

For example, if you know that phone conversations with your former spouse always end up in a yelling match, consider limiting yourselves to written forms of communication, such as email or text. Sometimes, written communication can give both parties the space they need to consider what they are saying and release them from the burden of responding in the heat of the moment. Written communication also allows you to digest what is being discussed and provides you with time to consider your response before sending it.

In particularly difficult situations, you may wish to limit your communication further. Working with a mediator and allowing your lawyers to handle communication whenever possible may be the best way to avoid confrontation and fighting. Speak with your attorney to find out what the best course of action is for your situation.

Set Boundaries & Stick to Them

It is also important to set boundaries and then do your best to stick to them. For example, making certain topics (such as your personal life) off-limits can help reduce conflict and help keep divorce negotiations on track and focused. Consider limiting discussions to only those topics that are relevant to your divorce. Though it is easier said than done, avoid getting pulled into conversations that you know will trigger a fight.

Even when you set strict boundaries, your former spouse will likely cross them, either intentionally or unintentionally. When this happens, do your best not to engage with them. Or, if you catch yourself getting pulled into a fight, try to remove yourself from the situation if you can. This is incredibly difficult, but over time, it may become a little easier.

Work with a Therapist or Family Counselor

When going through a high conflict divorce, it is important that you take care of your mental and emotional health. It’s also important to remember that you do not have to weather this storm alone. Many people find that working with a therapist or family counselor is helpful while going through a difficult divorce. During a divorce, your life changes drastically, and while you can predict some of the changes, you cannot always predict how you will feel about them. A therapist can also be a good resource after your divorce as you begin rebuilding your life.

Questions You Need to Ask Before Hiring an Injury Lawyer

Finding the “right” lawyer to represent you is often the most critical factor in a successful recovery.

Insurance companies have the financial resources to hire skilled lawyers who specialize in defending personal injury claims. The experience and skills of your lawyer will play a pivotal role in the amount of compensation you receive.

Most injury victims do not know that the best, most successful personal injury attorneys in your community charge fees that are the same as inexperienced lawyers who have no track record of success in the courtroom.

Don’t make the mistake of choosing a personal injury lawyer from ads alone. There are unscrupulous lawyers who will settle your case quickly for whatever the insurance company will offer because these firms work on a “high volume” and “quick turnover” basis. Every community has a number of personal injury “wannabe” lawyers who would like to grab your case and settle it quickly for low dollars for you (but a high return for the lawyer’s time investment).

So how do you find a good lawyer for a serious personal injury lawsuit?

Like most important decisions, you need to do some “homework” on the lawyers in your community. When you decide to meet with an attorney to discuss your case, you need to ask the right questions to find out if the attorney has a proven track record of success.

The purpose of this free report is to provide you with insights that most injury victims never bother to learn about lawyers who handle personal injury claims. If you follow the advice contained in this report, it may make the difference between winning your case or going home with nothing or significantly less than your case is worth.

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1. There are sources that rate personal injury lawyers based on what their colleagues say about them.

How do you find a top-notch lawyer for a serious personal injury case? There are resources you can check before deciding which lawyer to schedule a consultation with. One of the most reliable ways to research a lawyer’s qualifications is to check sources that rate personal injury lawyer reviews based on what their fellow lawyers (and their competitors) say about them. Please understand that there is no other official “rating” system for personal injury lawyers besides peer review by other lawyers. Here are the peer review rating systems that you should check out:

  • The Martindale-Hubbell Bar Registry (www.martindale.com) has peer review ratings of more than 1 million lawyers across the country. It publishes short biographies of these lawyers. For over 130 years, Martindale-Hubbell has been the most respected source of authoritative and reliable information about members of the legal community in the United States. An “AV” rating identifies a lawyer and a firm with a very high to preeminent legal ability and is the highest reflection of expertise, experience, and integrity and overall professional excellence. Martindale-Hubbell ratings are established by attorneys for attorneys and it states: “clearly indicates a demonstration of the highest professional and ethical standards.”
  • The Best Lawyers in America. (www.bestlawyers.com) The lawyers listed in Best Lawyers been selected by their peers as “the best” in 57 specialties, including personal injury and medical malpractice law.
  • Superlawyers. www.superlawyers.comSuper Lawyers is an annual listing of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. Law & Politics performs the polling, research, and selection of Super Lawyers in a process designed to identify lawyers who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. Only five percent (5%) of the lawyers in each state are named Super Lawyers.

2. Ask the lawyer, “What percentage of your cases are referrals from other lawyers”?

If you want to know who the top-notch personal injury lawyers are in your community, ask the lawyers who practice there. It’s important to find out whether a significant percentage of a lawyer’s caseload comes from referrals from other lawyers. In any field or profession, the professionals who work in the field usually know who’s good and who’s not. If you have an attorney or a friend who practices law, that might be a good place to start. Even if he or she doesn’t handle injury cases, they are bound to have colleagues who are familiar with the personal injury or malpractice lawyers who are recognized by their peers as being the best in your community.

3. Be careful about lawyers who send “solicitation” letters to your home following an accident.

Recently, an increasing number of personal injury lawyers have been hiring runners or “gophers” to obtain traffic accident reports prepared by local and state police officers. Once the accident reports are obtained, a member of the law firm’s staff will comb through the report to find the name and address of the accident victim. The law firm will then mail a “solicitation” letter to the injury victim informing him/her that the law firm is ready and willing to represent the accident victim in a personal injury case. In our community, it is not unusual for an accident victim to receive fifteen to twenty solicitation letters from law firms. There is a law firm in southern Indiana that sends a solicitation to every single traffic accident victim in the entire state where there is a police report. There are law firms that will continue to send solicitation letters after the initial letter is sent and will even have a staff member call the accident victim and ask if they received the solicitation letters.

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The vast, vast majority of law firms that rely on solicitation letters operate on a “high volume, quick turnover” basis. They have difficulty attracting referrals from satisfied clients or other lawyers so they resort to sending out hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of solicitation letters hoping that they will receive responses to their mass mailings. It’s probably safe to say that injury victims who choose an attorney based on a solicitation letter they receive in the mail aren’t doing a lot of research on the law firm they are hiring. Many states are in the process of enacting rules and laws to prohibit lawyers from sending solicitation letters to accident victims.

4. Virtually all personal injury lawyers offer a free consultation and will not charge a fee unless there is a recovery.

Anyone who has ever seen or received any type of advertisements (TV commercials, yellow pages, internet sites, direct mail solicitation letters, etc.) from personal injury firms quickly learns that every injury lawyer makes the same offers:

  • “No fee if no recovery.”
  • “Free initial consultation.”
  • “We will visit you at home or in the hospital.”

A lawyer who offers you a “free consultation” and tells you that he or she will not charge a fee unless there is a recovery in your case (known as a “contingent fee” agreement) is not offering you anything out of the ordinary. Almost every lawyer who specializes in handling personal injury cases will make the same offer.

5. What does it mean when a lawyer says “no fee if no recovery”?

Almost every personal injury lawyer handles injury cases on a contingent fee basis. A “contingent” fee means that there is no attorney fee unless there is a recovery and the fee is a percentage of the amount recovered. (i.e. usually 33.33% of the amount recovered). That means that the lawyer will not charge the client a fee unless there is a recovery. Sounds simple, right? Not so fast. This is an area where personal injury victims need to be careful before they make a decision on a lawyer for their case.

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If a lawyer agrees to handle your injury case on a contingent fee basis and loses the case, there’s not going to be an issue on whether you owe the lawyer anything for his or her attorney fee. You don’t owe anything. One-third of nothing is nothing. However, consumers must understand that there is a big difference between attorney fees and the case “expenses.” Almost every personal injury case will entail some case “expenses” that need to be paid in order to prepare the case properly. Case expenses are monies paid to third parties to keep the case going: expert witness fees, court reporter fees, charges for medical records, charges for physician reports, filing fees and the many other expenses that go into a personal injury lawsuit.

Case expenses are handled differently by different law firms. In a typical motor vehicle accident case, where the settlement is less than $100,000, the case expenses are usually less than $5,000. However, in a serious personal injury case involving permanent or catastrophic injuries, or in a medical malpractice case, the litigation expenses can run up to $50,000 or more. There are different ways these ongoing litigation expenses are handled by different firms, depending, in large part, on the firm’s philosophy and the firm’s financial resources:

  • One way is to require the client to pay all or a substantial share of the litigation expenses at the start of a case or on an ongoing basis. That method can create serious financial issues for a client.
  • Another way is for the lawyer to pay all the expenses as the case goes along, with the client reimbursing the lawyer out of any recovery at the end of the case, after the lawyer’s contingency fee is deducted. For example, if the recovery is $270,000, and the lawyer and the client have agreed to a one-third contingent fee plus reimbursement of the expenses advanced by the lawyer, and the lawyer has advanced $10,000 toward the case expenses, the final disbursement of the settlement will look like this:- you will receive $170,000
    – the lawyer will receive $90,000 for his attorney fee;
    – $10,000 will be paid back to the lawyer to reimburse expenses.

What happens to the expenses if the case is lost? Some lawyers have a policy of not asking the client to reimburse the law firm for the “out of pocket” expenses. Other lawyers expect the client to reimburse the law firm for all the expenses if the case is lost. As a consumer who has choices, you need to find out the lawyer’s policy on expense reimbursement in situations where the case is lost. If a lawyer tries to tell you “don’t worry about it, I’ve never lost a case,” don’t accept that response. Even the very best personal injury lawyers lose cases from time to time.

6. Does this lawyer have the financial and staffing resources to take on my case?

As noted above, lawsuits involving serious or catastrophic personal injuries can be very expensive to take to court. For example, a typical medical malpractice case can involve three, six or even more medical specialties, each one of which needs to have an expert witness hired to deal with issues in that specialty. A serious injury case against a trucking company can involve accident reconstruction experts and trucking safety experts as well as the experts who will be needed to testify about the nature and extent of a client’s injuries (treating physicians, life care planners, vocational experts, economists, etc.). If a lawyer lacks the resources to fund a case properly, corners can be cut at the expense of the client’s case. Or a client can be pressured into taking an inadequate settlement. It pays to hire a lawyer who has the financial resources to take a case all the way to trial, if necessary.

7. What kinds of cases does this lawyer handle on a daily basis?

Some lawyers are “general practitioners” who handle many different types of legal cases, including the occasional personal injury case. If you have a serious personal injury claim, you will want a lawyer who handles personal injury cases on a day-in, day-out basis. The practice of law has become so complex that is it virtually impossible for a general practice lawyer to stay on top of all the developments in personal injury and medical malpractice law. Most of the lawyers who are hired by insurance companies to defend personal injury cases are seasoned specialists who limit their practice to the defense of personal injury cases. A general practitioner is likely to be at a major disadvantage when he or she goes up against a law firm that specializes in the defense of personal injuries cases.

8. How long has this lawyer been handling personal injury cases?

For the most part, lawyers who handle personal injury or medical malpractice cases charge injury victims the same “contingent” fee no matter how long they have been practicing. If a lawyer with only 3 years experience is going to charge you the same fee as a lawyer with 25 years experience and 100 personal injury jury trials under his or her belt, you should strongly consider hiring the more seasoned lawyer. The experience of your lawyer can make a very big difference in the outcome of your case.

9. Does this lawyer actually try lawsuits in court?

Most lay people believe that all personal injury lawyers go to court and try cases on a regular basis. Nothing could be further from the truth. A significant percentage of lawyers who hold themselves out to be “trial lawyers” or “personal injury lawyers” have little or no jury trial experience. One of the first questions you should ask is whether the lawyer tries cases in court, and, if so, how often. This is an important question that many lay people never think to ask.

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Lawyers who defend personal injury cases know the injury lawyers who actually try cases and those who don’t. Insurance companies use that information to evaluate their risk. One of the first questions an insurance adjuster will ask when a serious claim comes in is: Who is representing the plaintiff?

There is only one way to get top dollar for your case in a settlement. The insurance company must believe that your lawyer is ready, willing and able to try the case in court. If you hire a lawyer who always settles and never goes to court, be prepared to take a substantial discount on your case.

10. Does this lawyer teach other lawyers?

Lawyers who frequently lecture at legal education seminars (called “CLE” – or continuing legal education) have the esteem of their professional colleagues. They are asked to speak at legal education seminars because other attorneys want to hear what they have to say. Lawyers who regularly write articles in legal publications are usually the authorities in the field and know what they are talking about. Many personal injury lawyers will list the topics of their speaking engagements or their publications on their website. If you want to know whether a lawyer teaches other lawyers about developments in personal injury law or writes articles about personal injury litigation, you should check the lawyer’s website or ask for a copy of the lawyer’s resume.

11. Is this lawyer a member of legal organizations that specialize in representing injured people?

There are both national and state organizations comprised of lawyers who are dedicated to the representation of injury victims. These organizations sponsor legal publications and legal education programs. They also conduct lobbying activities for the rights of consumers. The most prominent national organization is the American Association of Justice (AAJ). In the State of Indiana, the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association (ITLA) is a statewide organization of plaintiff attorneys dedicated to the rights of injured persons. You can certainly find a lawyer who doesn’t belong to any of these groups, but why would you want that lawyer to represent you in a serious injury lawsuit?

12. Is this lawyer a “board-certified” civil trial lawyer by the National Board of Trial Advocacy?

For many years, the medical profession has utilized a system of testing and peer evaluation known as “board certification.” Board certification is designed to identify physicians who have expertise in a particular specialty or sub-specialty of medicine. In recent years, the legal system has begun emulating the board-certification process in the medical profession. The National Board of Trial Advocacy (NBTA) is a national organization that has a process for civil trial lawyers to achieve board certification. The National Board of Trial Advocacy is part of a larger lawyer certification organization called the National Board of Legal Specialty Certification. NBTA certification as a “civil trial attorney” is only available to attorneys who have extensive experience in the courtroom and in preparing cases for trial. In addition to having courtroom experience, an applicant must also pass an all-day examination before receiving board-certification from the NBTA as a civil trial attorney.

The 5 most important qualities your divorce lawyer MUST have

The 5 most important qualities your divorce lawyer MUST have

Aside from the death of a loved one, a divorce is one of the most stressful experiences a person can go through. Finding a divorce lawyer can be a daunting task when you’re faced with so many other worries. The lawyer you hire will be representing you for several months, or even a year or more, which means finding the right lawyer can make the divorce process a lot easier on you and your family.

When looking to hire an attorney to represent you in your divorce, you should look for someone with the following qualities:

1. The Ability To Communicate Well

5 Tips for When You First Meet With Your Divorce Attorney

Clear and easy communication with your divorce lawyer is critical. During your case, you will need to be able to effectively communicate your concerns and expectations to your lawyer, and your attorney will need to be able to clearly explain things to you regarding your case and provide you with realistic expectations. If an attorney doesn’t listen to you well or can’t explain things in a way you can understand, you should continue your search.

While it may seem counter-intuitive, your attorney’s ability to communicate with your spouse and your spouse’s attorney is also essential, because good communication between the attorneys can facilitate fruitful negotiation and keep costs down. A good divorce lawyer will try to negotiate resolution of some of the issues that are important to you before heading straight to court. (Of course, the ability to communicate well with your spouse and his/her attorney does require some cooperation on their part as well.)

If you end up in court, your attorney also needs to be able to effectively communicate with the court and litigate passionately. This is important because you will need your attorney to represent your interests clearly and to be trusted by the court.

2. Skill And Experience

You should look for an attorney who not only can represent you, but can represent you well. And in order to represent you well, the attorney must be skilled. Your divorce case is likely to touch all aspects of your life-family, finances, retirement, career, etc. To protect your interests, your attorney should be knowledgeable and experienced enough in his or her practice to deal with the complexities of your case, while allowing you to continue your daily life as much as possible.

You should look for an attorney who has experience in divorce and family law with cases similar to yours. For example, if you are dealing with high-conflict custody, or perhaps a substantial net worth, find out if a divorce lawyer is knowledgeable in those specific areas. Check their credentials thoroughly and look for attorneys who continue to seek knowledge and experience through continuing education opportunities.

3. Availability

Tips You Must Know for Finding the Best Divorce Lawyers — Every Thing For  Dads

When considering hiring an attorney to represent you in your divorce, look for someone who is available at the key points in your case (or who has the support available if an issue comes up while your attorney is in court on another matter or out of the office).

A good divorce lawyer should be available to respond to your questions in a timely manner or, if not available right away, give you a time frame within which to expect an answer.

You should also look for an attorney who is not so busy with other cases that he/she does not have time to devote himself or herself fully to your case. Don’t expect to be your attorney’s only client, but you should not be lost in a sea of clients, either.

4. Composure (A.K.A. Working Well Under Pressure)

Your attorney’s ability to maintain composure is not just about staying calm and focused with you, but also about exhibiting self-control before the court or with your spouse’s attorney, even if frustrated. You should look for a divorce lawyer who will represent your interests strongly, but who will not take it personally when things do not turn out exactly as your attorney intended.

Surprises happen in divorce, because you cannot fully anticipate what the other side or the court will do. Your attorney should maintain composure so that he or she is always representing your interests and is willing and able to adjust their strategy when needed. Your attorney should be focused, composed, and professional, especially when representing you to the court.

5. Support And Resources

It is unlikely that you will be your attorney’s only client, and because your attorney is human, your attorney will not always be immediately available to you when you have a question. You should look for an attorney who has support staff and other attorneys available to assist in the event of an emergency. It is also important that your attorney have support and resources available to prepare your case in a timely manner, such as experienced paralegals, support attorneys, and legal assistants.

All That Sounds Great. But How Do I Find A Divorce Lawyer That Meets These Standards?

How to Find a Good Divorce Lawyer | Terry & Roberts

Finding a divorce lawyer you are comfortable with, who will also skillfully prepare and present your case and represent you zealously, can take some work. Read our guide on How to Find a Divorce Lawyer for ways to research and select possible attorneys.

What Will Your Personal Injury Lawyer Do?

How To Find A Good Personal Injury Lawyer? – Jack Adam Hearsay

Whether your personal injury case eventually settles (as most do) or goes to trial, your personal injury lawyer will be busy trying to get you the best possible result. After all, most personal injury attorneys get paid on a contingency fee basis, meaning the lawyer doesn’t recover fees for representing you unless you recover compensation from the at-fault party. Let’s look at a few key aspects of a lawyer’s role during a typical personal injury case.

Investigation and Initial Demand

The first thing your attorney will do is get as much information as possible about your case. That means all relevant details related to the nature and extent of your injuries and a determination of fault for the underlying accident, including:

  • medical bills
  • medical treatment history
  • police reports
  • surveillance footage
  • witness statements
  • photographs, and
  • official government reports.

Next, the attorney will likely make a demand to the insurer of the liable party (in a car accident case, for example, that means the at-fault driver’s car insurance company).

If this initial demand results in a settlement offer, your attorney will review it with you and recommend how to respond. The initial settlement offer is rarely the final offer. One thing to keep in mind is that your attorney will wait until there’s a full understanding of the scope of your injuries and other losses (including all future medical care you’ll require and how your injuries will affect your ability to work) before accepting a settlement.

If, after settlement negotiations, your attorney is unable to get an amount you’re willing to accept, the next thing your attorney will do is begin the lawsuit. (Learn more about your options if you’re at a personal injury settlement impasse.)

The Personal Injury Litigation Process

Legal Resume Objective | A Comprehensive Write-up For Freshers

A personal injury lawsuit starts with the filing of the complaint, a legal document listing your legal arguments, the facts in support of those legal arguments, and what you demand in relief.

After you file the complaint and serve it on the defendant (the person you’re suing), the defendant will file a response to your complaint (the “answer”).

Next, “discovery” begins. This is the stage of litigation where the two sides exchange information that might serve as evidence during trial. In most personal injury cases, discovery will consist of depositions, requests for documents, and interrogatories, and the process can take months to complete.

After discovery, the trial is set. Your attorney may file a variety of pre-trial motions (to try to keep the defendant from using a piece of evidence during trial, for example). It’s very rare for a personal injury lawsuit to reach the trial phase. Settlement is possible at any point during this process, including right up to (or even during) trial.

Your personal injury lawyer will take care of all aspects of the litigation phase and will keep you updated on your case’s progress.

Points to Keep in Mind After Hiring a Lawyer

Your attorney probably can’t respond immediately to your telephone calls or emails. Lawyers are ethically bound to respond to clients within a reasonable amount of time, but they have other cases to work on, depositions to prepare for, and court hearings to attend.

One thing your lawyer should never do is keep you in the dark about what’s going on in your case, especially if the other side makes a settlement offer. Unless you’ve given your permission, your lawyer cannot accept or reject a settlement offer without running it by you first.

Be careful discussing your case with anyone other than your lawyer or a representative from your lawyer’s office. If you get a call from an insurance adjuster or someone you’re not familiar with, don’t talk to them about your case. If they have legitimate questions or concerns about your case, you can refer them to your attorney. On a related note, unless your attorney advises you otherwise, do not sign any document relating to your case, and do not change doctors.

Keep your lawyer updated. For instance, if you finish your medical treatment, tell your attorney. If the defendant or someone working on behalf of the defendant tries to contact you, tell your attorney. If you receive additional medical bills or other documents that substantiate your damages claim, tell your attorney and send them copies of relevant documents.

If you’re having money struggles as a result of your personal injury, tell your attorney. They can suggest avenues of financial support and give you advice on how to deal with creditors.

After Obtaining a Legal Recovery

HOW DO I FIND THE RIGHT PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY? (DISCOVER THE BEST  PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER: PART 6 OF 6 PARTS) - Urquia Law

Whether you win at trial or obtain a settlement, your attorney will make arrangements to collect the money the defendant must pay. This might mean getting in touch with the defendant’s insurance company and having a check sent to your attorney’s office. Or it could include filing post-trial motions to collect the judgment. Learn more about collecting your injury settlement or judgment.

If your case settles, you will likely sign settlement and release forms. In essence, these forms say that in return for compensation, you agree to end your lawsuit against the defendant (or promise not to sue them in connection with the underlying accident).

Learn more about working with your personal injury lawyer.

Types of Personal Injury Lawyers: When to File A Lawsuit

July 29, 2021 | Car accidentsPersonal InjuryTruck AccidentsWorkers Compensationwrongful death

Personal injury is a relatively broadly used term that typically describes a certain type of lawyer or lawsuit.

This article will help you understand what personal injury is, what a personal injury attorney does, the types of cases a personal injury lawyer handles, and when you should speak with an injury attorney.

OUR BACKGROUND IN PERSONAL INJURY

Ortwerth Law is a personal injury law firm in St. Louis, Missouri.

We handle a wide range of personal injury practice areas like workers’ compensation, car accidents, and truck accidents.

We have over 25 years of experience as personal injury attorneys and have won many awards and our cases and settlements have been featured in some of the most prominent lawyer publications in the country.

Now, let’s discuss the personal injury and the duties of a personal injury attorney.

What is personal injury?

Personal injury is a general term that can cover many different types of claims.

In its most basic definition, personal injury refers to intentional or unintentional physical, emotional, or psychological harm caused by someone else’s actions.

The term “personal injury” refers to any physical, emotional, or financial damage that is caused by a person’s negligence or an accident.

Most common types of personal injury cases

CAR ACCIDENT PERSONAL INJURY CASES

Car accidents are one of the most common types of personal injury cases.

In these cases, someone else’s negligence resulted in an accident that caused a car crash or other type of collision.

The car accident attorney must prove that another driver was negligent and then provide evidence regarding how this led to the client’s injuries including medical bills, lost wages from missed workdays, and potential bills that may arise in the future.

Related: Car accident settlements in Missouri

TRUCK ACCIDENT PERSONAL INJURY CASES

Truck accidents involve a commercial truck driver’s negligence, which is when they do not maintain their vehicle in proper condition and then wreck it.

In semi-truck accident cases, the truck accident attorney must show that the trucker was negligent by proving they didn’t keep up with maintenance or violated other rules of the road like speeding.

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION PERSONAL INJURY CASE

A workers’ compensation personal injury case is when an employee was injured on the job and filed a claim for restitution.

The duty of the workers’ compensation attorney in this instance is to prove that their client was not at fault or negligent during the incident, which would deny them benefits under workers’ comp laws.

In most workers’ comp cases, your attorney will be fighting your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance agency as they will, in most cases, do everything in their power to minizine your payout.

Related: Most common workers’ compensation injuries and lawsuits

SLIP AND FALL PERSONAL INJURY CASES

Slip and fall lawsuits are usually filed by a plaintiff who was injured when they slipped and fell due to the negligence of another party.

In these cases, the local personal injury attorney will have to prove that someone else’s carelessness caused their client’s injury while also showing how much money is being lost as a result of medical bills or missed workdays.

WRONGFUL DEATH PERSONAL INJURY CASES

These types of cases are filed by the surviving family members after someone’s death.

Wrongful death lawsuits happen when negligence leads to a person’s injury or death, so these types of personal injury attorneys will have to prove that their client’s death was the direct (or in some cases indirect) result of an accident or negligence.

Some of the most common types of wrongful death lawsuits include car accident death cases, medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuits, and nursing home abuse lawsuits.

MEDICAL MALPRACTICE PERSONAL INJURY CASES

Medical malpractice cases are usually filed by a plaintiff who was injured due to the negligence of another medical professional.

Medical malpractice lawsuits are not exclusively lawsuits against doctors.

These personal injury cases may also involve lawsuits against hospitals, dentists, pharmacies (or pharmacists), and even pharmaceutical companies.

In these types of personal injury cases, the medical malpractice attorney will have to show that someone else’s carelessness caused their injuries and how much money is being lost as a result including potential wages from missed workdays or future earnings.

Types of personal injury attorneys

When you are searching for a local personal injury attorney, you will likely find that most of them practice or have experience in a wide range of personal injury areas.

Put simply, most personal injury attorneys will offer their services in all of the previously listed practice areas.

However, that does not mean personal injury law firms don’t have certain areas in which they specialize.

Ortwerth Law, for instance, has experience handling just about every type of personal injury lawsuit imaginable, but there are several areas of practice we frequently provide our legal services like car accidents, truck accidents, and workers’ compensation.

How to find the best personal injury lawyer for your case

The best way to find the best personal injury lawyer for your case is to reach out and ask them about their experience.

Ask potential lawyers what types of cases they have handled in the past, what kind of results they’ve achieved, how many years they have been practicing law (experience often goes hand-in-hand with skill), and what sets them apart from other personal injury law firms.

Most personal injury lawyers will offer a free consultation for potential clients to discuss their case at no cost, which should always be taken advantage of when looking for legal representation.

Once you’ve narrowed down your options and found the perfect lawyer for your case, it’s time to start gathering evidence for your case.

The best way to find the best personal injury lawyer for your case is to reach out and ask them about their experience. Ask potential lawyers what types of cases they have handled in the past, what kind of results they’ve achieved, how many years they have been practicing law (experience often goes hand

The Top 10 Financial Mistakes to Avoid During Divorce

Divorce Dictionary | DivorceNet

During a divorce, you’ll be faced with many decisions that may affect your financial security. This article outlines the most common financial mistakes divorcing spouses make and provides tips on how to avoid them. You may feel comfortable dealing with some of these issues on your own, but with many of them, it’s crucial that you find good financial advice from a qualified professional.

1. Ignoring or underestimating your expenses. Most people know exactly what they earn each month, but can’t explain where their money goes. Take the time to write down all of your expenses, and develop a realistic monthly budget. Likewise, consider the cost of your future living expenses, taking inflation into account. If you ignore inflation, you may underestimate your future needs and find that you’re not able to maintain your quality of life.

2. Believing that the parent with more custodial time should keep the family home. It’s often a very emotional decision whether to keep the family home, especially when children are involved. While it would be nice to remain where you’re comfortable and avoid the hassles of moving, staying put might not be the best financial decision. No matter how attached you are to your home, it’s critical to have a realistic sense of whether you can afford it. If you give up everything else in order to keep the home, and then find that you can’t cover the mortgage, property taxes, and maintenance, you may end up in serious financial trouble.

Learn more about this issue in What to Do With the House When You Divorce, by Emily Doskow.

3. Assuming that an equal division is a fair division of property. Be sure you understand that an asset’s value is not necessarily defined by or limited to its current market value. For example, assets that generate income (like rental property or bonds) may be worth more than their market value. Agreeing that each spouse will receive property of equal monetary value doesn’t always mean each spouse will receive a truly equal share of the assets over time. Make sure you’re comparing apples to apples when you trade assets in a divorce negotiation, and pay attention to tax basis, present value, and transaction costs.

Learn more about this issue in Divorce & Moneyby Violet Woodhouse with Dale Fetherling.

4. Deciding financial issues one at a time. By looking at each asset or source of income separately, you miss the interaction of taxes, capital gains, investment losses, timing issues, inflation, and more. A fair settlement begins by looking at a comprehensive picture of all of your finances. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be better able to understand how each financial decision you make may affect another decision, and determine how and when to divide assets.

5. Failing to secure spousal support (alimony) and child support payments with insurance. Your ability to collect alimony and child support is only as good as your spouse’s ability to pay. You can request that your spouse obtain disability and life insurance policies (or modify existing policies) to ensure that these payments will continue in the event of your spouse’s disability or death. Be sure to review the policies to make sure your spouse has made the proper designation(s). Understand that these policies won’t help you in the event of your spouse’s voluntary decision to stop paying. To enforce your rights in this situation, you’ll need to go back to court and ask for an order that your spouse make the appropriate payments.

6. Not understanding your liability for unsecured debt. For most people, unsecured debt means consumer credit card debt. In most cases, if the debt was incurred during the marriage, it’s a shared liability no matter which spouse used the credit card. When you settle your divorce, you’ll divide responsibility for those debts. But don’t assume that the credit card companies care what your settlement says – they can still come after both of you for payment. The best practice is to pay off all debts before the divorce becomes final.

7. Not evaluating a defined benefit pension plan correctly. A defined benefit plan (DBP) is a true pension plan—it’s funded and controlled by the employer, and pays a monthly income at retirement. (This is different from a defined contribution plan, such as a 401(k).) Even though the employee has to wait until retirement to receive payments, the DBP has value today, and the non-employee spouse is entitled to a share of that value. In most cases, you’ll need to hire an actuary – a specially trained financial expert – to calculate the present value of DBPs.

8. Overlooking a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) is a legal document that reflects how you and your spouse have decided to divide a defined contribution plan (eg., 401(k), 403(b), and 457 plans) or a pension plan. A QDRO also orders the plan administrator to pay the non-employee spouse his or her agreed-upon or court-ordered share. The plan administrator cannot make such payments without a valid QDRO in place. Even if you’re dealing with a pension that may not be payable for several years, it’s crucial that you get the QDRO in place as part of your divorce, or you may lose important pension rights.

9. Having unrealistic expectations about investment returns. If your spouse is trying to convince you to settle for a certain investment because “It’s going to grow at 30 percent per year,” you might want to get a professional opinion. That investment might not grow at all, or it may yield negative results. Liquid assets (cash or assets that can be easily converted into cash) may provide more financial security than investments, many of which may be risky. Think twice before accepting investments in lieu of safer, less risky assets.

10. Failing to consider your long-term financial security. If you focus only on the immediate task of splitting assets and getting alimony and child support, without understanding how things might look in 10 or 20 years, you’re doing yourself a great disservice. You might want to hire a financial planner to review any proposed settlement agreement (before you sign it) and advise you about the long-term financial consequences.

Kaduna Govt Working on Family Law to Tame High Rate of Divorce – El-Rufai ~  Daily Asset Online

IMPORTANT DIVORCE AND FAMILY LAW ISSUES

Divorce is not the easiest to get through. From the emotional turmoil and splitting of assets – to pensions and businesses, there are many factors to consider, especially if a prenuptial agreement was not signed prior to getting married.
Important Divorce and Family Law Issues

Family law attorney Kirk Stange touches* on all the factors we should consider when splitting up in divorce: from pensions to hidden assets, he uncovers what your attorney should be doing to help you.

Military Family Law

Military Family Law | Men's Divorce Law Firm Orlando FL

What is the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act and how does it relate to military personnel and divorce?

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), formerly known as the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act (SSCRA), was enacted in 2003 and significantly expanded the protections provided to people entering the military, called to active duty and deployed service members. Many of the provisions in the SCRA can be applied to protect the rights of service members who are going through a divorce or family law matter. The key protections the SCRA provides to service members going through a divorce are as follows:

  • In the context of a family law matter, if a default judgment was entered against a party and the outcome negatively affected somebody because they were not present to defend themselves in the action, the court has the authority to reopen the matter.
  • If a party is deployed and cannot be present for the proceedings to defend themselves, the proceedings can be postponed, or stayed, until they return. This can be especially important when issues like custody need to be resolved.

The reality is that to get divorced in most states in the United States, cheating or marital misconduct does not need to be proven.

Divorce and Separation

In order to ensure the divorce process goes as smoothly as possible, how should clients prepare for what may be contested divorce matters?

It is critical that a party hire an attorney who has experience in contested divorce matters.  If the case cannot settle prior to trial, having an attorney who has significant trial experience is vitally important.  After the attorney has been selected, it is crucial that parties give their attorneys all the necessary information as early as possible in the process. This can include providing all the documents and evidence that the client feels are potentially important in the case, including financial information from tax returns, account statements, deeds, estate planning documents and anything else that can have a bearing on property and debt division, spousal support and child support.  However, if custody is at issue in the case, it can also be critical to provide all the information that a party thinks is important in terms of their custody request as well.  This can include school and medical records and a litany of other information.

The use of private investigators is generally on the decline with the advent of no-fault divorce.

How are allegations of cheating and marital misconduct handled?  Does proving marital misconduct make a difference?

The reality is that to get divorced in most states in the United States, cheating or marital misconduct does not need to be proven. A party typically only has to show that the marriage is irretrievably broken and that there is no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be saved.  However, some states still will consider marital misconduct as one of the factors as it relates to property and debt division and spousal support (previously known as alimony).  For example, where I am licensed, in Missouri and Kansas, the conduct of the parties during the marriage is a factor that the court can look at in property and debt division and spousal maintenance. However, in Illinois, where I am also licensed, the courts do not consider marital misconduct as a factor for property and debt division and spousal maintenance. Having said that, there are some cases where marital misconduct could have a bearing on the best interests of the children for the child custody portion of the case.

If a party fears for their safety in a divorce or family law matter, it is important that an attorney act quickly to protect their client.

In divorce and family law matters, would you advise clients to hire a private investigator?

The use of private investigators is generally on the decline with the advent of no-fault divorce.  While courts in some states can consider marital misconduct for property and debt division and spousal maintenance, many courts are hesitant to give it much weight.  However, there are still some cases where parties do opt to hire private investigators to:

  • Prove marital misconduct and/or adultery;
  • Show unsafe or harmful practices relative to the best interests of the children;
  • Serve crucial witnesses and opposing parties’ summons/subpoenas as a special process server;
  • Identify hidden financial and other assets;
  • Conducting surveillance; and/or
  • Substantiate untrue statements about income and employment.

If the other party violates the Order of Protection or Restraining Order, they can often be charged criminally.

What factors impact how marital property and debt is divided in divorce?

Equitable division is how most states divide marital property and debt in divorce.  Marital property and debt are all property or debt accumulated during the marriage.  Separate property, which is not divisible in a divorce, is property that was obtained prior to the marriage or property that was obtained by gift, inheritance or that is set aside in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement.  Factors most courts look at in dividing marital property and debt are:

  • The economic circumstances of each spouse at the time the division of property is to become effective, including the desirability of awarding the family home or the right to live therein for reasonable periods to the spouse having custody of any children;
  • The contribution of each spouse to the acquisition of the marital property, including the contribution of a spouse as homemaker;
  • The value of the nonmarital property set apart to each spouse; and
  • Custodial arrangements for minor children.

Some states, as I mentioned previously, will also look at the conduct of the parties during the marriage, while others do not.

 In these cases, the court is going to take the value of the business interest into consideration when dividing all marital property and debt.

How should cases be handled if there is domestic abuse? How do you handle these cases differently, especially if your client fears they could be in danger?

If a party fears for their safety in a divorce or family law matter, it is important that an attorney act quickly to protect their client.  Laws can vary by state and the exact verbiage can be a little different.  However, generally, parties will want to seek an Order of Protection to prevent the abuse.  In some states, this is known as a Restraining Order.  If the other party violates the Order of Protection or Restraining Order, they can often be charged criminally.

There are lots of variables that go into the valuation of a businesses’ interest and a professional business valuator is almost always needed.

Business Interests

Indo Scan Limited - Business Interests

Protecting your business in divorce: Can you refuse to split your company’s assets?

If the business interest was obtained during the marriage, in an equitable division state, the business interest is going to be treated as marital property unless there is a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that sets it aside to one party. In these cases, the court is going to take the value of the business interest into consideration when dividing all marital property and debt.  In some cases, the value of the business interest can be offset against other assets that the other spouse receives, like a home, investment or retirement account, as some examples.  In these cases, the business interest does not have to be split.  The other spouse just receives another asset of roughly the same value.  However, in other cases, this might not be possible and the business interests may need to be split or sold.  Regardless, what is critical in these cases is to have a business valuator enlisted early in the case to ensure that the value of the business is fair and accurate.  There are lots of variables that go into the valuation of a businesses’ interest and a professional business valuator is almost always needed.

Where a party owns and operates a business, the risk can also increase because income and assets can often be shielded within the business.

What are the signs your partner could be hiding assets?

Every case is different and the signs are not always uniform. However, in cases where one party has almost complete control over the finances, this can increase the risk of hidden assets. In some cases, both spouses might not have access to all the financial records.  One spouse might also set up bank accounts in their own name.  If a spouse travels overseas, the risk can often increase.  Where a party owns and operates a business, the risk can also increase because income and assets can often be shielded within the business.

 Private investigators can also help locate and identify hidden assets.

How challenging is it to prove that your partner is hiding assets?

Experience has taught us that finding hidden property can be challenging. To do so, we often involve forensic accountants. These professionals review tax documents and other financial records to locate hidden assets or to exonerate a party depending on the situation.  Private investigators can also help locate and identify hidden assets.  With the advent of social media evidence, oftentimes, the evidence of the hidden assets can be found online.  Another way to locate hidden assets is through the use of a computer forensic expert who can lawfully gain access to electronic devices to search for evidence of hidden assets.

A prenuptial agreement can help a party protect their pension interests.

If proven, how can the above impact a divorce proceeding?

If a party hides assets, it can have a tremendous impact on the proceedings.  First, it can destroy the party’s credibility with the judge.  This can impact all facets of the case.  Second, hiding assets is also illegal and could subject a party to civil or criminal penalties for being untruthful with the court.  Finally, it can also result in that party giving up a disproportionate share of the assets they were hiding and that party having to pay the other spouse’s legal fees and costs for having to track down these assets.

his means that both parties need to have separate legal counsel.

When should one consider hiring a forensic accountant?

There are many cases where a party should consider hiring a forensic account.  Some common situations are as follows:

  • Identifying income from a closely held business or professional practice to see if any of it has been concealed or transferred elsewhere;
  • Determining if assets have been squandered, encumbered, concealed or hidden in anticipation of divorce proceedings;
  • Helping trace funds owned prior to the marriage to determine if it is separate property and, therefore, belong to one spouse alone; and
  • Helping valuate a business interest.

More parties are seeking to resolve their divorce and family law matters outside of court. Many parties try mediation.

Pension Sharing

Pension Sharing on Divorce - Savvy Financial Planning

How is a pension split during a divorce?

A pension is divided in divorce just like any other marital asset in an equitable division state.  The first question is whether the pension interest accumulated during the marriage?  If so, the marital portion is divisible in divorce.  Typically, the division is implemented through the use of a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (“QDRO”).

Are there ways for clients to protect their pension or retirement assets during divorce?

A prenuptial agreement can help a party protect their pension interests.  The key is that the prenuptial agreement would need to be completed before the marriage and in a matter that is procedurally and substantively fair. This means that both parties need to have separate legal counsel.  The prenuptial agreement also has to be entered into freely, voluntarily and without undue influence or duress.  Both parties also have to engage in a full and fair disclosure of their assets and debts.  Past that, and if there is no prenuptial agreement, if a portion of the retirement assets were accumulated prior to marriage, this can often be traced by a forensic account.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

 If parties can settle their divorce outside of court, data shows that parties are more apt to comply with a settlement agreement versus a court order.

Is alternative dispute resolution growing in prominence in divorce and family law matters?

More parties are seeking to resolve their divorce and family law matters outside of court. Many parties try mediation. Mediation can be voluntary or some courts can order parties to participate in mediation.  Other parties are trying collaborative family law.  In collaborative family law, each party hires a collaborative lawyer on a limited scope representation agreement where the lawyer can only represent the party in the collaborative process and cannot litigate the matter in court.  In the collaborative process, other professionals (divorce coach, financial neutral and child custody professional) work to get the parties toward settlement.

Paternity cases are really on the rise due to increasing out-of-wedlock birth rates.

Do you think parties should try to resolve their divorce or family law matter outside of court?

I do think settlement outside of court is worth the try for parties.  If parties can settle their divorce outside of court, data shows that parties are more apt to comply with a settlement agreement versus a court order. This can result in fewer repeat visits back to court.  It can also help parties who have kids keep tensions to a minimum so that they can co-parent more effectively with one another.

Besides divorce, what are some of the other most common types of family law cases?

Paternity cases are really on the rise due to increasing out-of-wedlock birth rates.  These are cases involving custody and child support between unmarried parents.  Next to divorce, these may be the most common type of family law matters.  We also help clients with adoptions, guardianships, surrogacy agreements, domestic violence matters and prenuptial agreements and other family law matters.

About Kirk:

Kirk Stange is a Founding Partner at Stange Law Firm, PC, a divorce and family law firm that presently has 20 office locations in the United States in Missouri, Illinois, Kansas and Oklahoma.  LawFirm500 has also recognized Stange Law Firm, PC as one of the fastest growing law firms in the United States since 2016.  Mr. Stange has been on the list of Super Lawyers for Family Law by Missouri and Kansas Super Lawyers Magazine since 2015.

 I once had a child custody case where the opposing party actually hired a hit man to kill my client.

Can you share your most challenging case yet, and how you overcame it?

I once had a child custody case where the opposing party actually hired a hit man to kill my client.  While this can add significant stress to the case, it is vital that the safety of the children and everybody else is put at the forefront both civilly and criminally. 

What three characteristics are important for a family lawyer?

In addition to educating yourself about the ins and outs of the area of law, it is important that a family lawyer be empathetic in terms of what the client is going through, while maintaining boundaries and leadership at the same time.

What motivated you to practice law?

I really wanted to make a difference in the lives of real people going through difficult times.

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