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Contingency Case question

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Hi,

 

I have a couple questions about contingency cases. I've been in contact with a law firm regarding a possible lawsuit and they sent documents for me to sign.

 

The agreement they need me to sign says that if the firm wins, they will take a certain percentage of money received and if they lose there is no cost to me.

 

However, there's a separate section in the agreement regarding costs/expenses outside of the attorney fee percentage that I would be responsible for. My choice is to pay up front or pay at the end.

 

I'm not in a position to pay the attorney anything and all costs/expenses would need to come from money received when the case is finished if they win.

 

While it doesn't seem realistic for them to pursue a case where the expenses are higher than a judgement, mathematically, it's possible, in which case I would be out money, which I can't risk.

 

I asked a representative of the firm about this and he said that the attorney won't pursue a case if the expenses exceed what a win could pay out and would withdraw.

 

I asked them for something in writing guaranteeing that I will have no out of pocket costs that won't come from a judgement or settlement and he said no.

 

The other thing is that any money from a win would be paid via a prepaid card and possibly 1 check from the card's bank so I could deposit it without fees. I haven't been involved in any lawsuits previously, so this is all foreign to me. 

 

I'd appreciate your thoughts on this.

 

Thanks in advance,

 Bonnie

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The agreement is a standard contingency agreement and, no, the law firm won't guarantee anything because there are no guarantees in personal injury claims.

 

However:

 

 

 

The other thing is that any money from a win would be paid via a prepaid card and possibly 1 check from the card's bank so I could deposit it without fees. I haven't been involved in any lawsuits previously, so this is all foreign to me. 

 

That prepaid card thing is new to me.

 

Is that something the attorney does or is it something you want?

 

Anyway, if you'd care to post details of your accident and injuries (and your state) I'd be happy to make helpful comments.

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The retainer agreement presented to you is a standard agreement. I assume you are concerned about the provision about the costs and expenses being deducted from the payment to you. That is based on ethical requirements that apply to all lawyers.

If the firm made an agreement with you that you would not have to pay any costs or expenses it would put the firm in conflict with you, the client, in two ways. First, if the firm cannot expect to be reimbursed for the costs and expenses, it may deter them from incurring expenses that might improve your case. Second, the higher the expenses become the more incentive the firm has to force you to accept a settlement.

I have never seen a situation where the final settlement is paid by means of a prepaid debit card or by a payment from the bank issuing the card. The settlement check should be paid out of the firm's trust account. Attorneys doing personal injury cases maintain an account separate from their operating account that can only contain funds belonging to their clients. So the insurance company's check is deposited in that account and the fee, outstanding medical bills, costs, expenses, and your net recovery are all paid out of that account. Attorneys live in fear of any irregularities in the trust account since the funds in that account do not belong to them.. The quickest way to disbarment is to screw around with the trust account.

It may be that your financial circumstances require this unusual disbursement procedure but it is not normal.

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Thanks so much for both responses.

 

The claim is based on circumstantial evidence due of an environmental problem that impacts many people where I live. I am experiencing symptoms that are not normal for me and they could be attributable to the issue.

 

The disbursement method is their choice and at this point, I am not comfortable with it. It's highly suspect and given that after one conversation with me, they have emailed me every day to remind me to sign the forms, I am growing more uncomfortable with them and will look for another firm to represent me.

 

I appreciate both of your responses and insight. I'm still concerned that costs/expenses could exceed any settlement, and I don't even know if they take their retainer before or after these expenses are deducted, but since I'm not going to use them, it doesn't matter.

 

The prepaid bank card is enough to scare me off.. Thanks so much!

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The claim is based on circumstantial evidence due of an environmental problem that impacts many people where I live. I am experiencing symptoms that are not normal for me and they could be attributable to the issue.

 

I'm still concerned that costs/expenses could exceed any settlement, and I don't even know if they take their retainer before or after these expenses are deducted, but since I'm not going to use them, it doesn't matter.

 

Just so you know, I'll give you an example of how it works. Let's say your contingency agreement is 30% plus expenses for any settlement obtained without filing a lawsuit and 40% plus expenses for any settlement or award obtained after filing a lawsuit. That's pretty standard.

 

Now let's say you get a settlement of $100,000 without having to file a lawsuit. The lawyer's 30% comes off the top = $30,000 leaving $70,000. From the $70,000 lawyer will pay the fees of expert witnesses and stenographers for depositions.

 

For a claim based on some imagined relationship between your symptoms and environmental conditions you will need medical and environmental experts who are also experienced in testifying in court. You're looking at $2000 to $5000 just for their reports, and a lot more than that for them to testify in court.

 

After they are paid, the lawyer will pay any unpaid medical bills that you incurred for treatment because those medical providers will have a lien on your settlement.

 

When all is said and done, you might end up with 1/3 or 1/4 of the settlement. If the lawyer has to file a lawsuit, he's getting 40% off the top and you can figure out the rest.

 

Before you even think about hiring a lawyer, you'll need comprehensive medical testing to determine the nature and cause of your symptoms and get treated for them to determine if there is a cure or if you have a permanent disability. You'll need the medical provider or providers to be able to state unequivocally that what is wrong with you is directly caused by the environmental conditions and here's the incontrovertible evidence.

 

I don't know if you were intentionally vague about your claim or whether that's the sum total of the claim (conjecture, assumptions, allegations) without any evidence to back it up. Either way, if you hire any lawyer without having any evidence of a connection between your condition and the environment, you go nowhere and get to spend a lot of money going there.

 

If you want to see how that works in real life watch this movie. It's based on actual litigation involving deaths of children due to environmental conditions:

 

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Thank you very much. I will watch the movie and take to heart everything you said. I frown on frivolous lawsuits and am not looking for problems. However, ever since this gas leak started in my community, I've had headaches and upper respiratory symptoms that are out of the ordinary and so have my neighbors. Is it coincidence? I don't know, but it's probably a good time to schedule a doctor's visit. The problem is that I don't know if a blood panel will detect anything and I don't have all of the symptoms that others in the community have, at least not yet. My dog who is just over a year old has been violently ill a couple of times (which is not normal), and neighbors pets have gotten seriously ill and died because of exposure. Again, is it coincidence, is it because he picked up something in the yard that he shouldn't have or is it directly related? I don't want to lose him. He's still a puppy!

 

There's a way to test for butyl mercaptan in the body, but it needs to be done by a specialized laboratory and it doesn't tell you how much is present.

 

The other issue is that because of the leak, property values have decreased.

 

Lawyers are crawling like roaches over residents of our community and I'm starting to think that since I don't live in the immediate evacuation area, unless I end up really sick and hospitalized, it may not be worth pursuing.

 

Thanks so much!

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The additional information you just posted reveals additional issues for you to be aware of.

 

1 - Gas leak. From where? When did it start (date)? How did it start? Malfunction of gas company lines? No negligence there if it's sudden and unforeseen. What's the gas company doing to solve the problem? No negligence there if they jumped right on it. Possible negligence if they are sitting on their thumbs.

 

2 - You have headaches and respiratory issues and your dog has been ill but neither you nor your dog have sought medical intervention. Your conditions could be from anything. Could be related to the gas leak, might not be. Until you (and your neighbors) have medical evidence of the relationship you get nowhere.

 

3 - Mitigation. In our legal system an aggrieved or injured party must mitigate damages. That means that you must take action to avoid additional injury or loss. The failure to do so can substantially reduce any amounts you might be entitled to recover. In your case there are two elements.

 

a - If you fail to seek proper medical evaluation and treatment and your condition becomes worse you don't get any money if the worsening of the condition could have been prevented by prompt medical evaluation and treatment.

 

b - You suspect a hazard exists that is affecting you medically. If you don't remove yourself from that hazard and your condition becomes worse you don't get any money if the worsening of the condition could have been prevented by removing yourself from the hazardous area. I know. You can't afford to. You don't want to abandon your home. Etc. Etc. Bottom line: What's your life worth to you?

 

4 - Property values. Everybody cries property values whenever something goes wrong. Diminished property value is speculative and illusory. You don't know if you'll ever sell your home or when you will sell it. You won't know if the price you get for it will be based on the leak or market factors or your need for money or the buyer's negotiating skill.

 

5 - Lawyers crawling like roaches. Sure, they want to sign up clients, hoping to put enough pressure on defendants for a quick settlement and quick payday. They are ambulance chasers. The Whiplash Willies of the legal profession. Avoid them like the plague. If and when it becomes time to hire a lawyer, don't hire the ones that solicit you or advertise on TV. Seek a specialist in the area of litigation that applies to your situation and interview several before you choose one.

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All excellent points. This is all from the Porter Ranch Gas Leak, which many people are starting to become aware of. So Cal Gas made a huge error in judgment because they had the chance to plug the leak and avoid the well blowout altogether but made a grave error in their meager attempt to patch it, which failed.

 

Ambulance chasers are roaches crawling all over the area. It's as sickening as the smell when I drive by Aliso Canyon where the blowout occurred.

 

Many people have been relocated, schools closed, pets became ill and died. I live 2 miles away and my neighbors have been falling ill out of the blue and I myself does not feel well.

 

I will make a doctor appointment at the very least.

 

Thanks so much for your input. I truly appreciate it.

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This is all from the Porter Ranch Gas Leak,

 

Ouch. Wish you'd have revealed that at the beginning.

 

I'll take back what I said about ambulance chasers. I googled and found that this situation is already 4 months old and many lawsuits (including a couple of class actions) have already been filed by highly qualified attorneys.

 

https://duckduckgo.com/?q=porter+ranch+gas+leak+lawsuit&ia=news&iai=cb7d20cd-8f12-4a08-9dbe-ee059ca6dbc0

 

You may already be a member of a class in one or more or the class action lawsuits. That means you have the option of staying in the class and/or filing your own lawsuit.

 

At some point if you want to hire your own attorney I suggest monitoring all the lawsuits and picking a well respected attorney who has already filed one or more of the lawsuits that are already in progress.

 

My advice to you is to relocate yourself and your dog. If your symptoms disappear with no long term harm, then stay away from the area and re-start your life elsewhere.

 

It's going to be years before anybody sees any money from these lawsuits. Getting away from there and staying healthy is better than getting sick and hoping for a payoff years from now.

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Thanks again. I'm reviewing the link now.

 

It's a sticky situation. I live in Granada Hills, and the leak's up Zelzah which borders on Granada Hills and Porter Ranch.

 

I'm out of work now and while I have some savings (Thank God) it's not easy for me to relocate. I have a 2,000ft house, a dog and cat, and many places don't take pets. I also know that despite the alarm system, there have been quite a few burglaries and opportunists are watching these neighborhoods closely looking for the perfect time to break in, so I hate even being gone for too long during the day. And I've read many mixed things about how Sempra Energy is handling relocation, agreeing to pay for some and not others. Some people are getting nose bleeds, anemia, vomiting, being hospitalized due to respiratory issues, and I don't have the worst of the symptoms. And I'm also a gym rat, work out 5x/week + miles of dog walks daily. I talked to my chiropractor on Thursday and she said while the dangers of the gas is real, the people who are truly the healthiest (and she feels that overall I fall into that category despite having a crappy back), may not get sick while others who smoke and are generally less healthy might.

 

A meter was installed in the Van Gogh Elementary school to capture gasses for a week and it's right around the corner from my house, so it will be telling to see if the gas actually travelled this far.

 

The winds are another factor. Some of the gusts by me are routinely 30-40mph, so having sinus issues is not that uncommon for me. Also the direction of the wind is a huge factor. Do we get the north westerly winds driving the stench of the Sunshine Canyon Landfill or the easterly sending the methane/mercaptan this way? 

 

And people wonder why I want to move out of state.. lol! 

 

I ordered an air purifier from the gas company and am keeping the pup inside as much as possible.

 

Thanks again for taking my concern seriously. I do realize that there are a lot of people looking to make a quick buck. I'm not one of them, and you're right. My long term health is a lot more important. I'm going to start looking out of state for a place to retire. This is ridiculous.

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Consider buying your own detector for your house. There are inexpensive detectors on Amazon. There are even battery operated detectors that you can carry with you when you are outside. I don't know how good they are but for under $50 and Amazon's easy refund policy, it's worth a shot.

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I'd appreciate your thoughts on this.

 

Not sure what you're expecting, but nothing you wrote is odd or unusual, and we obviously have no ability to read the proposed agreement.  You're certainly free to check with other attorneys to see if their proposed fee agreement is more to your liking.

 

 

 

I'm still concerned that costs/expenses could exceed any settlement, and I don't even know if they take their retainer before or after these expenses are deducted

 

Any lawyer working on contingency is going to calculate the contingent fee against the gross recovery and then take that amount plus the costs.  For example, if you have a 1/3 contingent fee agreement and recover $10k and have $2k in costs, the lawyer will receive $5,333.33 for fees and costs, and you'll receive $4,666.67.

 

 

 

Now let's say you get a settlement of $100,000 without having to file a lawsuit. The lawyer's 30% comes off the top = $30,000 leaving $70,000. From the $70,000 lawyer will pay the fees of expert witnesses and stenographers for depositions.

 

I don't disagree with these calculations, but if the settlement occurs without having to file a lawsuit, there aren't going to be any expert witness fees, depositions, or stenographers (it's possible, depending on the nature of the case, that the lawyer might incur some costs consulting with an expert even though no suit is filed, but such costs would be rather minimal).

 

I agree with "adjusterjack's" comments about Porter Ranch cases possibly turning into class actions (if they aren't already).

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