Attorney Steve Sabra, of Sabra and Aspden Law Offices of Somerset,  MA answered some frequently asked questions from a caller in the local Fall River area about negotiating legal fees and if insurance companies advance wages.

Can Legal Fees Be Negotiated?

A caller in the local Fall River area asked, in reference to personal injury, when you see an attorney, whether it is an automobile accident or slip and fall can you negotiate the attorney fee or is it a set rate? Steven Sabra answered that it is dependent upon the individual attorney. Sabra and Aspden do not negotiate the fee at the beginning. The legal fee is typically one-third but workers’ compensation is totally different. On a personal injury case, generally it is the legal fee of one-third plus payment of expenses. Expenses deal with things like filing fees, sheriff’s fees, deposition costs, which in most cases the lawyer would have to pay and then be reimbursed at the time of settlement.

However, sometimes there are situations where after the fact, for many different reasons, there are liens or other issues where the legal fee can be negotiated. But that is not something done at Sabra and Aspden. Negotiating at the beginning of a case can be tricky because you don’t know where the case is going, how difficult it is going to be, and it is in bad form to negotiate a legal fee on a personal injury case. Although, some lawyers might do that, there is nothing legally in the rules or regulations that say lawyers cannot negotiate a fee that way. There are also some attorneys that may charge more than one-third due to certain cases, like medical malpractice cases and product liability cases, or if the legal fee doesn’t include appeal. There are all kinds of variations.

money and gavel image

Do Insurance Companies Advance Wages?

In general, insurance companies do not advance wages. In an automobile or motorcycle accident case, if it is a Massachusetts insurance policy, there is a provision called PIP benefits. PIP benefits cover your medical and lost wages with a cap of $8,000. With these benefits, you can get 75% of your average weekly wages paid under that part of the policy and it comes from your own insurance company. Then, your own insurance provider will subrogate, or go after, the at fault person’s insurance company to get their money back. That is the only circumstance in which you can get wages paid up front. Otherwise, you have to wait until the end. This can sometimes put pressure on the person to go back to work, perhaps sooner than they really should and even possibly against their doctor’s advice, against how they feel, and what their job entails. This can make it very difficult for a person to live.

8 Things to Consider About Before Taking Your Case to Court

Do you have a good case? This may seem obvious, but you need to have a legitimate legal claim, also known as a “cause of action” to have the court support you. For example, in a slip-and-fall claim, just because you fell in a grocery store does not mean it was due to anyone’s failure in making the store safe for patrons. However, if an employee was mopping the floors without a sign, then you have a legitimate case.

What is your final demand for your dispute? People who want to rush to court often overlook this, but it is important to figure out what can be done to make the situation right if they can provided the defendant knows they are at fault. In most cases, businesses and individuals will do what they can to resolve these situations outside of court.

Try to settle by compromise. Take the situation and look at it from the other person’s point of view. Perhaps they too have a valid explanation for why an incident had taken place. They could even have a valid claim against you as well. Once you have considered this, you should adjust your position to be more understanding of the situation and not get carried away by emotions. Maybe you can reduce the amount you see owed to you. A compromise would certainly be ideal because otherwise you will have to pay attorney’s fees and other costs that play a part in lawsuits.

Do you have the money to pay a lawyer? Lawsuits can get pricey. Although you can negotiate legal fees and they are not talked about until after the case because each case is different, you should ask for an estimate and see if it is within your price range at this time. It could be better just to settle.

What is the other party’s financial situation? Although you do not know for sure what the other party’s financial situation is, you should be able to make a guess. Is it enough that you will be able to collect judgment before you spend the money on the lawsuit? You want to be reasonably sure before moving forward.

Do you have the time for court? Going to court takes a lot of time and money. You may not have the time to take away from work, school, family, friends, or any other events and things you devote your time to in order to withstand the duration of the lawsuit.

Is your claim small enough for small claims court or conciliation? If your issue cannot be settled but can be handled in small claims court or conciliation, that may be a good course of action in order to save time and money for you.

If you are able to handle this lawsuit through small claims court, you will usually be able to represent yourself if you wish. However, for good legal advice and experience on your side, it may be best to hire an attorney to prepare the case for you.

Are you within the applicable statute of limitations? Each incident that you wish to take out in court has a statute of limitations, or a timetable for which you can decide to file a lawsuit. If the incident occurred too long ago, you may no longer be able to sue for it in court. For instance, the statute of limitations on a wrongful death is oftentimes two years. If it is past that time period, you can no longer sue for the incident.

With more than 35 years in the Fall River, Swansea, Somerset, Assonet, and New Bedford Areas, Southern New England’s best personal injury and automobile accident attorneys are Sabra and Aspden.