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Frivolous Lawsuits?

Many people are under the misperception that if a person has any kind of injury they can just contact an attorney and the individual can magically get money.  Unfortunately, some of the advertising done by attorneys encourages this misperception.  The reality is that each claim has to be evaluated based upon its own merits.  When attorneys agree to represent an individual for a personal injury or worker’s compensation claim, we are generally working on a contingency fee basis.  This means that the attorney is agreeing to represent the individual and we do not get compensated for our work unless we are able to make a recovery of compensation on behalf of the client.  There are significant risks involved with this type of contractual relationship.  If we evaluate a case incorrectly, we may do a large amount of work and earn nothing.  Furthermore, while we can take this risk concerning our fees, we cannot pay costs on a client’s behalf.  In order to take a case all the way from the beginning through to the completion of trial, it can easily cost $15,000 or more to do so.  So what are examples of costs?  There are fees associated with filing a lawsuit, experts such as medical doctors charge for their time which can be thousands of dollars when you consider that they earn anywhere from $250 to $500 per hour for their time.  Other experts such as accident reconstructionists (who are sometimes necessary to prove responsibility on the part of the other party) can cost several thousand dollars.  Most of the costs are associated with the hiring of professionals. These costs are ultimately the responsibility of the client.  As attorneys, we can risk our fees, but ethically, we cannot agree to bear responsibility for the costs as well.  Now obviously most clients do not have thousands of dollars in their bank accounts to handle these costs.  In that regard, we can pay costs and put them on the client’s final bill, but that doesn’t relieve the client of the ultimate responsibility for their payment.  Most of the time, costs end up getting paid out of any settlement or jury verdict providing compensation, but the crux here is that going forward with a lawsuit is expensive and risky both for the client and the attorney which makes it crucial on the part of both parties to make sure any lawsuit pursued is not frivolous.  Many people believe that frivolous lawsuits are common.  The reality is that while they happen, frivolous lawsuits are the exception in the legal system, not the rule.

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