Frequently Asked Questions
To learn more about legal issues related to your specific situation, contact Saunders Law Group today. With offices conveniently located in Bartow, we advise and represent clients throughout Central Florida.
How Much Is My Case Worth?
No one can competently advise you about the specific value of your claim, and anyone who tells you that they can is likely not being totally truthful with you. Be careful of anyone who tells you, on the front end, that your claim is “certainly worth” any specific amount of money. The plain fact of the matter is that many variables that go into determining the settlement value of a claim, and many of these variables are not fully known at the time of the initial interview. Sometimes a “range” can be offered that applies to the general population of similar claims, but this “range” is itself misleading as to the specific value of your case. Your case may be worth more or less depending on many unknowns at the time of the initial interview.
As the case gets under way, the ability of the attorney to more accurately estimate the settlement value of the claim should improve, and the estimated “range” of the value of your specific case can become more focused. If trial is likely, the value of your case cannot be known until the jury in your case is selected, and even then, because of human beings’ individual biases and prejudices (either in favor of your claim or against your claim), this jury value will only be an educated guess based upon the lawyer’s experience with jury trials.
A lawyer’s job is to discover the facts of your particular case and advise you, as the case progresses, of the likely and apparent settlement range of your case, and any changes to that estimate, as the case progresses and more information becomes known.
Ultimately, the decision to settle a particular case or to try the case is the decision of the client based upon the reasonable recommendations of the lawyer who is likely to try your particular case. A lawyer can and should make estimates of the likely value of the claim based upon experience with other and similar cases, but the ultimate decision to settle or try the case remains the client’s — not the attorney’s.
What Type Of Law Does Saunders Law Group Practice?
Saunders Law Group practices exclusively in matters involving civil trials or claims that may result in civil trials. The practice areas include representation of clients with claims for business and commercial disputes, personal injury, wrongful death, medical negligence, product liability claims, collection matters and family law matters, including divorce, child custody, child support, alimony, distribution of assets and liabilities, and adoption.
What Is The Fee Usually Charged For Various Types Of Litigation Matters?
The type of fee structure includes a straight hourly rate where the attorney is paid an agreed-upon hourly rate multiplied by the reasonable number of hours expended on the particular matter; contingency fee arrangements in which the attorney is paid only if a recovery is obtained, with the payment based on an agreed-upon percentage of the recovery; a flat-rate fee where an agreed upon fee is negotiated upfront to perform a designated list of tasks; or a combination of such fee structures.
Generally, personal injury matters are offered on a contingency fee basis where the firm pays all the costs and recovers those costs only if the client is successful in recovering money for the claim. The same applies to the attorneys’ fees in a contingency fee arrangement: the client pays the attorney only if a recovery is obtained and that payment is based upon a percentage of the recovery. Usually, the percentage is between 33 and 40 percent but is subject to negotiation. Claims that result in a recovery over a million dollars and those involving claims resulting in a recovery in excess of two million dollars involve smaller percentages. Attorney’s fees involving claims against government agencies are limited by law to 25 percent of the recovery.
Hourly rates are usually used in commercial matters and, by law, a contingency fee arrangement cannot be used in a family law matter. Hourly rates vary from $195 to $400 per hour for the attorneys. Paralegals are used whenever possible to keep client fees down, and the paralegals in this firm charge between $75 and $125 per hour, depending on the level of experience of the paralegal and the type of matter being handled by that paralegal.
Flat-rate fees sometimes work to the benefit of both the lawyer and the client and are negotiated on a case-by-case basis. Essentially, a flat-rate fee arrangement is the situation in which the client describes the specific type of service desired, or where the client describes the litigation goal desired, and the lawyer agrees to perform the agreed-upon services for a one-time fee regardless of whether the lawyer accomplishes the designated tasks in one hour or one year. Thus, the lawyer bears part of the risk of lengthy litigation and is encouraged to complete the assigned tasks as expeditiously as possible to maximize the lawyer’s profit. The client is aware from the beginning of the case about the maximum amount of money that can be charged for the desired services.
What Is Board Certification?
In 1982, The Florida Bar began the Certification Program that was designed to assist members of the public in finding a lawyer who is qualified and recognized as competent in a particular area of the law. Not every lawyer is Board Certified in the area in which he or she practices, and in fact, recent statistics indicate that less than 2 percent of Florida’s nearly 100,000 lawyers are certified in civil trial law. Even fewer are certified as business litigation lawyers. Even smaller is the percentage of attorneys who have been certified in both business litigation and civil trial. To be certain, there are lawyers who are excellent in their field of practice who have not become certified. However, more often, lawyers may hold themselves out as “trial attorneys” or advertise as “personal injury” attorneys but not have real and extensive trial experience necessary to try a complex business litigation or personal injury case. In those situations in which the client wants to know if an attorney who advertises his or her services in a field of law, such as personal injury, medical negligence or commercial litigation, has the real experience necessary to handle a matter, Board Certification tells the client on the front end that this particular lawyer has met the rigorous criteria necessary to be authorized by The Florida Bar to hold himself or herself out as a “specialist” in the area of certification.
Board-certified members of The Florida Bar are the only Florida attorneys allowed to identify themselves as “Board-Certified,” “Specialist,” “Expert” or to use the letters “B.C.S.” for Board Certified Specialist on business cards or letterhead, in legal directories or in advertising.
To become certified in either business litigation or civil trial law, the lawyer must have practiced a minimum of five years; must have tried, as lead counsel, a designated number of trials in front of a jury; must have received favorable recommendations for approval by the judges in front of whom that lawyer has tried cases; must have received the favorable recommendation of other Board-Certified attorneys; and must have passed a day-long and extensive written examination in each area for which certification is sought.
Ask your lawyer if he or she is Board-Certified and, if not, why not? Ask that noncertified attorney to describe his or her experience in a courtroom since, while all cases are better served by reasonable settlement, an insurance company knows which lawyers will actually and competently try the claim if the settlement offer is not reasonable. An insurance company will be more likely to offer the full settlement value of a claim if the lawyer representing the claimant has the demonstrated ability to competently try the matter to a jury if the settlement offer made is less than the fair value of the claim. Board Certification demonstrates that the lawyer is a specialist in that area of the law — a specialist recognized by The Florida Bar.