Attorney Fees on Jones Act Cases


Hello and welcome to our webinar, our learning video here on attorney fees in maritime and Jones Act cases I want to welcome you

My name is Tim Young; I'm gonna be your host I'm a maritime attorney in New Orleans I have practiced maritime law for more than 23 years now Our office handles only maritime cases and Jones Act cases across the Gulf South for injured workers We're actually a national law firm

I have personally handled cases in many many other states Typically our focus is along the Gulf South: Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida Panhandle Any of those areas is where our real focus is for cases We have successfully helped clients with major injuries These include brain injuries, major burns, multiple surgeries

We're very proud to have helped these individuals It's really meaningful for us to have played a significant part in getting them back on the road to recovery after their injuries Today we're going to cover a couple of topics here First is things to think about when considering the fee that you may pay on a maritime case You may be watching this because you potentially may need a maritime attorney

Obviously one of the questions we want to talk about today, one of the topics we want to cover, is things to think about when you're considering the fee that you may have to pay to the attorney Another thing we're going to cover is how much do maritime attorneys normally charge This is an area that we really disagree with a lot of law firms on Some firms try to hide their fees They try to avoid that conversation

We are digging right in here We're putting it all on the table We're going to be full transparency here, full disclosure We want you to really understand everything that goes on behind the scenes so that you can make the best decision for you Another thing we're going to cover is, is it worth paying an attorney in your case

What does the attorney really do for those fees? Are they really going to earn their fees in your case? This is important stuff that you have to consider This is your money at the end You want to make sure you're getting what you pay for A couple of things to think about on fees before we really dig in A little question I like to ask is, which would you rather have 67% of something or maybe 60%? Well, a lot of people right away would have a gut reaction and say well I want the 67%

That's obviously more for me But what if it's 67% of $100,000 versus 60% of say $500,000 and the point here is very simple but hopefully it's it's illustrated with this this slide is some people may be willing some attorneys may be willing to give you a larger share of something but in the end they may bring home a lot less for you and your percentage to a large degree is is sort of relevant Typically, I am very happy to be involved in business deals where I have a very small share a minority share if it is a large or larger deal That typically is a lot better than getting a larger piece of some small small business deal I want you to also think about something here and this is any time you're considering fees or payment payment of anything for experts or for consultants or people that you hire typically the best professionals are usually highly paid sometimes and I feel this myself sometimes it's an emotional feeling of well that just seems like a lot to pay them but in the end if you think about what they're delivering and if they have a skill set that's necessary for the business transaction if they're really going to bring more value to the table then they take from the table that usually is a test that I that I sort of run through in my head you see this a lot here and think of the highest-paid CEOs of large corporations in America and we see these publications every year on the amounts that they got paid and sometimes it's startling and it's usually high amounts but think about this if they can increase the company's revenue by 15 and for a large company that may mean another hundred million in revenue and you're dealing with very large numbers there that's a significant value that that CEO has brought to that company he's really put a lot on the table he's created a lot of value there by his efforts and his skill set and typically that's why the best companies don't hesitate to pay these CEOs millions or even tens of millions of dollars a year if they are generating amounts as large as a hundred million in revenue for say a large fortune 500 company or even smaller ones than that then it just makes sense to pay them large amounts because of what they've brought to the table I would encourage you to think of your own case in the same way you potentially have a very valuable claim it needs the best professional on board to maximize your recovery so that's just the first kind of idea to think about here before we get into the fees and the nitty-gritty of what is charged and and what an attorney really brings to the table for you what are the typical attorney fees on an ordinary injury case I want to talk a moment about the most common type of case this is what you see on TV every day these are the billboards this is what everybody's brother-in-law and neighbor tends to do as attorneys they typically will do a car wreck case on a car wreck case what a lot of people don't know and if you if you've been through one hopefully it was not very serious for you but if you've been through one you may know a little bit of this inside baseball as to how it really works but what happens in a regular car wreck case is the paralegal is going to do a lot of the work probably most of the work on your case typically you'll have someone without a law license doing a lot of the communicating with you getting your records in really guiding you typically in a car wreck case there's very often nothing filed in court a lot of these cases tremendous amount of these cases are settled without even filing lawsuits they're almost they are basically claims and not really suits another thing that happens with these type of car wreck cases there's a lot of the claims majority of the claims are for typically less than 50,000 dollars and there's lots less than even twenty five thousand dollars a lot of these injuries tend to be sore soft tissue type injuries and they just the value is not there the individuals are not hurt seriously fortunately and they typically don't miss a lot of work which is is the case with most maritime injuries are serious maritime injuries in a car wreck case the attorney usually charges a third of the recovery for such a case and I want you to keep that in mind when you're looking at what is actually going on behind the scenes with that type of a car wreck case usually very few experts if any are hired cases are not usually filed in court the attorney is doing limited work on that case and the case typically has a lower value you're going to see about a third that's where you get that term everybody says well don't attorneys charge a third well it comes from the car wreck cases that you see on TV and the billboards let's look at the maritime attorney fees now I want to dig right in here give you a lot of value if we can the two main types of attorney fees that I've seen the most often on these cases and this is over 23 years I've looked at a lot of contracts for maritime cases the two that I see the most often are what I'm going to call the 33 40 50 fee and the flat 40 fee and those sound really complicated and fancy that's just what I refer to them as because you'll see why in a minute but typically you see a 33 40 50 or you see a flat 40 let's go into the 33 40 50 briefly here this is a contract that the fee varies on and the fee increases what normally happens is the fee will be a third it will be 33% if the case is not filed in court and sometimes you have to dig into the contract and real pay attention and read that read the small print like they say but a lot of times these initial contracts will say if your case is not filed in court we will charge 33% of the case for the fee then the fee escalates or increases if the case is actually filed in court so if some paperwork has to be done and a claim is filed over in court even if nothing else has done on that case other than just filing the paperwork in court your fee is going to go up to 40% then and that could be a difference between one day you're being charged 33 percent then the lawyer goes across the street files a suit the next day he's going to be charging you 40% of your case a lot of times in these contracts the fee will actually increase a second time if an appeal is needed and I guess the attorneys in these cases think that now that they've gone to trial presumably they got good results hopefully they did they then feel that they should have more money if they have to go defend that result on appeal for whatever reason you do see a combination out there and a lot of contracts that say 33 40 and then 50 and it escalates the alternative to this and this is what I typically see the breakdown as the alternative is a flat 40% fee this is typically what we provide to our clients this is our standard contract with our clients again full disclosure we're not trying to hide anything from our clients the reason we do this is a couple of reasons here first is all maritime cases generally are filed in court it's our belief there are very very rare exceptions I can count on one hand over 23 years how many we've been able to resolve without going to court and those are typically very small cases real real exceptions to the rule if you have a normal case 99 percent out of 100 you are always going to have to file your case in court and the reason you do this is for a couple of points which we'll touch on in a minute but almost all maritime cases and in my view end up getting filed in court and when you do that again if you look back at the 33 40 50 contracts you're all the way up to a 40% fee right there the minute the lawyer files something in court his fee is going to increase to that 40% rate so we feel it's easiest just to start at that rate and be transparent about it we don't increase our fee at all for an appeal frankly we have gone to court we've had very successful trial results we have appealed those results and we've done a tremendous amount of work defending those results on appeal we've been successful very often sometimes the appeal court to modify the result it still will end up being a good result for our client they have been we don't charge anything extra for that and I feel like we're basically and this is the last point here we're in it from the start to the finish for a single fee we feel that that's the most fair thing to do for the client it's the simplest and it's the most straightforward we feel there's a longer conversation sometimes we feel it puts the attorney add up at an adverse position with the client a quick example if we go to court and we get a very good result from a trial we feel that sort of personally I would be a little bit conflicted if I encouraged an appeal I earn a little bit more fee money so maybe I want to do that for my client just to get more fee money but it's not really fair to the client on the other hand because they have to wait for their money so to me it's easiest just to have us all on the same page from the beginning of the case some things to keep in mind when you're considering what type of attorney fee you're gonna end up agreeing to let me go here to the one of our last few points here and are the fees really worth it we hear this a lot in it paying attorney attorneys paying attorney fees is an emotional thing sometimes people a lot of times will react more emotionally than they will logically or reasonably we understand that it's just the nature of how things are these days let me give you some points to think about as to whether the fees are really worth it or not well a good attorney make up for his fees on your your merit ami or Jones Act case well there are four key ways in my view is at least four key ways that the attorney earns his fees on your case or you should earn them I'm assuming here that a lot of these things are being done this is our practice in our office but typically this is what what you want to look out for to make sure that your attorneys earning his fees the first one is he has the ability to get your claim filed in court again just the ability to go over to court having a law license filing the proper paperwork it does two things here it gives you gives your attorney the ability to get key documents for you which is very important in your case and it gets the ability to get a trial date set and I put an exclamation point at that last one it is a entirely separate conversation and very important conversation about why a trial date is so important in your case essentially it puts a due date I like to call it a due date by which the company either has to resolve your case the insurance company or you have the ability to bring them to court and resolve it in court so those are two things to keep in mind with the ability to get your claim filed in court another way that a good attorney is going to make his fees in your case he's going to earn his fees is hiring the best experts around to prove your claim now this is sort of the liability part of the claim the fault he will dig into the case he will find out the facts he will figure out what happened to you why it happened and typically experts will be involved at that point to talk about whether it could have been prevented or are done differently another thing third thing here that the attorney is going to do is he's going to really show the value of your real damages showing the real value of your damages he's going to do this this is how we typically do in our office he's going to fully investigate your medical condition he's gonna hire economists or wage experts to figure out the kind of money that you might lose so he's going to increase the value of your damages or I shouldn't say increase them he's going to better prove them in court he's going to fully explore them with you he's going to figure out the real value of them the fourth thing that a good attorney will do and this is sort of a side one here there's a lot of intangible things that we do certainly for our clients one of which this just came to mind to me as I was putting this presentation together something as simple as structuring your settlement to protect your long term disability a lot of our clients are fortunately high-wage earners they have a lot of benefits available to them a lot of our clients come to us when they're already on long term disability through their company these are private insurance companies not social security and they'll be getting very large checks each month as long-term disability we very often will try to structure the settlement so that it protects those benefits so they don't have to get a settlement the case and then all of a sudden stop getting their long term disability there's ways that you can typically do it that will protect both of them for you that's very important that's a that is a huge added value that an attorney will will bring to the table for you they'll certainly earn his fee form let me ask you a question at the end here what if you could get your claim handle for no real fees to you and this is a question everybody would think well oh my goodness that is very interesting I really want to hear about this how could I possibly have a case handled a significant maritime case for no real fees charged to me well let me tell you about a little hidden secret here and this is IRS Internal Revenue Service Code section 104 see what this says and this applies to all maritime injury cases this is not something special that our office does it's it's something that we tell our clients about we want them to know going in the value of this maritime settlements that are on account of personal injury are tax-free and that's the section right there that I'm quoting what that means is as long as it's an injury type case there is a different law for a a purely wage base case but even if you have it if you have a physical injury and it causes pain causes medical expenses and even if it causes a wage loss as long as the underlying basis is a physical personal injury then that amount that you get is not included in your adjusted gross income that's what the IRS language says so it's the same effect I like to tell clients to think of it this way it's something they should consider it's the same effect as if you had to simply pay taxes on the money that you might have earned working and to give you a quick example if a individual comes in and they lost $50,000 working for a year or two and their settlement ends up being just to use an example say $30,000 or 40,000 but by the time you take the taxes out of their earnings you're going to be down somewhere around 30 or 35,000 anyway so the point is your settlement is going to be tax-free as long as it's because of a physical injury you suffered and that goes a long way to offsetting any type of attorney fees it that you may have to pay in the case some final thoughts here hopefully this information is very helpful to you please feel free to call us if you have any questions at all a couple of final thoughts there's a quote that I really like I think it speaks to a whole lot of things and I think it speaks to this situation it's an old Indian saying it says if you want to go quicker go alone but if you want to go further go with others and that's a saying I think that's applicable here in this case in the end you're going to decide if the settlement is fair to you what that means is regardless of whether you're paying 5% or 50% fees or 25% or 40% in the end you will be presented with an amount that will be translated as far as what goes into your pocket and that's usually all that the client really cares about is the client going to walk away with enough and pocket where they feel like it's reasonable I think the ones who do the best and come out the best in the the case and have the best experience generally focus on that they're not too worried about going what's going on everywhere else and is the fee going to be 35 percent or 40 percent or 42 percent or 50 percent typically they will just consider and they say it real simple what's the bottom line to me the other thing I would encourage your final thought I'd leave you with here is to hire the best attorney possible regardless of fees you really don't want to get hung up as I was mentioning a minute ago about percentage points you probably are in a real serious situation I think you you really want the best guidance the best counsel you can get you want somebody who's going to bring you along through through the next couple of months that are going to be potentially very hard for you I would focus a lot more on the talent and the experience and the expertise of your attorney then I would get hung up on this fee issue we did want to present this today I think a lot of clients and potential clients really one of their first questions tends to be what are the attorney fees at some point in the conversation they ask that it's a valid question hopefully this is addressed a lot of those concerns for you and hopefully this is helpful call us if you have any questions at all we're happy to talk about your situation and hopefully this this video is helpful to you

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