Hiring an attorney for your maritime injury case is, understandably, an important decision. Many of our potential clients will ask us about our attorney fees and what they should expect out of our services. Unlike many other law firms we’ve seen, we try to be open and upfront about what our fee is. This webinar discusses in detail the different types of attorney fees you’re likely to see as well as why we have decided to go with a flat fee for our cases.
This webinar answers the following questions:
Key Points in this Webinar
0:01 Hello and welcome to our webinar, our learning a video here on attorney fees in Maritime and Jones Act cases. I want to welcome you.
0:11 My name is Tim Young; I’m going to 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.
0:28 We’re actually a national law firm. I personally handle 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.
0:46 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.
1:06 Today we’re going to cover a couple 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.
1:30 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.
1:57 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 earning 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.
2:13 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?
2:46 And the point here is very simple but hopefully, it’s it’s illustrated with this the 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 sorta relevant. Typically, I’m 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.
3:25 I want you also think about something here and this is anytime you’re considering fees or payment of anything for experts or for our 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 gonna bring more value to the table than they take from the table, that usually is a test that I sorta run through my head.
4:04 You see this a lot here and think of the highest paid CEOs of of large corporations in America, and we see these publications every year on the amounts that they got paid. Sometimes it’s startling and it’s usually high amounts, but think about this: if they can increase the company’s revenue by 15%, 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 the 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 100 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 brought to the table.
5:09 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 or two to think about here before we get into the fees and the nitty-gritty of what is charged and in what an attorney really brings to the table for you.
5:31 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’ve been through one hopefully was not very serious for you, but if you’ve been through one you may know little bit of this “inside baseball” as to how it really works.
6:06 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 is 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.
6:40 Another thing that happens with these type of car wreck cases is a lot of the claims, majority the claims, are for typically less than $50,000 and there’s lots less than even $25,000. A lot of these injuries tend to be sore, soft tissue type injuries and 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, [which] are serious maritime injuries.
7:12 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.
You’re gonna 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.
7:48 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. You’ll see why in a minute, but typically you see a 33/40/50 or you see a flat 40.
8:25 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 really pay attention and read that read the small print like they say. But a lot of times these initial contracts will say your case is not filed in court we will charge 33% of the case for the fee.
9:02 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 is 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% and then lawyer goes across the street files a suit, the next day he’s gonna be charging 40% of your case.
9:32 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 in a lot of contracts that say 33/40/50 and it escalates.
10:02 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 reasons here.
10:22 First is all maritime cases generally are filed in court. That’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.
10:45 If you have a normal case 99% out of 100, you are always gonna have to file your case in court, and the reason you do this is for a couple of points which we’ll touch on a minute. But almost all maritime cases, 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 40% fee right there. The minute the lawyer file 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 be transparent about it.
11:21 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 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.
11:46 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.
12:00 There’s a longer conversation. Sometimes we feel it puts the attorney 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 it sort of, personally I would be a little bit conflicted if I encourage an appeal, I’ll 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 going to end up agreeing to.
12:44 Let me go here to the one of our last few points here in “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 or not. Will a good attorney make up for his fees on your your maritime or your Jones Act case?
13:16 Well, there are four key ways in my view. There’s at least four key ways that the attorney earns his fees on your case or he 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 attorney is earning his fees.
13:36 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, it 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.
14:03 It is an entirely separate conversation, 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.
14:29 Another way that a good attorney is going to make his fees in your case, is gonna earn his fees is [by] 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’ll 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’ve been prevented or done differently.
14:56 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 gonna do this, this is how we typically do in our offices,
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 gonna figure out the real value of them.
15:33 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 him. 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 in the case and then all of the 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 is a huge added value that an attorney will will bring to the table for you that will certainly earn his fee for ‘em.
16:35 Let me ask you a question at the end here. What if you could get your claim handled for no real fees to you, and this is a question everybody would think, “Oh my goodness. That 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?”
16:57 Well, let me tell you about a little-hidden secret here, and this is IRS Internal Revenue Service code section 104C. 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 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 purely wage-based case, but even if you have 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.
18:00 So, it’s the same effect. I like to tell clients to think of it this way and 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.
18:12 To give you a quick example, if an 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, well it’s a little bit less to begin with of what they would’ve earned gross, 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’s gonna 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 that you may have to pay in the case.
18:51 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. Couple of final thoughts. There’s a quote that I really like, that I think it speaks to a whole lot of things and I think it speaks to the 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.
19:21 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.
19:41 And that’s usually all that the client really cares about is the client gonna walk away with enough in their 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 gonna be 35% or 40% or 42% or 50%. Typically they will just consider, and they say it real simple, “what’s the bottom line to me?”
20:15 The other thing I would encourage, a 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 really want the best guidance, the best counsel you can get. You want somebody who’s gonna bring you along through through the next couple of months that are gonna be potentially very hard for you. I would focus a lot more on the talent and the experience and the expertise of your attorney than I would get hung up on this fee issue.
20:52 We did want to present this today. I think a lot of clients and potential clients really one of the 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 has 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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