May 2012 Archives

May 29, 2012

Lawsuits for Lead Poisoning in Rhode Island and Massachusetts

Even though lead paint has been banned in the United States since 1978, many houses still contain the poisonous material on its walls and window beams. Many of the houses in Rhode Island and Massachusetts that still possess lead paint are older multi-unit buildings such as 3 family houses and generally tend to be in poorer sections of the community. The problem is so wide spread that Rhode Island offers tax credits to encourage home owners to remove any and all trace of lead paint from their building.

Lead paint if ingested is highly poisonous and toxic, particularly to children under 6 who are still developing. Unfortunately, children under 6 are the most likely to ingest lead paint by licking the walls or eating paint chips. To make matters worse, lead paint actually has a sweet taste which can further encourage children to ingest lead paint chips. It is also misleading to believe that children must ingest paint chips in order to be poisoned because ample testing has shown that ingesting lead paint dust can have a similar detrimental effect on young children. Ingestion of lead paint can lead to developmental delays, nervous system damage, stunted growth, kidney disease and a host of other injuries and disabilities.

Massachusetts has a history of favorable decisions on behalf of lead poisoning injury victims and while Rhode Island has much less case law on the subject, lead paint actions can be brought against landlords or homeowners who negligently allow children to be exposed to lead paint. Insurance companies often fight these cases aggressively looking for ways to deny insurance coverage to the injured victims. Lead poisoning cases are extremely complex and require an experienced personal injury attorney to secure a favorable result.

The injuries to your child may be life changing and permanent if exposed to high levels of lead. This can lead to future medical expenses, a loss of earning capacity and/or potential and a tremendous amount of pain and suffering. It is imperative that you speak to a personal injury attorney right away if your child has been diagnosed with lead poisoning. Following such a diagnosis, the State Department of Health will usually order an investigation into the residence to identify the presence of lead paint. If the Department has identified lead in your rental property, you may have a case for damages.

Continue reading "Lawsuits for Lead Poisoning in Rhode Island and Massachusetts" »

May 7, 2012

What is a Contingent Fee Agreement and Is it Always 1/3?

Asking what a contingent fee agreement is may be the most obvious question in the world of personal injury law even though I have never really discussed it before in detail. Every personal injury attorney in Rhode Island or Massachusetts will tell you that there is no fee until you receive money either by settlement or by jury verdict. My office also adheres to the same policy of no fee unless successful. This arrangement is the so called contingency fee agreement. But what does that really mean and how does it work?

It can cost several thousand dollars in legal time and expenses to handle even a minor car accident. Cases with major injuries such as broken bones, scarring, hospital stays or even death, may cost tens of thousands of dollars to properly and aggressively handle, especially if the case goes all the way to trial. This is especially true in cases of medical malpractice and product liability.

Personal injury attorneys understand, however, that accident victims may not be able to afford such high legal fees just to receive the compensation that they deserve. In fact, many people are most vulnerable after a car accident or slip and fall because they are forced to miss work and lose wages. For this reason, many attorneys agree to take the case for free unless and until there is a settlement or jury verdict. At that time, the personal injury lawyer will take his share of the settlement according to your contingent fee agreement. The overwhelming majority of attorneys, including my office, charge 1/3 of the total settlement fee. Some attorneys now charge 40% of the total settlement. This 1/3 fee is not written in stone and it is not a law.

A 1/3 contingent fee became the standard and it is what most attorneys adhere to for personal injury cases. 1/3 may be a very small amount of money or it may be a very large amount of money. Generally, the 1/3 is a fair and accurate representation of the time and effort that went into preparing and winning your case. Also, the 1/3 reflects the fact that your personal injury attorney takes the risk that he or she may never receive any money. If the case is lost or some other circumstance prohibits recovery for your case, then your lawyer worked for nothing. To avoid making costly errors, bodily injury attorneys are very particular about the types of cases that they take and will only take your case if it seems fairly certain that another party is liable to you and that that party has insurance. For example, a personal injury attorney is unlikely to take an auto accident case in which you appear at fault.

The contingent fee is not a law written in stone and you should talk to your personal injury attorney about the fee. Under certain circumstances, I have reduced my contingent fee for my clients, particularly in large cases where the potential settlement was high. Also, if you are fortunate enough to be in a position to pay your attorney his or her legal fees without the need for a contingent fee agreement, then you may be able to pay your attorney in that manner. An attorney will be much more likely to take a tricky or difficult case if you can pay the hourly wages and costs because the attorney does not risk a financial loss if the case is unsuccessful.