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The Legal Literacy Project


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Contingency Fee: When a client hires a lawyer, the client agrees to pay the lawyer a fee and expenses. A fee and expenses are two different things. A fee is payment for a lawyer's time and expertise. Expenses are reimbursement for what a lawyer lays out to pursue a case. When a client hires a lawyer under a contingency fee arrangement, the fee is contingent upon winning the case. The client doesn't pay a dime up front in either fee or expenses. Only at the conclusion of a successful contingency fee case is a fee due. At the conclusion of a successful contingency fee case, the expenses are deducted from the amount of the recovery and two-thirds of the balance belongs to the client and one third to the lawyer. It has been said that litigation is the sport of kings because it is expensive. The advantage of a contingency fee arrangement is that such an arrangement opens the courthouse door to those who are seeking justice but cannot afford the expense of litigation. At BBM, we handle all our personal injury cases on a contingency fee bases. Under a contingency fee arrangement there is equal access to justice because anyone can afford a lawyer.

Plaintiff: A person who has suffered injury. Suffering an injury is the reason a plaintiff brings a lawsuit. It is the person against whom the scales of justice have been tilted.

Defendant:: A person who has inflicted injury. Having inflicted an injury is the reason a defendant is made a party to a lawsuit. It is the person who has unbalanced the scales the justice.

Examination Before Trial:: An Examination before Trial is also known as an EBT or a Deposition. It is a question and answer session at which an attorney puts questions to a witness who answers them.

Prima Facie Case:: A prima facie case consists of all the elements that constitute a case. For instance, a motor vehicle negligence case does not just consist of the negligence of the defendant. There are four elements to a prima facie motor vehicle negligence case: 1) negligence 2) injuries 3) causation between the negligence and the injuries and 4) injuries that rise to or over the level of seriousness. You do not have a valid case against the drunk driver who speeds down the road with his feet steering the vehicle who does not hit you. In a premise case, it is not enough that a plaintiff falls down on someone else's property. The elements of a fall down case are 1) a defect, 2) a defendant knew about the defect, 3) an opportunity to correct the defect 4) failure to correct the defect 5) injuries arising from the defect. You do not have a valid fall down case even though you tripped and fell over a defect if the defendant had no knowledge of the defect. A plaintiff must present evidence to prove all of the elements -- not just some -- of a prima facie case. A plaintiff must bat 1000. If a plaintiff bats 750, a plaintiff loses.

Tort Reform:: A vile canard being foisted upon innocent Americans as something good but which is, in reality, something bad. It is a wolf in sheep's clothing. It is backed by an undemocratic conspiracy of Republican politicians in cahoots with insurance companies, big business, anti-consumer groups and others. The bottom line of Tort "reform" is that it gives the conspirators the freedom to inflict injury with impunity. It gives the ordinary American citizen nothing in return except the "right" to be injured without a remedy. The tort "reformers' fear juries of American citizens. They don't like American justice. They want, at all costs, to avoid being hauled into court to account for the consequences of their conduct. They view themselves as above the law. Tort “reformers” don’t want to be held accountable. In evaluating the merits and demerits of a proposal of so-called tort "reform" always ask, ‘who would it benefit: those that inflict injury or those that suffer it?’ If it benefits those that inflict injury, beware.