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Hiring a Portland Lawyer: Money Questions

The Economics of Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney in Portland

If you have suffered a loss or personal injury due to somebody else’s negligence, you have the right to recover money from that other person. Everybody knows this, but the issue of how and why and how much quickly gets very complicated. We provide this page to help you think through your situation in relation to making or defending a claim for recovery. Read on to learn the basic facts about money considerations in civil claims and lawsuits. For more information on the process of filing a claim, visit our What to Expect When Filing a Personal Injury Claim page. In Oregon personal injury claims and lawsuits, money recovery is called “damages,” and damages fall into two main categories: economic damages and non-economic damages.

Economic Damages Defined

personal-injury-lawyer-portland-97212-n-vancouverIn personal injury cases, the injured party (or the party’s estate in the case of a wrongful death) has the right to recover the cost of all medical and psychiatric care that is reasonably priced and related to the specific injuries suffered by the personal injury victim. This category of recovery is called “medical expenses.” If future medical care is prescribed or likely, injured parties can also recovery that cost, called “future medical expenses” within the claims and legal professions.

If a party is injured badly enough to have a doctor prescribe missed time at a paying job or profitable business activity, recovery of “wage loss,” “lost income,” and “lost future earning capacity” are all possible.

Economic damages also often include “property damage” recovery. A very common form of property damages is car repair or replacement in car crashes. These damages are usually settled prior to somebody starting a personal injury claim or lawsuit, but things like diminished value sometimes get included in such claims and lawsuits.

Non-Economic Damages Defined

Non-economic damages is money recovered for what many people think of as “pain and suffering.” The technical basis for this important aspect of a personal injury claim is actually “loss of enjoyment” of your usual activities and hobbies, plus your pain and stress at having to deal with your injuries and worry about your future. In cases of catastrophic injury or wrongful death, spouses and life partners sometimes recover money for their loss of the injured person’s companionship and services.

The Cost of a Lawyer

Like many other firms, we at Dawson Law Group take new plaintiff-side personal injury cases in exchange for a contingent fee, usually 33% of the final settlement or jury award covering your economic and non-economic damages.

The Logic of Hiring a Lawyer

personal-injury-lawyer-portland-97215-ne-glisanThe great problem with all personal injury claims is that not only is it inherently hard to attach money values to things like non-economic damages, but the ultimate standard for valuing such things is what a 12-person jury of your peers is likely to decide about your damage claims, both economic and non-economic.

That standard is itself inherently hard to predict, not only because no two juries are identical, but also because jury findings get based on things like how truthful and sympathetic you are as a witness, as well as how egregious the behavior of the negligent party was, and how truthful, sympathetic, and remorseful they are.

So, when you are considering whether it makes sense to hire a lawyer, here are some basic facts:

    1. It is always best if you can settle your claim yourself, if you are sure that the settlement you get offered is greater than the amount a jury would likely award you, minus your lawyer’s contingent fee.
    2. It is almost always hard to have a good guesstimate of what a jury would likely award you. Being wrong on this question might cause you to accept a settlement offer that is less than what you would get from a jury award minus your attorney’s contingent fee.
    3. The difficulty of knowing likely jury awards for your type and severity of personal injury is one great reason to utilize a free consultation with a lawyer of your choice. We at Dawson Law Group offer free consultations, and, by hearing you describe your potential claim, can give you our professional view, based on our decades of experience as Portland injury lawyers and our knowledge of past Oregon jury awards, on how reasonable any settlement offer you’ve received might be.
    4. One excellent way of judging whether you ought to hire us at Dawson Law Group is whether we think it makes sense for you to do so. It is not in your interest or ours to have you hire us to pursue a personal injury claim that is unlikely to yield a recovery substantially greater than what you have been offered to settle your claim before hiring us.
    5. There is some truth in the common belief that “lawyering up” in itself will show the other side how serious you are, and thereby get you a substantially higher settlement prior to trial or arbitration of your case.
    6. Remember that things like the specific facts of your case, the availability of evidence, witness quality(both us and them), and your medical and court costs (see next section of this page) are always going to be factors your decision to hire a lawyer.

Post-Award Costs: What to Expect After You Settle or Get a Litigation Award

After we settle or win your case, we will take our contingent fee and the cost of court filings, expert witness fees, and things like photocopies.

Often, you will also owe your past medical providers some money. You will usually be obligated to pay their outstanding bills from what you recover for your damages. In cases where you can explain how and why you compromised to reach your settlement or jury award, your providers will sometimes agree to reduce your outstanding bills. We can often help you with this often significant aspect of your case. Call us at 503-919-1315 to get your free consultation!