Q? Is there a charge for the initial consultation?
A. Yes there is, but it may be waived in certain cases. Each attorney has their own hourly rate and fee schedule. The attorney will give you a cost upon the initial consultation.
Q? How much will it cost to hire an attorney?
A. The cost of each case is based upon the unique facts and circumstances involving your situation. After an initial consultation, the attorney will be able to provide an estimate of the anticipated fees for handling your case. A payment, or a "retainer fee", is often required. In addition to attorney fees, you will also be responsible for the payment of the costs associated with the litigation, such as filing fees and discovery costs.
Q? Does my case have merit?
A. After discussing your case with you, an attorney can help you evaluate whether you have a meritorious claim or defense. The person filing the lawsuit in court has the "burden of proof". In most civil cases, you must establish certain matters by a preponderance of the evidence. In defending a case on the merits, the person being sued must demonstrate a lack of sufficient evidence or affirmatively prove some legal theory of defense.
Q? When will my case go to court?
A. Once a lawsuit is filed, the proceedings are governed by the rules of procedure. Before a trial is held, both sides engage in a process known as discovery. This involves answering questions and producing documents before the trial. In most civil cases, the courts now require some sort of alternative dispute resolution before proceeding to trial. After discovery and if a settlement has not been reached, the case is then set for trial.
Q? How long will it take for a lawsuit to be resolved?
A. Every case is different. It can take as little time as a few months to as long as several years, depending on whether the case goes to trial or is appealed. An attorney should always try to resolve a case as quickly as possible consistent with obtaining the best result for the client.
Q? When do I need to file my lawsuit?
A. The time within which you must file your claim in a court is called the "statute of limitations." The statute of limitations varies depending upon the type of case you have. Some types of cases, especially those involving governmental bodies, may have special limitation periods and a requirement that administrative remedies must be exhausted before suit can be filed. If you fail to exhaust these administrative remedies or fail to file suit within the limitations period, your right to file suit is barred and you will lose any legal basis for recovery.
Q? Is the information I provide my attorney confidential?
A. Yes, the information you provide an attorney, even that information provided to an attorney during a consultation, even if you don't hire that attorney, remains confidential except in limited circumstances. This is called the "attorney-client privilege." This privilege remains in effect even after the case is concluded. However, a client cannot use this privilege in an attempt to commit a crime.
Q? I was arrested and put in jail. I bonded out of jail and now have criminal charges filed against me. Do I need to hire an attorney?
A. Generally, you will need an attorney at your side when you are charged with a crime. The "prosecutors", attorneys paid by the State of Oklahoma, usually have extensive resources to bring charges against you in court. In addition to the police, prosecutors have access to their own investigators and criminal histories of the Defendants. With all the resources available to the State, the likelihood of being able to defend yourself is slim.
Q? I was arrested for DUI and refused to provide a sample of my breath or blood. The police officer took my driver's license. I need a license so I can drive to work. What can I do?
A. Under Oklahoma law, if you fail to give a sample of your breath or blood upon request by a peace officer, you automatically lose your driving privileges and typically will be charged with "aggravated DUI" even if your blood alcohol concentration ("BAC") is less than .15. You can seek an "administrative hearing" with the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety ("DPS") within 15 days of your arrest. If the request is timely received, the suspension of your driving privileges will be stayed pending the outcome of the administrative hearing. If you do not prevail at the hearing, you will lose your license. Even when you do provide a breath or blood sample, you will lose your license if your sample exceeds the legal limit for intoxication, which is a BAC of .8 or greater in the State of Oklahoma. Again, you can request an "administrative hearing" not later than 15 days after the date of your arrest, which will effectively stay your license revocation pending the outcome of the hearing. You should hire an attorney to assist you with both the DPS process and the criminal proceeding in the district court.
Q? I was divorced a couple of years ago, and now my ex-spouse refuses to pay child support and will not comply with several other provisions of the divorce decree. What can I do to enforce my rights under the divorce decree?
A. There are several things you can do depending upon how/why your ex-spouse is violating the terms of the divorce decree. Often child support modifications and enforcement actions can be made through your local Child Support Enforcement Office. Should your matters touch on child custody, visitation or property issues, you will need to file an appropriate action in the district court. You will likely need to hire an attorney to help you navigate through these proceedings.
Q? My parent died without a will. Four of his/her five children are alive, but one of them died, leaving three grandchildren. My other parent is in a nursing home and cannot handle his/her finances any longer. What can I do to straighten out my parent's estate and ensure that my other parent is taken care of financially?
A. These are common problems that most general practioners deal with on a routine basis. Legal documents need to be filed with the court concerning your parent's estate, and your other parent needs to have a will. The heirs of your parents may or may not have any legal rights depending on the facts and circumstances involved. When questions and issues such as these arise, you should consult an attorney, advanced health care directives, and other legal documents should be in place before some catastrophic event happens. By hiring an attorney before something bad happens to a loved one or yourself, you or your surviving family members can avoid years of heartache and potential litigation.
Q? I own a small business that is not incorporated. I have heard that if I incorporate my business, I can avoid being held liable if someone files suit against me. Can you give me some advice about incorporating my business?
A. Suits against businesses, whether incorporated or not, can be costly. Incorporation of a business may or may not be the best thing to do, depending on the nature of the business and the potential for liability. You should consult an attorney, as well as financial professionals, before deciding to incorporate. Then, your attorney should assist you in the incorporation process to advise you of any legal ramifications. You should have an attorney review any contracts before you sign them and assess any risks that your particular business may have in the area of personal injury litigation.
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