Should I get an attorney?
If you have a significant commercial transaction or dispute, or a question about the law that may affect your business or financial interests you should at least talk with an attorney before deciding your course. We will often provide a brief consultation free of charge to help you determine whether you need representation.
If I contact your law firm, will I meet with a lawyer?
Your first contact, probably a phone call, may be with a paralegal or staff member, but a lawyer will speak with you if you request it and if one is available. If you schedule a meeting, a lawyer will meet with you. During the course of our representation, you will have a legal team on which an attorney will always be active and responsible for paralegals or legal assistants.
What can a plaintiff recover in a commercial or consumer lawsuit?
In most cases, a plaintiff seeks damages measured by financial losses or possibly lost profits believed to have been caused by the defendant. Sometimes a plaintiff seeks relief other than money such as an injunction or court order to require or prevent some action by a defendant. How much and whether a plaintiff will recover depends on many variables, including the nature of the loss and whether and how it can be measured, and many other factors, including whether a contract or statute limits or provides for a certain amount of damages or attorney’s fees.
If I have a commercial or consumer dispute does a lawsuit always have to be filed in order to receive a settlement?
No. In some cases we are able to negotiate settlements with the other side after investigating the case but before a lawsuit is filed. However, many disputes don’t resolve until substantial pressure is applied by the filing of a lawsuit. Cases are often resolved through alternative dispute resolution processes such arbitration or mediation.
How long does a plaintiff have to decide whether or not to bring a case against a defendant(s)?
A plaintiff must file a lawsuit within the time period allowed by the statute of limitations that applies to the case. These vary from state to state and from law to law. For example, in Virginia, the statute of limitations for bringing a contract case on an oral contract is three years, but on a written contract it is five years. Cases alleging fraud must be brought in two years, while cases under Virginia’s version of the Uniform Commercial Code must be filed within four years. You should consult a knowledgeable attorney to determine the applicable statute of limitations, when it starts to run, and the date it will likely expire.
Can my case be heard in federal court?
Some litigants prefer to have their cases heard in federal court if possible. This is especially true if there is a concern about "home-town bias" if a case is brought in state court. Federal courts have the authority, or jurisdiction, to hear certain categories of cases. If your case involves a federal law or a federal program, or if the United States government is a party to the action, it may be heard in federal court. Federal courts also may hear cases between citizens of two or more states if the amount involved in the suit is more than $75,000.
I have talked to another lawyer, and she says that she did not think I had a good case. Should I get another opinion?
Yes. Each case depends upon its specific facts, and there may be several different types of lawsuits that could be successfully brought in your case. For example, a single transaction may involve a contract claim, a misrepresentation, and a technical violation of a statute. Sometimes, an attorney will miss certain types of potential cases, so consulting with another attorney is always a good idea.
How long will the lawsuit take?
It varies. The length of time a lawsuit takes depends on a number of factors, such as the complexity of the case, the number of parties involved, the willingness of the parties to resolve the case and the court's schedule. A relatively simple suit, not involving any complex legal or factual issues, could be over in a few months, while a complicated, multi-party suit could take years to resolve.
Is there pressure to settle cases out of court?
Courts encourage settlement, but cannot require parties to reach an agreement. It is usually in each party's best interest to settle a case without going through a trial, however. Trials can be costly, and consume time and resources that could better be spent on other things. Even so, many parties find that they simply are unable to reach an agreement. If an agreement cannot be reached, the parties have the right to proceed to trial.
What is mediation?
Mediation is a voluntary dispute resolution process. Typically, an experienced neutral mediator (often an experienced lawyer or former judge) meets with the parties and assists them in negotiating a resolution. The mediator does not “decide” the case, but in some cases will evaluate it for the parties to assist them in making a better judgment as to whether to settle. Click Here for an article we wrote on Mediation.
How do lawyers at your firm get paid?
We represent our clients under hourly fee, contingent fee and blended hourly and contingent fee arrangements for complicated or disputed matters. We also offer flat rates for certain relatively simple transactions. We will help you evaluate what approach is most fair and efficient for you. In an hourly representation, we ask you to advance a sum of money to be held by us in trust under your name pending our performance of legal services and billing for our time spent on the matter. Such advanced fee deposits may require replenishing depending upon the demands of the case, or may be returned when the representation is ended. An hourly fee will almost always be requested when we must defend a case brought against your business. In a contingent fee representation we will be paid a percentage of the amount we recover for you, plus any costs and expenses that are necessary to resolve your case. Some statutes provide for fee awards or fee shifting to the losing party. For example, many consumer protection statutes permit a prevailing consumer to seek attorneys’ fees from the losing defendant.
Who pays the expenses of commercial litigation?
A judge may order the losing party to pay the costs of the lawsuit. These costs may include court filing fees, witness expenses and the costs of preparing exhibits. As a general rule, each party is responsible for paying his or her own attorneys’ fees, with the following exceptions:
Parties may have agreed in a contract to pay the other party's attorneys’ fees in the event of litigation.
The lawsuit may involve a statute that provides for payment of attorneys’ fees.
Courts may award attorneys’ fees to one party, if it is found that the other party engaged in bad faith or frivolous litigation, or pursued legal theories that have no merit.
I'm unhappy with the result in my case, can I appeal?
An appeal is usually an option, but it may or may not remedy your dissatisfaction. Courts on appeal are limited to deciding questions of law, not fact. For example, a court of appeal will hear your argument that the judge in your case did not give the jury the proper instructions, but probably will not hear your argument that the jury should have reached a different decision based on the facts. Courts on appeal are reluctant to overturn a jury's verdict, unless there is no evidence to support the verdict. The theory is that juries, who hear the evidence and see the witnesses who testify, are better able to judge close questions. If you do appeal and win, the most common remedy is that your case will be sent back for a new trial.
I have a question about my investments. I think my stock broker did a bad job. What should I do?
We have a separate FAQ page for securities claims. Click here to go to that page.
Does MichieHamlett handle any other types of cases in addition to Commercial cases?
Yes. MichieHamlett is a multi- service law firm. Our firm handles a variety of legal matters, including family law, trust and estate matters and cases involving personal injuries such as defective products that cause serious injuries or death, medical malpractice, tractor trailer accidents, auto accidents, explosions and fires, industrial accidents, occupational diseases, pharmaceutical cases, and many others.
Who will hear the case?
Most commercial lawsuits for money will be heard by a jury. If the parties agree, a jury may be waived, and the case heard by the judge. Lawsuits for an injunction are tried to a judge. The decision of how to plead your case to get the best result and decision maker is a tactical one, and depends on the facts and circumstances of each case.