The Georgia Victim and the Offer of Judgment Statute
As an Atlanta personal injury lawyer, usually one of the first questions I’m asked by potential clients is how they have to pay my fees. In cases seeking damages for injuries and deaths arising from auto accidents, bicycle accidents, dog bites, slip and fall accidents or other types of cases of personal injuries or wrongful death, damages caused by the negligent actions of others are typically structured in contingent fee agreements.
In contingent fee agreements, clients do not have to pay a fee unless the case is settled for a dollar amount or attached to a money verdict. Ordinarily, the contract specifies that the lawyer will receive 33% or one-third of the gross settlement’s total if the case is settled without needing to file a lawsuit.
Generally, gross settlement means the sum of the settlement amount before legal costs or expenses are subtracted. Deposition fees, expert fees, filing fees, photocopy fees, fees associated with acquiring medical records, and so on typically comprise legal fees. Such expenses are paid out of the client’s share of the settlement’s gross.
Ordinarily, the plaintiff and the defendant of a personal injury or wrongful death suit are responsible for their own lawyer fees. Therefore, the only costs plaintiffs usually pay in a personal injury or wrongful death suit are the aforementioned. However, the Georgia General Assembly passed an Offer of Judgment law in 2005 making it possible for the plaintiff to assume responsibility for all or some of an insurance company’s fees depending on how the lawsuit is settled during the trial.
If before the trial an insurance company offers to settle the case for a specific amount and the plaintiff does not accept the offer within 30 days, the insurance company can have its attorney fees paid by the plaintiff from the 30th day after the date the offer was made, if the plaintiff does not receive at least 75% of the offered amount. If an offer is made directly after the suit is filed, the plaintiff can be held liable for all or almost all of the insurance company’s fees.
However, only the judge decides how much the insurance company will be awarded in attorney fees. In some cases the judge hasn’t granted legal fees to the insurance company; and in some cases the judge has granted all that the insurance company was asking for. It all depends on the judge and if he/she thinks that the offer was made with honest intent and if the insurance company has accurately verified its claimed amount of applicable fees.
Since its enactment, the Offer of Judgment law has complicated a victim’s ability to decide whether to accept a settlement offer or to proceed to trial in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. As a result, it has become even more important to consult with a qualified attorney who understands the Offer of Judgment statute in relation to your particular case. Therefore, please call us at (404) 525-5150 or contact us online so that we can discuss the value of your case in the strictest of confidence.
Attorney Robert J. Fleming has been handling wrongful death cases, automobile accident cases, personal injury cases, dental malpractice and medical malpractice lawsuits for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 20 years in and around Atlanta, Georgia and its surrounding areas, including Alpharetta, Austell, Avondale Estates, Chamblee, College Park, Conyers, Duluth, Decatur, Doraville, Hapeville, Johns Creek, Jonesboro, Lawrenceville, Norcross, Peachtree City, Riverdale, Roswell, Sandy Springs, Stone Mountain, and Smyrna. If you have been seriously injured and would like quality legal representation, contact Robert J. Fleming directly on (404) 923-7497 or contact us online.