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Does A Laywer Have To Come From A Particular City or State?

The Law Firm of Reed & Mansfield, Attorneys  Personal Injury & Property Damage, Las Vegas, NV

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Million Dollar Advocates Forum

What if, for example, you are a Las Vegas resident taking a car trip to Idaho when a negligent driver who lives in Idaho runs into your car and injures you. Do you need to hire an attorney in Las Vegas or Idaho? What if the collision was in Reno, Nevada, and you live in Las Vegas? Or if the collision was in Las Vegas and you live in Reno, or LA?

It would definitely be more convenient for you to visit a lawyer in your home town to see if you like that person and want them to represent you.

The first question is whether a lawyer in your home town may legally represent you. Of course if it is a really big case, the lawyer in your home city can associate with a lawyer in the city where the collision occurred and the lawyers can share the fee. However, for smaller or medium size cases, it may not be worthwhile for two attorneys to share one fee.

Usually the defendant can be sued either in the state where the collision occurred or in the state the defendant resides. Most personal injury claims are filed in state court. For state court cases, suit can be filed in the county where the collision occurred or where the defendant resides. Occasionally, personal injury case are filed in federal court. Most states are divided into a small number of districts by the federal court system. For example, Nevada's federal court divides the state into the Northern and Southern Districts; California is divided into a Northern, Central, and Southern District. For federal cases, suit can usually be filed in the district where the incident occurred or in the district where the defendant resides.

If a lawyer is licensed to practice law where the suit would have to be filed that lawyer may legally represent you in your claim. If the lawyer is not licensed to practice law where the suit would have to be filed, the lawyer may or may not legally represent you in negotiations with an insurance company before suit is filed. For example, if a California resident is hurt in a Nevada car wreck, the Nevada State Bar takes the position that a California lawyer without a Nevada license is not authorized to even negotiate with defendant's insurance company. Other state bars allow the out of state lawyer to represent their own state claimants in negotiations if no suit has been filed.

Now you can see that for the smaller case this may create a difficult choice for the client. Suppose you live in Las Vegas and are in a car wreck in Pocatello, Idaho, and the at fault driver lives in Pocatello. Idaho, when I last checked with the Idaho state bar will allow an out of state lawyer to represent their out of state client in an Idaho car collision if no suit is filed. I recently had a Las Vegas resident ask me to represent him in that situation. He also wanted to take advantage of my low 25% contingent fee since the Idaho police cited the at fault Idaho driver for being at fault. (For more information please see our law firm's page regarding its discount fee for such cases by clicking the following link: 25% Fee in Many Accident Cases (Typically, lawyers charge a 33.33% to 40% fee for auto accident cases.)

The problem here was that if I undertook the representation I would not be able to file suit if I couldn't get a decent offer. I'd have to refer the case to an a lawyer in Pocatello. And in all honesty, lawyers are a lot more enthusiastic about taking fresh cases than cases some other lawyer for one reason or another couldn't resolve. So a lawyer who won't or can't go to trial is sort of skimming the easy pickings and deserting the client if the going gets tough. On the other hand it wasn't a really big case that would justify having both a Nevada and an Idaho attorney, and it was the type of auto accident case that usually settles. And how is the Las Vegas resident supposed to figure out which lawyer in Pocatello, Idaho, to hire? I explained all this to the client who decided to have me represent him to the extent that I could. I advised the adverse insurance company that I didn't have a license to practice law in Idaho but that that the Idaho State Bar allows me to handle negotiations with them and that if it became necessary to file suit I would refer the case to an Idaho lawyer. Eventually, the adverse insurance company made a reasonable offer and we settled the case.

For bigger and more complex cases it really makes sense to hire a lawyer who is both legally entitled and willing to try the case where it must be tried if pre-litigation negotiations fail. For example, any Nevada licensed lawyer located in Las Vegas is legally able to try a case in Reno. But, will the Las Vegas lawyer be willing to actually travel to Reno to try the case? If so, will the client get stuck with the travel expenses? These issues should be discussed in advance before the client signs the retainer agreement.

The solution that lawyers generally propose to this problem in the bigger cases is a fee split or referral fee. The Las Vegas resident with a Reno car wreck claim or Idaho car wreck claim sees a Las Vegas lawyer. The Las Vegas lawyer hands the case off to a Reno or Idaho lawyer with the Las Vegas lawyer taking part of the fee, either as a straight referral fee or for agreeing to do whatever legal work might be necessary in Las Vegas. The client may be told that he is getting two lawyers for the price of one and the client gets to conveniently meet in person his or Las Vegas lawyer. This solution often benefits the client. However, with two lawyers expecting to get paid out of one fee any thought of a discount contingency fee vanishes and the client can expect to pay a standard contingency fee of 1/3 or 35% or 40%.

Our firm's four attorneys all live in Las Vegas. Jonathan Reed, Douglas Reed, and Daniel Reed are also licensed to practice in California. Daniel Reed is also licensed to practice in Arizona. We will take larger personal injury cases in California and Arizona and all cities in Nevada with a full commitment to try the cases if necessary - and we will not charge for travel expenses made necessary by taking a case outside of our office location. Further, we will stick by our reduced 25% Fee in Many Accident Cases if there is a police report that cites the other party and not our client.

If a Las Vegas resident has a case that would need to be filed outside of Nevada, California or Arizona, we will discuss the situation on a case by case basis with the client.

CALIFORNIA V. NEVADA

Recently, a San Diego resident was in a car wreck in Las Vegas and the only other driver, who was the one at fault, was a Los Angeles resident. The San Diego resident asked me if he should hire a Nevada or California lawyer. My answer was that a lawyer in either state could negotiate his case or if necessary file suit but that if medical bills resulting from the collision were paid by Medicare or Medicaid or by a health insurance company he would be better off in Nevada because if the case were tried in Nevada the full value of the medical bills could be put into evidence but if the case were tried in California, the only the portion of the medical bills actually paid by Medicare or Medicaid or the health insurance company could be put I into evidence. So, while it might be possible to file suit in either of two states, it is important to see which state has more favorable law.