Q: Can I go to jail because I cannot take off work to go to a civil hearing at a magistrate? I’m being taken to court by a creditor (credit card company)? (White Oak, PA)
A: The short answer is no. Generally, civil court has no jurisdiction to incarcerate people. Only in rare circumstances such as when a person is found in contempt or in family court matters involving failure to pay child support. What will happen is that since you do not appear, and have made no effort to continue the case, a hearing will go forward without you and you will be found guilty in absentia. The creditor will ask for and receive the judgment, any interest owed, plus costs and lawyers fee. You might want to call the creditor and the judge and ask for a continuance.
Q: I got a first-time offense DUI and was accepted into the ARD program. I haven’t paid off my fines and I still need to take one class. I have one month to my court date. If I pay off the rest of my fines and complete the class before I go to court can I possibly not get my ARD revoked? Should I contact my PO tomorrow to see if they have any advice, or is it too late to call them? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: Yes, in Allegheny County, all is not lost, especially if you have a month to get it together. You need to be proactive and get everything done. Call your PO immediately and give him your spin on your recent financial difficulties. If you pay and complete your class before the hearing, and the PO still wants to go through with the hearing, you should probably take a lawyer to court. You don’t want to have your ARD revoked because it is a one-time deal and will prevent you from having a record.
Q. My lawyer wants 40% for attorney fee plus litigation costs. This worries me as to what % this might cost in the end. My wife fell in parking lot of a Kings restaurant and this resulted in a concussion. I’m worried that we may end up with a small % of the final settlement if the litigation costs are too high. Is this a normal agreement or is it too high
A. In this part of the state, normal fee agreements give 33.3% to the attorney if the case settles and 40% if it goes to trial. The norm is for the attorney to be reimbursed for his costs-expert fees, filing fees, fees charged for records, out of the settlement proceeds. So yes, the attorney would take his moneys and fees that he advanced for the case first. Then, from the balance of the remaining proceeds, he or she would take the above percentage. Normally, attorneys do not take contingency cases that will be unprofitable. Some attorneys will reduce their share if the case settles easily and for a lower dollar amount. I have lowered my fee on occasion with small settlements for which I didn’t spend a great deal of time or money and the person is in need. You can always ask.