I served on a jury and the lawyers did not talk about insurance coverage. Does this mean there was no insurance coverage? Even if a defendant's potential damages are covered by insurance, the plaintiff's lawyer(s) are usually unable to make any reference to the coverage.  The rationale is that juries might be more willing to give bigger verdicts (or more money) if they think the verdict will be covered by insurance.  It is common for jurors to deliberate without knowing whether the defendant had any coverage.

What are the types of fee agreements? What is a flat fee, contingent fee, and hourly fee? As part of a contingency fee agreement, the lawyer or law firm agrees to accept as compensation a percentage of any recovery.  If the client recovers nothing, the lawyer receives nothing.  A standard contingency fee agreement typically calls for a payment of one-third (33%) of the total recovery.  

Flat fees typically benefit both the lawyer and client in matters in which the attorney can reasonably assess the amount of time that his or her representation will require.  For example, an attorney will usually charge a flat fee of $75 to handle a routine traffic matter.  

Hourly fee agreements occur when the client agrees to pay the lawyer a certain amount per hour for all time spent on the client's case.  Hourly fees in the St. Louis area range usually from $100 to $750, with both ends of the spectrum being rare.  Lawyers in larger cities will sometimes bill at hourly rates exceeding $1,000.

Can I represent myself in court? You always have the right to represent yourself in court, but doing so can leave you at a disadvantage.  You only have the right to a free public defender if you are facing jail time.  Consider representing yourself if you are involved in a non-contested dissolution of marriage or divorce, or if your claim can be brought in small claims court.  You should always talk to a lawyer before you negotiate a settlement with an insurance company or attempt to litigate a contested matter.  Most lawyers provide free consultations. 

Where do you file your cases? Most of our cases are filed in state or federal courts in Missouri.  However, we routinely litigate in other states and districts.  Typically, if we litigate in a different district or state, we find that our clients benefit when we obtain co-counsel (or local counsel) in that jurisdiction.  

Where can I research Missouri law? Which websites allow free legal research? Missouri Revised Statutes (http://www.moga.mo.gov/STATUTES/STATUTES.HTM#T09) – This is your starting point.  The statutes address everything from funding for the Natural Resources Protection Fund to the range of punishment for second degree arson.

Supreme Court Rules (http://www.courts.mo.gov/sup/index.nsf/0/FB60E740A3398CEA86256F0B005AEAEE?OpenDocument) – The Rules relate to procedural issues.  For example, they address time limits for filing pleadings, motions, notices, responses, etc., determining proper venue (i.e., where in Missouri a suit may be brought), and issuing service of process. 

Local Rules (http://www.courts.mo.gov/page.asp?id=321) – The Local rules often overlap with the Supreme Court Rules.  They typically relate to extremely precise procedural issues.  For example, in many counties, the clerk permits parties to file pleadings and motions via facsimile.  In Greene County, however, a local rule generally prohibits parties from filing anything via facsimile.  Some local rules limit the number of interrogatories that a party may file, while others address the procedure for requesting a change of judge.

Missouri Case Net (http://www.courts.mo.gov) – This database provides docketing information for most cases pending in Missouri courts.

What is pro se representation? Does your firm endorse any pro se initiatives? According to Black’s Law Dictionary (7th Ed.), the term “pro se” is defined as: “[Latin] for oneself; on one’s own behalf; without a lawyer”.  In common parlance, a pro se litigant is one who represents himself or herself.

The Smith Law Firm, LLC, supports and endorses pro se litigation and the Missouri Joint Pro Se Implementation Commission.  This commission is responsible for creating forms used by pro se litigants throughout Missouri.  Some legal issues, such as non-contested dissolutions (divorces), requests for orders of protection and the drafting of simple wills and powers of attorney, are well-suited for pro se representation.    

How do I select a lawyer? How do I find a good lawyer? Your best bet is finding a lawyer from a personal recommendation.  If your cousin hired an attorney to handle an insurance case, and received a favorable outcome, you should consider talking to that attorney about your own insurance case.  Without personal recommendations, we recommend that you heavily research each lawyer who you are considering hiring.  Most lawyers will briefly discuss your case via phone or email.  You might also consider the accessibility and responsiveness of the attorney.  For example, if you email the attorney will you get a response within twenty-four hours?  Are you able to call the attorney on his or her cell phone, or do you find yourself leaving voicemail messages with a receptionist?

Will you provide a free initial consultation? Yes.  Sometimes we can evaluate a case quickly via phone or email.  It is sometimes possible to identify a good case within a few minutes.  We will never charge a fee for an initial consultation.  In addition, when handling class actions, our fees are always contingent in nature.  This means that we will take a fee only if there is a judgment in our favor, or a settlement involving something that can be quantified in monetary terms.  Even if your case sounds far-fetched or the amount of money at stake sounds small, please don't feel silly sending an email or making a phone call to our office. 

When may I intervene in someone else's lawsuit? In the absence of a statute conferring an unconditional right of intervention, an applicant seeking intervention must file a timely motion and show three elements: (1) an interest relating to the property or transaction which is the subject of the action; (2) that the applicant's ability to protect the interest is impaired or impeded; and (3) that the existing parties are inadequately representing the applicant's interest. The proposed intervenor carries the burden of establishing the presence of all three elements required for intervention as a matter of right. When an applicant satisfies these elements, however, the right to intervene is absolute and the motion to intervene may not be denied.

What is "undue influence"?  Undue influence is defined as that influence which, by force, coercion or overpersuasion destroys the free agency of the grantor to act….The majority of Missouri cases hold that in addition to the confidential relationship there must be some evidence from which the trial court can infer undue influence.  A submissible case of undue influence is established by showing: (1) a confidential and fiduciary relationship, (2) benefaction to the fiduciary, and (3) some additional evidence from which undue influence may be inferred. A submissible case can also be made apart from this three-element presumption if based on other facts and circumstances that are sufficient to permit reasonable inferences of undue influence. A benefit is a required element of undue influence. The necessary element of benefaction is some pecuniary benefit to be derived, directly or indirectly by the fiduciary by whose activity the influenced person is influenced.  To establish a presumption of fraud and undue influence the challenging party must also prove that the transfer was the result of some active effort on the part of the beneficiary to obtain the gift.  A deed procured by the exercise of undue influence is rendered invalid. The test is whether the grantor's free agency and voluntary action were thwarted.

Do you have a collection of random pages with random legal information?  Yes.