If you’ve been injured by a botched medical procedure, a defective consumer product, or an unfortunate tumble down an open manhole that had fewer than seven reflective orange cones around it, then you need a dedicated advocate to stand up for you (especially if you have two broken legs) by suing someone, maybe everyone, to get you the money you’re entitled to. And if you hire the lawyers of Oppen & Schutt, LLP to represent you, you won’t pay a legal fee until you receive a financial award or settlement.
That’s right: If you don’t win your case... if the judge dismisses your complaint, if your testimony is deemed not credible (whether or not you are separately prosecuted for actual perjury), or if the jury just plain doesn’t like you and decides that you deserved to be poisoned by your metal hip implant as it shed microscopic cobalt particles into your bloodstream... or strangulated by the pull cord of your Venetian blinds... then you won’t have to pay us for the time our lawyers spent preparing your case for trial, if we even got that far.
You’ll only have to reimburse the firm for any cash expenditures made on your behalf before your case ended, abruptly and unsuccessfully. More often than not, the amount you’ll have to pay back the firm is in the thousands, but rarely in the tens of thousands. After all, we’re talking about filing fees, photocopies, and dinners for the first-year associate assigned to your matter and two hundred others like yours. Whenever we can, of course, we try to use the firm’s resources efficiently, to keep your costs down. We recycle paper, for example, by printing one client’s new court briefs on the backs of the pages of another client’s old briefs that weren’t submitted, and only once did this cause confusion for a judge, but we made the best of the situation by splitting the firm’s monetary sanction between both clients. And no one had to pay for dinner for the associate on those cases for the night he spent in jail for contempt of court.
But let’s not dwell on the possibility—or, as we sometimes like to joke around the office, probability—that you won’t recover any money from the company that manufactured and sold you the junk food that made you fat or the city that didn’t assign a personal aide to guide you around a clearly-marked open manhole in the middle of a street that you crossed against the light. You absolutely could win your case! You really might be awarded compensation! And then, you’ll pay us only a third of what you get. After you pay for the firm’s expenses “off the top,” of course.
Here’s a very simplified example: If a jury awards you $2,000 for the injuries you sustained when the night-vision goggles you bought and used to watch your neighbors at night, in their homes, short-circuited and fused your contact lenses to your retinas... well, let’s say it’s $1,000, for the sake of easier math... and the firm’s expenses total $2—— no, let’s say $400... that leaves a net recovery to you of $600! Of which you’ll pay us a mere $200, keeping $400 for yourself!
(A gratuity for the associate who worked on your case and each partner of the firm is not necessary, and certainly not contractually required, but customary and expected. $50-$100/person is typical. Also a bottle of Champagne. The real French stuff.)
But now let’s think about that thousand dollar figure and remember that it’s just an arbitrary number for the sake of example. In reality, you can recover much, much more than that. The worse the injuries you’ve suffered, the more money you stand—or will stand, when the lower-body cast comes off in six-to-eight months—to get. Juries are often very generous, especially to victims who are just like them, only badly injured, which they are generally thankful not to be. A sympathetic jury of your peers might recommend an award of millions. After all, it’s not their money. In fact, more than one jury has sought to make an example of an irresponsible company by awarding a staggering amount to a plaintiff, forcing the company into immediate bankruptcy, with the result that the jury award was promptly discharged. In such a circumstance, you would still be responsible for all court filing fees, but the firm’s photocopying charges will be waived or discounted, but probably not waived.
That said, most cases don’t go to trial. Most cases settle. Why? Because settling a case is easier for everyone involved—the judge, who gets to take his grandson to the zoo instead of sitting through testimony... the company that sold the product that exploded and nearly killed you, even though it was made entirely of wool and had no moving parts... and your own lawyers, whose fee becomes potentially less and less attractive the more time they spend on your case. We’ll try to get you the most money as soon as possible, because that’s how we’ll all do the best.
Here’s another example: Let’s say we file a lawsuit on your behalf, demanding A MILLION DOLLARS(!) because your negligently-designed lawn mower injured you when it fell off your roof, where your son had been using it to clear snow. Let’s say the lawn mower manufacturer immediately offers you five thousand dollars and a coupon for a hundred dollars off your next lawn mower. We’ll insist that you take it! Because even though you could possibly maybe get the MILLION DOLLARS you want and deserve, going to trial would mean investing a lot more time and effort... and that MILLION DOLLAR AWARD isn’t a sure thing. But that five thousand dollars and the manufacturer’s coupon—with no expiration date—is. You’ll keep as much as $3,500 and the whole coupon, though the firm’s partners will reserve the right to borrow the new mower so that the associate who handled your case can mow their lawns on weekends.
So call us today if you’ve been injured or can pretend convincingly that you have been. At Oppen & Schutt, we’ve got your back... and just one-third of the rest of you!
Matthew David Brozik wrote this and many other short humor pieces, which have been published in print and online by The New Yorker, Adult Swim, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Grin & Tonic, The Big Jewel, and no one.