By Danielle J. B. Edwards, Esq.
Is it time to get a lawyer? If you’re asking yourself this question, arranging an initial consultation with a law firm can help you make an informed decision. But in some critical scenarios, the answer is clear-cut.
Five situations where legal advice is essential:
1) You are arrested.
Any time your liberty is at stake or your permanent criminal record is implicated, you should consult with an experienced attorney immediately. If you are released after arrest, do not wait until your court date approaches to start looking for legal advice. It can take time to find the right attorney for your situation – and once you have retained that individual, they will need time to prepare and gather evidence in order to represent your interests well.
You may be surprised at how much an attorney can do for you before your first court date. For example, in one instance, a person who was arrested and charged with a serious sexual assault was able to post bail and then hire an excellent attorney the following day. That attorney immediately gathered enough evidence to show that the charge was baseless, and the prosecutor withdrew the charge at the initial hearing date, “before the train left the station.”
2) You are sued.
Generally, the document that initiates a lawsuit is called a “Complaint.” Regardless of whether a Complaint has merit, it is almost always drafted with great care by an attorney who has a legal strategy in mind. Without the benefit of legal training and experience, it may be difficult to fully understand the significance of (1) the claims stated in the Complaint or (2) the potential liability.
On the other hand, there may also be serious flaws in a Complaint or in the way that a lawsuit was initiated that only an experienced attorney can spot and challenge. Although courts are sympathetic to self-represented parties, the law has its own language and rules. Without the benefit of an experienced attorney advocate in a lawsuit, a party may suffer great losses – even if they are not in the wrong – simply because they failed to understand the process, the legal language, the procedural options available to them, and how to handle the elements that lead up to and happen within a trial.
3) You were involved in a lawsuit, and it didn’t go well.
Regardless of whether you represented yourself or were represented by an attorney at trial, you should have an appellate attorney handle your appeal. Appellate courts have their own rules. In addition, there are extreme limitations on the kinds of issues that can be addressed on appeal. Often, you may not have opportunity to directly challenge the merits of a trial court decision, but a competent attorney may identify a technicality that can be raised on appeal.
An attorney who specializes in appeals will be able to spot issues that can be raised on appeal, comply with the appellate rules, and effectively present the appeal. If you are contemplating an appeal, move quickly, because generally very short deadlines will apply.
4) You are involved in an event that caused serious injury or property damage.
If you are injured in an accident, or your property is damaged in a serious event, such as a storm, an attorney can help you navigate the complicated claims and litigation processes to maximize your compensation.
On the other hand, if you cause an accident that harms another, or someone is injured at your home, a competent attorney will understand how to effectively defend you against claims for excessive damages. Your auto or homeowner’s insurance company may even provide representation or reimburse attorney’s fees.
5) You are seeking a divorce.
Divorce is possibly the most stressful legal situation that a person can experience. The effects can last for years, particularly if children are involved. Often, custody is the most important issue to both parties, and having counsel to help address this question is critical.
Even in the absence of children, however, a contentious former spouse can continue divorce litigation for many years after a divorce is finalized. An attorney may help navigate the important issues to be decided and “close loopholes” that could be the subject of future litigation, ensuring that you do not unknowingly agree to terms that could be detrimental in the future and lead to further conflict. An attorney can also recommend helpful solutions to bring quick and permanent resolution to disputes.
An initial consultation with an attorney can provide valuable information and allow you to make a more informed decision about your need for representation. There are many other situations in which an attorney’s help is crucial to a good outcome. Do you have a matter that may require the help of an attorney? Call Cacace, Tusch & Santagata to schedule a consultation.