By: Robert J. Nahoum
There are all kinds of lawyers out there: real estate lawyers, personal injury lawyers, corporate lawyers, Wall Street lawyers and consumer lawyers to name a few. The good old days of the country lawyer who did it all have given way to specializations, attorneys who focus on or discrete areas of law. If you’ve never had the misfortune of having to hire a lawyer, consider yourself lucky. But if you do need one, it helps to know what to expect.
Consumer lawyers are, as the name implies, focused on consumer issues. What are consumer issues? Consumer issues are those legal issues that arise when regular people (as opposed to businesses) go out into the market place to buy goods or services. For example – buying a car, getting a mortgage to buy a home, obtaining and using credit cards and even going to a hospital or doctor.
All too often, these everyday transactions go wrong. Perhaps that car dealer sold you a lemon, or maybe you lost your job and can’t afford to pay your mortgage and credit card bills or maybe you got sick or suffered an injury for which your health insurance is inadequate to cover all the costs. Whatever the cause, when a consumer legal issue presents itself, the consumer might reasonably feel helpless and confused.
Consumer lawyers are there to help troubled consumers navigate the legal waters safely. As consumer lawyers, we understand that our clients come to us in trouble and usually with little if any money. For that reason, most consumer lawyers structure their legal fees in a way best suited to do well by doing good. In other words, if we can make a living representing consumers, then we can continue to be there to offer legal services when needed.
Consumer issues can be understood as falling under two broad categories: defensive and offensive.
Defensive issues are when the consumer has been sued. The most common examples are mortgage foreclosures and debt collection lawsuits. In these defense cases, consumer attorneys usually charge clients based upon a flat fee or some combination of flat fees and hourly rates.
What’s important to remember about defensive cases is that the consumer has no choice; he or she is not there voluntarily. You were sued and you must defend yourself or suffer the consequences of default judgments, wage garnishments and frozen bank accounts. While some consumers choose to go it alone and defend themselves, there’s little doubt they will do better when represented by a skilled and experienced attorney.
The other category of consumer legal issues can be understood as offensive. Generally, in offense cases, one way or another the consumer has been ripped-off, harassed or abused and a consumer lawyer can seek redress on the consumer’s behalf. The most common examples of offensive consumer issues are lemon laws, fair debt collection laws, truth in lending laws, and warranty laws.
Most consumer protection statues are what we call “fee shifting” meaning that the obligation to pay the consumers attorneys’ fees shifts to the defendant. Because consumer protection statues are fee shifting, most good consumer lawyers don’t charge their clients any out of pocket money. The attorneys’ fees are generally agreed upon in a settlement or awarded by the court or a jury and paid by the company that ripped you off or harassed you.
So whether you have an offensive or defensive consumer legal issue, hiring a skilled and experienced consumer lawyer is the best way to come out ahead. Consumer lawyers are generally passionate and committed to protecting the rights of consumers. We serve consumers because we care about consumers and refuse to let them get screwed.
If you need help settling or defending a debt collection law suit, stopping harassing debt collectors or suing a debt collector, contact us today to see what we can do for you.