When you hire a lawyer to represent you in an eminent domain/land condemnation case, in most cases, it will be on a contingency fee basis, which means that your lawyer will be paid a percentage of what you receive once your case is settled. If you don’t recover anything, then the lawyer doesn’t get paid. If you do, then they do.
Now, in a land-taking case, how that payment percentage is calculated can be complicated, because there are a number of different possible scenarios.
In the simplest of scenarios, let’s say that the state of North Carolina (through the NC DOT) is getting ready to file a Quick Take land condemnation proceeding against you. In that case, the State will pay into the court the appraised value of what the STATE says your confiscated land is worth. Let’s say in this example, that they say your property is worth $150,000. Then, your lawyer gets involved and is able to ultimately prove to opposing counsel in mediation, or to a jury if the case goes to trial, that your property is really worth $250,000. The lawyer will get paid a percentage of the DIFFERENCE between what the State first said your land was worth, and what you ultimately get. In this case, you would take $250,000 MINUS $150,000 to get a difference of $100,000. The attorney would be paid a percentage of that $100,000. Under limited circumstances, the Court may order the condemning agency to pay your attorneys’ fees. This might happen if the project is abandoned, or if you are able to prove that the condemnor does not have the right to condemn your land.
Now, some property owners will have a different kind of condemnation case- called an Inverse Condemnation case, where you and your lawyer sue the government for land that they have taken from you without paying you anything. In this type of case, the attorneys fee will usually be calculated as a percentage of the TOTAL amount of what the lawyer recovers for you. In addition, in many North Carolina Inverse Condemnation cases, you may also be entitled to recover attorney’s fees from the defendant. So you can be paid the full amount of the case settlement, and the attorneys fees may be paid separately by the condemning agency.
Finally, there can also be situations in land-taking cases, where the lawyer and paralegal team work on a flat hourly rate. These are often situations where the lawyer is working on parts of your case that are not directly related to the actual taking of your land, but are closely tied to it.
If you have questions about your rights in a land-taking situation, feel free to give us a call at 800-452-9633 or visit our website at www.nclandlawyer.com