Questions To Ask Before Hiring a Condemnation Lawyer

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At McFarland PLLC, we want the best result for an owner seeking compensation in a condemnation matter. If you are looking for a condemnation attorney, we hope that you are able to select the most qualified litigator and the one best suited to your particular case. Here are some questions that you should ask any attorney you are considering for your condemnation case.

“What is your relevant experience?”

A Condemnation lawyer represents the property owner’s only opportunity to be compensated for the taking of some or all of his or her property. For many property owners, it is the most important lawsuit they will ever be involved in. The most impactful decision the property owner will make is the attorney who will represent them. Before hiring an attorney to represent you in a condemnation case, you have to be certain the attorney has relevant experience handling these specific kinds of cases. The first lawyer who contacted you may not always be the most experienced. Likewise, the lawyer with the most information about the project that resulted in the taking of your property may not have the most relevant history handling these kinds of cases. The only way to know for sure is to ask.

“How many condemnation cases have you tried to a jury verdict on behalf of property owners?”

Many cases are resolved before the jury trial stage. However, experienced practitioners will tell you that some cases simply have to be tried to achieve the compensation to which the property owner is entitled. You need to know how many times the attorney has been to the courthouse representing property owners. If the answer is less than twenty, that particular attorney probably does not have the relevant experience to represent you in your case.

“How many special commissioners’ hearings have you attended on behalf of property owners in the last two years?”

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All condemnation cases go through an administrative hearing before three special commissioners, who are appointed by the trial court to make a preliminary determination of compensation. The number of hearings an attorney has attended on behalf of property owners is another indication of whether that attorney has relevant experience to take on your case.

“What percentage of your work is devoted to the representation of landowners in condemnation cases?”

Condemnation is a specialized area of the law. Because of the many loopholes and complexities involved, it is not an area that lends itself either to the dabbler or to the general practitioner. Your attorney should be able to represent to you that he spends the majority of his time representing property owners in condemnation cases

“Have you been involved in any reported decisions involving condemnation cases?”

This is another indication of an attorney’s relevant experience. Just as some cases must be tried, sometimes cases are appealed. Your attorney should be willing to pursue your case to the lengths necessary to obtain the compensation to which you are entitled. The best indication of whether any attorney is willing to do this is whether he has done it before. The absence of reported appellate cases is a red flag for landowner representations, indicating either that the attorney lacks substantial experience in this area or that he will settle a difficult case for less than it is worth rather than take on a long fight.

“Have you handled cases like mine before?”

Condemnation cases are like properties: no two are the same. However, similar issues arise in similar cases, and it can be helpful if your attorney has handled the same type of case as yours. For example, power line or pipeline cases present very different issues from highway or roadway condemnation cases. Additionally, whole takings cases are very different from partial takings cases, particularly where there are issues of damages to the remaining property after the taking. Takings from improved properties present very different circumstances and issues than takings of raw, vacant land. Finally, the particular highest and best use of your property is important to how it will be impacted by a taking. Issues that are important to an industrial property may not have as much impact to a retail property, and vice versa.

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