A Letter from Baltimore Attorney Marc J. Atas
Almost all of my clients share a common trait — they are going through some degree of stress over a legal issue and are in need of a good attorney. Whether suffering a work-related or other personal injury or auto accident injury or being charged with a crime, my clients are anxious about achieving the best results for themselves and their families. Many of my clients have never dealt with the legal system before.
I exclusively represent plaintiffs in personal injury or auto accident litigation on a contingency fee basis. I do not represent insurance companies or large corporations. I am committed to protecting the rights and interests of the little guy or girl who has been injured in motor vehicle accidents, injured while working on the job, or who are facing criminal or traffic charges.
I understand that legal matters involving work-related injuries or other personal injuries cause stress and anxiety. Clients are worried about medical bills and lost wages, as well as being able to support their families and pay bills such as rents, mortgages and gas and electric. As your attorney, I will be on your side and I will do everything I can to make your experience with the legal process as easy as possible.
The workers’ compensation system is complicated and can be frustrating to clients who try to go it alone. My goal is to work with my clients to try to make sure that they are paid their lost wages immediately, get prompt medical attention and get the full workers’ compensation benefits that they deserve.
I appreciate the importance of defending the rights of the accused, and I use all available means to ensure that clients receive outstanding legal representation and access to justice. The consequences of a criminal conviction can be devastating. These charges must be vigorously defended. If the government is trying to convict you of a crime, I will make sure that your rights are protected and that you are treated fairly. My criminal law practice encompasses all types of state criminal charges ranging from violent offenses to drug offenses and serious traffic offenses, including drunk driving (DWI) and driving on a suspended license.
If you would like additional information, please feel free to contact me or call toll free at 800-749-4878 or 410-752-4878.
Marc J. Atas
Top 10 Questions For Your Attorney
Let’s be honest: no one likes hiring a lawyer. It is considered by many to be a distasteful necessity of life. Contrary to popular belief, not all lawyers are the same. Asking these questions will help you select the right lawyer and, in the long run, save you a lot of aggravation and grief.
The questions below are from an October 1997 article in the Sacramento Business Journal and were designed to help you select the right lawyer and make your job easier.
- What type of experience do you have?
Although it’s nice to tell your friends and neighbors that your lawyer graduated No. 1 in his or her class from Harvard Law School, it will not be comforting when you are in court for the first time and you find out it’s the lawyer’s first time too!
Obviously, it is important that the lawyer has passed the state bar exam and is properly licensed. However, there is no substitute for experience. Ask the lawyer how many similar cases he or she has handled. How long ago? What was the outcome? Get the specific details. If the lawyer doesn’t have experience, what will he or she do to get it? Is the lawyer willing to work with another experienced lawyer and learn? see attached article on how to choose an attorney
- What is your specialty?
Some lawyers limit their practice to a certain area, which is becoming more common because of all the rapid changes in laws. Determine if the lawyer specializes in the type of case you have. Furthermore, the state bar certifies lawyers in certain limited areas (i.e. family law, tax, and workers’ compensation). Determine from the lawyer whether a certification for your particular area of interest exists and whether the lawyer is certified.
- What will it cost?
One of the most common disputes between lawyers and clients involves fees. The main reason: poor communication. Ask, up front, what it will cost to handle your case.
Get into the specific details. Ask if your first visit is free. Determine whether you will be billed for telephone conversations with the lawyer. Although it may be difficult for an attorney to predict exactly what the fee will be, an experienced lawyer should be able to give you an estimate or range.
Ask about the billing policies. Will you pay an hourly fee, a fixed fee or a contingency fee? Ask about costs (i.e. filing fees, experts, court reporters, etc.), who will pay them and when. Also ask about whether the lawyer charges for copies, faxes, postage and long-distance telephone calls. If so, how much? If your matter will exceed $1,000, the lawyer’s fee agreement must be in writing. Make sure you carefully read the fee agreement before signing.
Fees in a personal injury case.
- What references can you provide?
These include references from other lawyers, judges and especially clients. Past or present clients have valuable insight and knowledge about the lawyer and his services. Ask for client references and call them.
- What is the policy on returning phone calls?
Lawyers not returning calls on a timely basis is another complaint of disgruntled clients. Ask how quickly you can expect a return telephone call.
- How long will my matter take to reach a conclusion?
Ask about the process and how long each stage will take.
- Will I be regularly updated?
Another complaint from unhappy clients is that after retaining the lawyer, they never hear from him or her again except when they receive a bill. Ask whether you will receive copies of documents generated or received by the lawyer. Ask whether you will be advised of contacts made by your lawyer.
- Who will handle my matter?
If the lawyer works in a firm, determine who will be primarily responsible for your case. It is not unusual or unethical for a senior lawyer to oversee and supervise a junior lawyer handling a case. In fact, if your legal issue involves lengthy research, it may be more economical to have the work done by a junior attorney at a lower billable rate. However, ask so there are no surprises later.
- Would handling my case involve a potential conflict with another client?
If a potential conflict exists, you may have to continue looking for another lawyer. If the conflict is not significant, it may be possible to waive the conflict with your full written consent.
- Do you have malpractice insurance?
Under rules governing lawyers, the lawyer must advise you in writing whether she or he maintains malpractice insurance.
General Attorney Informational Frequently Asked Questions
Attorney Marc J. Atas has compiled a list of the most frequently asked general attorney questions. If your question is not answered here, please feel free to contact us the question and we will be happy to answer it.
- Is there an initial cost to meet with you?
Is there an initial cost to meet with you?
The simple answer is no. The initial consultation is free. Often I can answer simple legal questions over the phone.My general philosophy with regard to giving legal advice is as follows. If you have a relatively simple question, that can be answered based upon my present knowledge,I will be glad to answer to question or give you some guidance without charging you for my expertise. I have had wide legal experience over the last thirty seven years, so there are many topics that I am familiar with.If I do not know the answer, buy can figure it out with minimal work,for an old client there is likely to be no charge.If the matter is outside of my areas of knowledge or expertise, then i still encourage clients to call. I like to act as the gatekeeper for all of my clients legal problems. I keep a list of lawyers I recommend for all types of legal problems. Most of these lawyers i personally know or have referred clients in the past with successful results. A lawyer can not possibly know all of the laws in all of the areas of law. It is hard enough to know all of the law in one area of expertise.
Normally for the type of cases we do accept and get paid for most are on a contingency fee which means we get paid at the end of the case. There are exceptions like criminal cases where the fees must be paid up front although the initial consultation is still free. See the next section for further details regarding fees in each practice area.
The initial consultation is important to the lawyer as well as the client. For the client it is your opportunity to meet the lawyer and tell him about the case. Questions should be asked of the lawyer regarding your case, as well as about the lawyer. Clients should size up the lawyer at that time to make sure the lawyer is someone the client wants to work with.
- If you take my case, how is your fee determined?
Legal fees vary for different types of cases. Workers’ compensation fees for example are set by the Workers’ Compensation Commission. Workers’ Compensation fees are based on a percentage of any permanent injury award. If there is no permanent injury award there is no fee. If a hearing is required to get you paid for your lost time from work, there may be a fee allowed of ten percent of any back benefits ordered. Workers Compensation fees are on a sliding scale starting at twenty percent of the permanent injury ward and as the award gets higher later amounts of the awarded fee are based on either fifteen percent or ten percent and the workers compensation commission also sets a maximum fee that can be awarded in a workers compensation case that is usually between fourteen thousand and twenty thousand dollars depending upon the year of the accident. All fees are paid at the end by the insurance company from your permanent injury award.
In auto accident and personal injury claims the fee is one third of whatever is recovered. The fee is based upon the gross recovery. If there is no recovery, there is no fee. In addition you may be responsible for any expenses incurred on your behalf.If suit has to be filed because the case can not be settled the fee percentage will raise to forty percent of any gross recovery.Expenses can include expert fees, court costs, deposition fees, police report costs, private investigators and the costs to obtain medical records.
In criminal cases the fees can vary. Each case is different and the amount of work involved can vary substantially. Criminal fees will be quoted after the initial free consultation.Criminal fees normally can be made through a payment plan but all fees must be paid by the time of your trial or the first date the lawyer has to make an appearance in court. the earlier the fee is paid the earlier the lawyer will begin work on the case.
- Is your office difficult to find?
My office is very accessible. I am located at 6 East Mulberry Street in Downtown Baltimore near the corner of Mulberry Street and Charles Street which is near the Walters Art museum and Washington Monument which is just a few blocks off Interstate 83 and I95. Free Parking is usually available on Mulberry Street and Charles Street.
- What are “legal expenses” and who pays these?
Legal expenses include the costs of obtaining police reports-$10-$20.00, as well as doctor and hospital bills and reports. In addition when cases are in litigation legal expenses include the filing fee for the court-$30.00 to $180.00, private process servers-$50 to $150.00 per service,court reporter charge for a deposition-$250.00 to $750.00, doctor charges for testimony, video costs for video deposition of experts, expert fees for testimony and finally the costs of any private investigator or other expert needed in order to prove your case.The costs the lawyers have to pay for medical records and medical bills can add up. Under the old law it was not uncommon for a hospital or doctors office with hundreds of pages of records to charge five hundred dollars or more for photocopying medical records. Fortunately in 2016 the Maryland legislature limited the maximum fees that could be charged for medical record copying to the sum of $102.88.see statute at end of article.
If specific information is requested from your medical provider that he has not automatically put in your medical record, the doctor will usually require a separate fee for an answer for more specific information from your lawyer.Typical cost for these types of letter can be between two hundred and fifty dollars to seven hundred and fifty dollars.
If the case is going to trial,it is necessary to put on evidence from any medical experts. This evidence can be presented in two ways. The first method is by actually having the doctor testify in person in front of a jury. While this is the most effective method it is also the most costly. If the doctor is going to come to court , he normally will block off the whole day and charge you accordingly. In person testimony can cost you between $5000.00 to $10,000.00 per day. In addition, you need to book the doctor in advance for the day. If the case gets delayed or postponed, then you may have to pay him for an additional day. If the time for his testimony is delayed, he may no longer be available or will charge you for additional days. The other method to preserve doctor testimony is by video deposition. This is not inexpensive either but is less than live testimony, since the video deposition can be dine on the doctors schedule at his office. Typical costs for a video deposition include, the Doctor-$500.00 to $2500.00 plus a court reporter to type his testimony-between $500.00 to $1000.00 dollars. Finally a person to video tape the testimony.$250.00 to $750.00. If the video needs to be played in court usually the court has a video player. However, if there is no video player than there will be additional charges
Some law firms charge for long distance telephone, calls, photocopies and research time, but I do not. The client is normally only responsible for the costs if we recover money in your accident or workers’ compensation case. If there is no recovery then the client usually will not be responsible for those costs unless we agree otherwise.
New Maryland Law on Photocopy charges for medical records
Article Health General Annotated Code of Maryland
(c) (1) (i) In this subsection, medical record includes a copy of a medical bill that has been requested by an individual.
(ii) The provisions of this subsection do not apply to x-rays.
(2) A health care provider may require a person in interest or any other authorized person who requests a copy of a medical record to pay for the cost of copying:
- For State facilities regulated by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, as provided in ‘ 4-206 of the General Provisions Article; or
- For all other health care providers, a reasonable cost-based fee for providing the information requested.
(3) (i) Except as provided in subparagraph (iii) of this subsection, for a copy of a medical record requested by a person in interest or any other authorized person under paragraph (2)(ii) of this subsection, a health care provider may charge a fee for copying and mailing not exceeding $0.76 for each page of the medical record.
(ii) In addition to the fee charged under subparagraph
(i) of this paragraph, a hospital or a health care provider may charge:
- Subject to the fee limitations that apply to persons in interest under 45 C.F.R. 164.524 and any guidance on those limitations issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a preparation fee not to exceed $22.88 for medical record retrieval and preparation; and
- The actual cost for postage and handling of the medical record.
(iii) Subject to the fee limitations that apply to persons in interest under 45 C.F.R. 164.524 and any guidance on those limitations issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,
a hospital or a health care provider that uses or maintains the requested medical records in an electronic format, may charge for an electronic copy of a medical record in an electronic format requested by a person in interest or any other authorized person:
- A preparation fee not to exceed $22.88 for electronic format medical records retrieval and preparation;
- A per page fee of 75% of the per page fee charged by a health care provider under paragraph (3)(i) of this section that may not exceed $80; and
- The actual cost for postage and handling of the Electronic Format Medical Records.
- (i) Except as provided in subparagraph (ii) of this paragraph, the fees charged under paragraph (3) of this subsection may be adjusted annually for inflation in accordance with the Consumer Price Index.
(ii) The preparation fee charged for medical record retrieval and preparation under paragraph (3)(ii)1 of this subsection and for retrieval and preparation of a medical record in an electronic format under paragraph (3)(iii)1 of this subsection may not be adjusted annually for inflation in accordance with the Consumer Price Index.
- (i) Except as provided in subparagraph (ii) of this paragraph, a health care provider may charge a fee, as authorized under paragraphs (3) and (4) of this subsection, for the retrieval, copying, preparation, mailing, and actual cost of postage and handling of a medical record disclosed under ‘ 4-306 of this subtitle.
(ii) If a government unit or agency makes a request for the disclosure of a medical record under’ 4-306 of this subtitle, a health care provider may not charge the government unit or agency a fee for the retrieval, copying, preparation, mailing, and actual cost of postage and handling of the medical record.
- Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a health care provider may not charge a person in interest, except for an attorney appointed in
- 4-304(3)(i i i)(1 ) allows for a preparation fee of $22.88 for the provision of EMR. This is the same charge as that for paper records.
- 4-304(3)(iii)(2) provides the most significant reduction in allowable fees for EMR in limiting the per page fee to 75 percent of the per page fee charged by a health care provider under paragraph (3)(i) of this section that may not exceed $80. The per page fee allowed by paragraph (3)(i) is currently 76 cents. 75 percent of 76 cents is 57 cents. Given the cap of $80 on the overall per page fee, this means that the first 140 pages of the EMR will be billed at a rate of 57 cents per page. The charge cannot exceed $80 regardless of the number of pages.
- 4-304(3)(iii)(3) allows for the charge of actual postage and handling and is unchanged from prior law.
- 4-304(4)(i) applies the annual CPI adjustment to the fees charged, however, 3-304(4)(ii) exempts the $22.88 preparation fee for both paper records and EMR from that adjustment, providing a $22.88 preparation charge in perpetuity.
- The bottom line is that as of October 1, 2016, the maximum charge for the provision of EMR charts of 140 or more pages will be $102.88 ($80 + $22.88) plus actual postage and handling. Smaller charts will cost less. No longer will we receive invoices for thousands of dollars for records billed at 76 cents per page even though they are maintained and provided on disc at the push of a button. No longer will our offices have to spend valuable time arguing and negotiating with health care providers and their third party copy service surrogates over outrageous