12 Things Business Owners Should Know Before Hiring an Eminent Domain Attorney
If you have received a condemnation letter from the NCDOT we urge you to contact an eminent domain attorney. But make sure you ask the right questions to try to get the attorney that is best suited to your situation. Here are some questions to start with - some may surprise you.
Does your firm focus solely on eminent domain cases?
When it comes to your life's work and the business you've invested in you probably don't want a general lawyer - the guy who wrote your will, fixed your traffic ticket, or handled your home closing. There are just too many nuances in eminent domain law - and many of them may not be recognizable to someone who doesn't practice eminent domain law day in and day out. That's what we do. That's all we do. And we think it shows in how we fight for our clients. Here's what one client had to say:
"Mr. Bryan was a non-anxious presence for us at every step of the way, and he handled many desperate phone calls from us over the past years. We were encouraged by his professionalism, his strength of character and his willingness to fight for us, especially in the courtroom setting. We felt that he was not only our lawyer, but that he cared for and about us and our situation as our advocate and friend. We are delighted with the outcome of our case and would recommend your law firm to others without reservation*."
How many years of experience do you have negotiating eminent domain cases?
Not only do our attorneys have more than 25 years' combined eminent domain experience, but two of them represented the NCDOT as lawyers in land condemnation claims, handling some of the state's largest cases.
Do you have experience handling cases like mine?
No two eminent domain cases are exactly alike, particularly with regard to business. The state might take a utility easement on two businesses right next to each other. Both may be required to relocate their signage. But depending on the age and type of business and other factors, one business owner may become embroiled in a whole lot of expensive bureaucracy just to move his sign. And it could leave him with fewer customers afterwards. The other may have trouble getting tractor trailors on and off his property.
Do you have experience working as an Assistant Attorney General representing the NCDOT in eminent domain cases?
In North Carolina, eminent domain attorneys with NCDOT experience who now represent property owners are few and far between. About a handful, as best I can tell. We have two here at the NC Eminent Domain Law Firm. They know how condemnations work from inside the NCDOT.One was even the primary attorney on the largest case the NCDOT had ever faced at that point in time. Knowing eminent domain law from the other side speaks to a lot of clients. Here's what one had to say about former NCDOT attorney Stan Abrams:
"When you have somebody that has been an employee of those that are going to take your land and that worked there for several years, and already knows what's going on, they know some of the other side's strategies. And they know what they are going to do to try and take your land for the least amount of money they can. That's one of the reasons I hired Stan: I liked him as a person and I liked that he was a good Christian man. But I liked that he knew what he was doing from the other perspective and I knew he was a good lawyer, or the state wouldn't have had him*."
Do you have experience in my part of the state?
Our state has huge topographical differences - from the environmentally sensitive wetlands down east to the mountains where the topography can vary greatly on adjoining properties. Additionally, each county and municipality can have its own regulatory conundrums. We've handled cases in more than 50 counties across the state from the coast to the mountains from one topographical extreme to the other.
What types of business properties have you handled?
Unfortunately, North Carolina's eminent domain laws can sometimes be particularly unfair to businesses. Our state's eminent domain laws are a patchwork of legislative rulings dating back long before the industrial revolution when our state was primarily agricultural. In many instances, these laws do not look at certain aspects of a business as "real property," so the state doesn't pay business owners for lost profits, for example. This is particularly unfair to businesses, but it's one of those laws still on our books. Because our attorneys have handled hundreds of business cases throughout our combined 25+ years of practicing eminent domain law, we have the experience and familiarity with what the state may be willing to pay, and we know how to try to maneuver around some of these archaic laws.
Do you have relationships with experts, such as eminent domain appraisers, environmentalists, civil engineers, land planners, etc.?
Not only do we have good relationships with dozens of highly qualified eminent domain experts across the state, we also have strong relationships inside the NCDOT and with other state and quasi-state authorities, such as the utility companies.
Do you have experience taking eminent domain cases to trial?
Once the NCDOT pays you for your property, there's no going back. You want an attorney that not only has the resources to determine what they believe to be fair and just value for your property, but also someone who will go before a jury to try and prove it. Collectively, we have tried over 100 cases before judges and juries. Just since 2012, we've increased the average offer for our clients by 181%.** Here's what one client had to say about Attorney Jason Campbell after his trial:
"I'm so proud of Jason, I don't know what to do. He was the toughest I've ever seen - wouldn't take no for an answer. He would keep digging until he got what he wanted. I'd recommend him to anybody the DOT's messing with*."
How many eminent domain cases have you brought to trial and what is the largest case you've tried?
We have tried dozens of cases all over the state. And we don't back down. One of our attorneys handled a lot of the larger, more complex cases for the NCDOT. In fact, he tried the largest case the NCDOT had ever taken to trial at one point in time.
How much experience do you have working with business owners?
Many of the cases we handle are for business owners - from large industries to small mom-and-pop businesses. An important component we believe adds unique value to business property owners, no matter the size, is our former NCDOT experience.
What are the attorney's fees?
Some attorneys charge by the hour, while others take a percentage of your compensation. At the NC Eminent Domain Law Firm, we only charge a percentage of what we convince the government to pay you over and above their initial offer. For example, if your initial NCDOT offer is $250,000, we convince them to increase that offer to $650,000. That's an increase of $400,000, and we get paid the standard 1/3 fee of that $400,000. You net $516,668 (less costs, if any).
Do you have references I could contact, including appraisers and other eminent domain experts?
Going against the NCDOT can be stressful for some property owners. It's only natural you would want to know what experiences others have had working with your attorney. We are proud to offer references who would be happy to speak about their experiences working with our team. We also encourage you to read through the client testimonials on our website.
NC Eminent Domain Lawyers Evaluate Your Case FREE
If you have received a letter from the NCDOT or know your property or business is in its crosshairs for condemnation, contact us for a FREE case evaluation or call 1-877-393-4990.
* Cases or matters referenced do not represent the law firm's entire record. Each case is unique and must be evaluated on its own merits. We do not represent that similar results will be achieved in future cases.
**Each case is different and must be evaluated separately. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Average based on each case's increase as of 6/30/16.