True Story Illustrates Why “Doing it Yourself” Can Cost You (Big Time!)
When it comes to hiring an attorney for a land condemnation, some may shy away at first because they think it might cost too much money. At the NC Eminent Domain Law Firm, we believe nothing could be further from the truth! We’ve often seen the opposite to be true.
In the 10 years that I’ve practiced eminent domain law on behalf of both individual property owners, and previously for the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), I’ve seen “do-it-yourselfers” make big mistakes. Breaks my heart every time.
We recently settled a case that illustrates the problems people can face when they first try to negotiate their claims on their own without the benefit of an experienced eminent domain lawyer.
True Story Illustrates Mistake of Going it Alone
Not realizing that negotiating with the NCDOT is not like negotiating with a private property owner, our client* went forward with his own research to try to prove his property was worth more than the NCDOT claimed. Unfortunately, the research he uncovered showed the opposite – his land was worth less!
He contacted us to see if we could help.
Although the damage had already been done, we capitalized on our firsthand knowledge of the reputation of the NCDOT appraiser involved, and our knowledge of valuations of other properties on the same project. Fortunately, were able to get our client more than 50% more for his property**.
Here’s the part that makes me cringe every time I recall this case.
The client could have possibly walked away with more than double the DOT’s offer!
We had evidence and appraisers who we think would have easily supported that fact. But the client, through his own attempts to demonstrate his property value before we got involved, actually damaged his case with his own research. It was a hard lesson for him to learn that, had he contacted us in the beginning, he could have potentially walked away with 150% more.
Two Reasons Why We Don’t Recommend Facing the NCDOT Alone
1. It’s not as easy as you think. Negotiating with the government in eminent domain issues is not nearly as straightforward as dealing with private buyers. It’s much more complicated, with hundreds of nuances in the law – nuances that even a lot of lawyers can have trouble understanding.
Both Jason Campbell and I used to negotiate as lawyers on behalf of the NCDOT. As former NCDOT “insiders” we saw firsthand what property owners were up against: well-trained legal teams steeped in eminent domain law and processes. Teams who work with their “regulars” – appraisers, negotiators, other lawyers, title clerks, and others to get fairly predictable results.
By law, of course, the NCDOT is required to give you what they can prove is a fair offer for your property. However, fair can be and often is in the eye of the beholder – the beholder who offers the most compelling proof.
And frankly, experience negotiating on both sides has taught us that the NCDOT may be more likely to give higher initial offers if they know you have an experienced eminent domain lawyer on your side.
2. Negotiating with the NCDOT can potentially cost you more in possible settlement monies left on the table. Our firm works on contingency, which means our clients don’t pay us a dime unless we recover money for them over and above their initial offer from the government. That contingency fee is based on the difference between the government’s initial offer and a higher offer we may be able to negotiate for you.
In other words, if the government offers you $200,000 for your property and we can prove it’s worth $300,000, our attorney’s fee is a percentage of that $100,000 difference – not the entire $300,000.
Experienced NC Eminent Attorneys Who’ve Worked “Both Sides”
If you’re facing property condemnation, don’t try to take what you may think is the “easy” or “cheap” route by going up against the NCDOT alone. It’s neither easy nor cheap.
Contact us for a FREE evaluation. We’ll tell you if we think you have a case. Give us a call at 1-877-393-4990, or click here to begin your evaluation.
* Client identity has been removed or changed to protect privacy.
** 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. The outcome of a particular case cannot be predicated upon a lawyer’s or a law firm’s past results.