Eminent Domain Definition

The Definition of Eminent Domain

Eminent domain definition is the power of the government to take private property and convert it into public use. The Fifth Amendment provides that the government may only exercise this power if they provide just compensation to the property owners. Federal, State and Local governments may take private property through their power of eminent domain or may regulate it by exercising their power. A variety of property rights are subject to eminent domain, such as air, water and land rights.

Eminent Domain Definition

The fact that you’re here likely means the government is contemplating the acquisition of your property. As the timetable progresses, you will be required to make decisions about your property. Your rights will be affected. Make sure that you become informed so you know what you can and cannot do. The Eminent domain definition, also known as condemnation, is simply the legal process that has been established to allow governments to gain ownership of private property for a public use. The eminent domain process can only be stopped if the proposed taking does not meet the requirements for public purpose or public necessity. If these tests are met, the government cannot be stopped from taking your property, but the government cannot dictate the price it’s willing to pay, either.

Eminent domain is an unwanted government intrusion into your life that will force you to make decisions about your property and your rights. Do you sell your property outright to the government? Do you proceed with condemnation? Do you hire an attorney?

Whether you hire an attorney depends upon your case. If you have an inverse condemnation case, or if you’re challenging the government’s right to take, then yes, you need an attorney. If the government gives you a ‘low ball’ offer and you want to pursue additional compensation, then you’ll need an eminent domain attorney to guide your through the eminent domain process and help you properly interface with the condemning authority. You will also need assistance with determining the size of your claim, identifying the necessary experts, negotiating your case, and taking your case to trial if negotiations cannot be reached.

Eminent Domain DefinitionDon’t be surprised if you’re unable to quantify or assess your damages; no one expects you to be an expert on land valuation in eminent domain cases. In fact, the government is counting on this.

To determine if you have a case, you need to consult with an eminent domain lawyer who can identify damages that lead to additional just compensation. If you consult with an attorney who doesn’t have this experience, they may overlook damages that could result in a larger recovery. Because of the highly specialized nature of eminent domain law, very few attorneys can claim expertise in this area. If you’re going to consult with and hire an attorney, make sure you work with a lawyer who only represents property owners in eminent domain cases.

Most eminent domain attorneys conduct a free case evaluation prior to recommending representation. Armed with this information, you decide whether it’s worthwhile to hire an attorney and pursue your claim. Continue reading to learn more about the costs and fees incurred when pursuing a claim.

The following states have attorney fee recovery statutes where certain thresholds are met:
Oregon, Washington, California, DelawareIdaho, Montana, Colorado, Oklahoma, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, New York, South Carolina, Florida, Arkansas, Louisiana, Wyoming, and Alaska

These statutes allow property owners to recover 100% of their claim by forcing the government to pay their attorney’s fees and in some states, their costs. Even if your state does not require the government to pay costs and fees, you can still hire an attorney on a contingent fee basis. With a contingent fee structure, the attorney only gets paid if they are successful at obtaining additional just compensation. In this situation, their fee is typically one-third of the recovery. Learn more about our fees.

Eminent Domain in Your State

You should know that your rights as a property owner vary significantly by state.  Also, the eminent domain process differs between states, and in some states attorney fee’s will be reimbursed by the condemning authority.  Because the law is unique in each state, we have devoted the remainder of our website to providing you with state specific information on the eminent domain definition, your property rights, and attorney fee recovery.

Please select your state to learn more.


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