If you're unhappy with your lawyer's efforts to settle your personal injury claim, you're within your rights to seek other representation. However, this is a decision that requires careful consideration.
Reasons to Switch Lawyers
Lawyers aren't fortune tellers or miracle workers, so simply experiencing a delay in obtaining a settlement or receiving an initial offer that’s lower than what you were hoping for isn't necessarily a valid reason for seeking new representation. Typically, it's recommended that you use the same lawyer throughout your case unless you have serious doubts about his competence and willingness to advocate on your behalf.
Possible reasons to switch lawyers include:
- You feel your lawyer doesn't consider your case a priority. Lawyers are allowed to work on multiple cases simultaneously, but efforts should be made to resolve each one in a timely fashion. If your case isn't making any progress and your lawyer can't explain why, it may be time to seek other representation.
- Your lawyer refuses to answer your questions and listen to your requests. Personal injury law is collaborative in nature. Even though you didn’t attend law school, your input is vital to the process.
- You're being completely ignored. If your phone calls and emails aren't being returned or your appointments are being canceled with no explanation, you may have cause for concern. No matter how busy your lawyer is, a paralegal or an assistant should be available to provide you with a quick update.
- You've decided your lawyer doesn't have the experience necessary to handle your case. One common mistake people make is using a lawyer they have a previous relationship with who doesn't normally practice personal injury law. Even if your lawyer did a wonderful job handling your divorce, this doesn't mean he's qualified to work on your personal injury case. Every area of law requires different knowledge and skills.
- You've caught your lawyer engaging in unethical behavior. Any lawyer who advocates lying about your injuries or falsifying evidence can't be trusted to handle your case.
How to Handle the Switch
There are several different steps involved in changing representation while your case is in progress.
- Determine the cost of switching. Personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, which means they're paid from the settlement you receive. If you fire your lawyer, he will have a lien on any settlement you collect. He won't get the full percentage you originally agreed on, but he'll be compensated for his efforts. However, depending upon the terms of your original contract, you might need to provide upfront payment before he'll release your case files.
- Find a replacement lawyer. It's a bad idea to dismiss your lawyer without first lining up alternative representation. Doing so can create unnecessary delays in getting the settlement you need to pay your medical expenses and being reimbursed for lost wages. However, when you're investigating your options, be honest about the fact that you're looking for someone to replace your current lawyer. Many firms will be cautious about taking cases another lawyer has been working on.
- Send your lawyer written notice of your decision to seek other representation. In your letter, clearly and objectively describe the reasons for the dismissal and provide instructions for where to send your case file. It's best to send the letter via certified mail, so you have documentation that it was delivered.
- Provide notice to the court. If your personal injury case is currently pending before a court, provide notice of withdrawal or substitution of counsel. Your new lawyer can help you with this process.
Turn to Neblett, Beard & Arsenault for Your Legal Needs
Neblett, Beard & Arsenault is committed to helping victims of auto accidents and other serious injuries receive the compensation they need to move forward with their lives. When you’re struggling to cope with a catastrophic injury, we can advocate for a prompt and fair settlement.
Please complete our online contact form to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with one of the firm’s experienced personal injury attorneys. We have six convenient locations throughout Louisiana: Alexandria, Baton Rouge, Monroe, Lake Charles, Shreveport, and Lafayette.