Firing and Hiring Personal Injury Lawyers
This blog explore additional aspects of hiring and firing injury lawyers. Call me at 610 642 7676 for more information.
Seek a New Attorney
If all attempts at resolving the problem with your lawyer fail, you should seek out a new attorney. You have the right to expect competent representation and courteous treatment. You deserve the same level of representation that the insurance company expects from its lawyers.
If you decide to change attorneys, you must take certain steps to assure a smooth transition. First, the new lawyer tells the old lawyer that you desire the change. The new lawyer may ask you to write to the old lawyer to advise him or her to turn your file over. The lawyers then must work out financial arrangements so that everyone’s interests are protected. The old lawyer is entitled to be reimbursed for the costs he or she has spent on the case and for the time spent-although that payment generally comes at the end of the case.
The second lawyer hopes to review the file as soon as possible in order to determine if he or she indeed wishes to represent the client. If it looks like the case can profitably be pursued, the second lawyer will take the case over. The case needs to be quite attractive since the lawyers have to split the fee. If there is not enough to go around, the second lawyer may make a business judgment that he or she is not interested in taking the case. That leaves the client with an upset first lawyer and a case in legal limbo. The client could be left with no choice but to go lawyer shopping. That is the risk you run when you fire your lawyer, and that is why it pays to select a good one in the first place.
Understand the Insurance Company’s Reaction
Insurance companies react in various ways to a change in lawyers. They may view the switch as a sign that the case or the client is a problem from your lawyer’s perspective. This can result in increased reluctance to settle and a stepped-up investigation into the merits of the case. Another possibility is that the new lawyer will breathe needed energy into the case, causing the insurance company to start thinking seriously of settlement. The reputation and ability of the new lawyer are key to the insurance company’s reaction to a switch in representation.
There is one thing you must avoid doing if you are dissatisfied with your lawyer. Under no circumstances may you contact the insurance company yourself. Whether you distrust your lawyer, believe that by contacting the insurance firm you will find out what was actually going on, or you simply do not believe your lawyer’s explanation concerning a delay in the settlement of the case, this is a big mistake.
Insurance companies operate out of a where there is smoke there is fire mindset. If you contact the insurance company yourself, this will signify to the insurance company that something is wrong either with you, your lawyer, or both. Once the insurance company smells smoke, the chances for a quick settlement will immediately fly out the window.
Then, instead of securing a quick settlement, your lawyer will probably have to file the lawsuit and prepare to engage in extended and expensive discovery. (See Chapter 9 of my book, Winning Your Personal Injury Claim, for more on discovery.) The insurance company will not only demand your deposition, but it will also undoubtedly subpoena every record that conceivably can provide it with information to use against you. It may subpoena your doctor’s records, your employment records, and maybe even your school records. Only after all this discovery, if it turns out that despite the smoke, there was no fire, will settlement discussions resume. Even worse, the insurance company’s lawyers often find something during discovery that can severely damage your case. If that happens, the settlement value of your case drops and the case may have to go to trial. The bottom line: never contact the insurance company directly. You should let your lawyer handle all contacts with that company.