Most average people don't really have much experience working with lawyers—especially not personal injury attorneys. You may think that once you agree to work with an attorney that you're obligated to stick with that attorney—even if you suspect they're not doing everything they could be to further your case or get you the compensation that you deserve. Indeed, sometimes it feels like once you sign documents and (possibly) fork over a retainer that you're in it to the end with this individual.
And while most personal injury attorneys do have your best interest at heart and most will provide their best work every time, there are rare exceptions out there. So what do you do if you've found yourself dealing with an attorney that isn't really giving 100%? What do you do if you suspect they're not the right person for the job? What can you do if you just don't get along with them on a personal or professional level?
Maybe you've even come to suspect that the law firm representing you in your personal injury case isn't sufficiently competent or experienced to handle your case in the way it needs to be handled. You may feel that your attorney is not communicating with you about your case, or that your interests may not be aligned with your lawyer's financial interests.
Rest assured, you're not "stuck" with this individual.
While some of those reservations you may be feeling could stem from failure to do your homework before choosing the correct legal expert to help you specifically, sometimes the error is not yours. Indeed, on the other hand, an attorney's advertising and initial presentation is often tailored to "wow" potential clients. These advertising and marketing materials can communicate a false sense of confidence about a law firm that lasts until you actually get into the "nitty-gritty" while working face to face with these individuals (specifically after a retainer is signed).
You do have the prerogative to change attorneys, especially if you believe that your representation or the handling of your case has been substandard. You have the right to the best representation possible and should feel comfortable switching attorneys if it comes to that. In some cases, you can even find a better individual to represent you without paying any fees. Even if you do have to "pay both lawyers", you will still only have to pay just a percentage of your settlement and the lawyers will hash it out between them as to what is a fair split of the fees.
While you can cancel your legal representation at any time, it should be considered a major decision, especially if substantial trial preparations or negotiations have already taken place, as your new attorney will have some catching up to do, and your original lawyer may be entitled to a percentage of your compensation settlement or award even if you've switched law firms.
However, there are several good reasons to switch lawyers even after your personal injury case has proceeded past the initial stages.
Bicycle Accident Client
I came upon Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers in a nervous google search for "Personal Injury Attorneys Near Me." I'd never needed a lawyer before. I didn't know how to find one - let alone one I could trust. All I knew is that I needed help. I'd been hit by a car. My injuries were not getting better. I was in over my head.
My brother-in-law (who works for an insurance company) found out I'd been handling the claim myself and was horrified. "That's what injury lawyers are for!!" So I started looking for one and less than an hour after filling out the intake form on their website, Annie called me back.
From that day forward, everything was just easier. My lawyers, Annie and Rebecca, helped me feel confident in my decisions and ultimately, got me a great settlement. They also genuinely cared about my recovery. The fact that Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers is an all-female law firm was part of the reason I decided to hire them and they lived up to every expectation. Annie and Rebecca were sympathetic, patient, and supportive. I appreciate everything they did for me.
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Here are a few good reasons to change your personal injury attorney even during the later stages of the financial recovery process:
One reason many people stick the financial recovery process out with lawyers they're not 100% comfortable with is that they think they may have to pay the original attorney anyway. That may not always be the case.
Whether or not you have to pay a lawyer's fees out of pocket is typically determined by whether or not the insurance company has already made an offer for compensation.
Your old lawyer may place a lien on any insurance claim or award you're given by a judge in an amount representing the work they've put in. That lien will not have to be paid out of pocket, but only be paid if your new lawyer secures a financial payout for you.
Your lawyer may submit a bill to you based on the percentage of that offer agreed upon before they began working for you. So, for example, if you agreed to pay 33% of an insurance claim (an industry average) and the insurance company has already offered you $20,000, you may be expected to pay around $6,000 out of pocket.
However, when you change personal injury lawyers, your old lawyer cannot add additional fees onto what you've already agreed to pay.
The only guaranteed way to avoid paying these fees to your old lawyer is to hire the right lawyer in the first place and avoid the switching process altogether.
If you intend to change your attorneys in the middle of the compensation process, there are a few steps you need to take in order to complete the switch.
Step 1: Find the right attorney to represent your interests. You'll want to have somebody lined up and ready to take over your personal injury case before you terminate your working relationship with your current PI lawyer.
Step 2: Sign a retainer agreement with that new attorney. This retainer agreement is essentially a document that expresses your intent to work with this new attorney and gives them the right to act on your behalf. In most personal injury cases, attorneys agree to collect payment only if you collect compensation and usually schedule their fees as a percentage of that financial award. This retainer agreement shouldn't require you to pay anything out of pocket.
Step 3: A “Consent to Change Attorney” for will then be delivered to your old attorney by your new representation. This is official notification that you intend to switch lawyers.
Step 4: Your new attorney will simultaneously craft and deliver a “stop work” which serves as legal notification that your previous attorney should stop all work (and therefore end all billing where it stands) because they no longer represent you.
Once all of this has been done, your attorneys have been effectively switched and your new legal team can get to work on your personal injury case.
The best way to find such a good personal injury lawyer is to do your research before you hire them. If you've never been through the process of finding an attorney before, it can seem daunting. Far too many people make decisions based solely on a lawyer's marketing materials—especially those flashy television commercials that use Hollywood actors and promise payouts. Unfortunately, you cannot make a good decision based solely on what the lawyer wants you to see. You have to do a little digging first.
If, at any time, you don't feel comfortable with that professional or don't feel like they are giving you 100% of their attention, keep looking. Most personal injury attorneys will agree to either meet with you in person or talk over the phone. This initial consultation should always be free. It should always be confidential. And it should always come without any obligations on your part. If at any time during this consultation you feel pressured into hiring the attorney or signing documents, take a step back and evaluate. Up until you sign a retainer, you're free to speak with as many lawyers as you need to do in order to find the right one.
A little extra research before you sign any contracts will help you eliminate the need to change personal injury lawyers after the process has already begun.