If you have serious concerns about your personal injury lawyer’s abilities or how your case is being handled, you may be wondering if you can make a change. Most people assume they have to stick with the first attorney they pick.
Not so! In fact, certain red flags should tell you an attorney isn’t the best fit for you and your case. Even if you’ve already forked over an expensive retainer and signed a bunch of documents, you can still make a change.
How to Tell an Attorney Isn’t Right for the Job
Your first clue that your current attorney isn’t the best choice for your case is that you suspect they’re not doing everything possible to get the compensation you deserve. Maybe they seem evasive about your questions about your case or don’t have clear answers about the path forward.
While most personal injury traffic attorneys do have your best interests at heart and most will provide their best work every time, there are rare exceptions out there. If you feel that your attorney isn’t giving 100%, it’s your right to make a switch.
It’s also perfectly acceptable to change attorneys because you don’t get along with them on a personal or professional level. The attorney-client relationship calls for good communication and a certain level of trust.
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. You’ve noticed they seem to be outsmarted by the insurance company or perhaps you no longer feel that your interests are aligned with your lawyer’s financial interests.
Many law firms’ advertisements and initial presentations are designed to “wow” potential clients and don’t deliver on their promises. You may have gotten a false sense of confidence about how things would go, and now that you’re in the nitty-gritty of it, you want to make a change.
Here’s a summary of good reasons to change lawyers:
- You doubt your attorney’s competence.
- There is animosity between you and your lawyer.
- You can’t get in touch with your lawyer easily because they don’t respond to your messages.
- You always get a legal assistant instead of the primary attorney on your case
- You don’t receive clear answers to your questions.
- Your lawyer has done or said things to make you question whether they are negotiating in your best interests and representing you in a fashion that’s 100% above-board.
You Want to Change Attorneys. Now What?
Rest assured, you’re not stuck with an attorney. You do have the prerogative to change attorneys, especially if you believe that your representation or the handling of your case has been substandard.
One reason many people stay with personal injury lawyers they don’t like is that they’re not sure how the fees will work. They assume they’ll owe double. That may not always be the case.
In some cases, you can find a better lawyer 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 can hash it out between them as to what is a fair split of the fees.
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.
If there has been no offer made:
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 will come from the payout if your new lawyer secures a financial payout for you.
If there is an offer already on the table:
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 – which is 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.
Steps to Switching Attorneys ASAP
If you intend to change attorneys in the middle of the compensation process, there are a few steps you need to take 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 lawyer.
Step 2: Sign a retainer agreement with your 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” form will then be delivered to your old attorney by your new representation. This is the 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. In most cases, this doesn’t take long.
Avoid a Change in Lawyers by Finding the Right One First
You can avoid having to switch personal injury attorneys in the middle of a case by finding the right lawyer the first time. Look for a personal injury lawyer with the right qualities.
- Experienced – Preferably, they have been practicing for years in your geographical area.
- Honest – You can trust them to be honest in the financial recovery process.
- Open – They communicate frankly and often with you to keep you informed.
- Ethical – They always put your needs first.
Don’t make a decision based solely on a lawyer’s marketing materials – especially those flashy television commercials that use Hollywood actors and promise enormous payouts. Do a little digging to find someone who truly matches your needs.
- Investigate their website.
- Read client testimonials.
- Get in touch.
- Ask for references.
- Know what questions you should ask during your initial consultation.
- Discuss your concerns openly.
If, at any time, you don’t feel comfortable with a lawyer 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 and the initial consultation should always be free, confidential, and without obligations.
If at any time during this consultation you feel pressured into hiring the attorney or signing documents, take a step back and evaluate. You’re free to evaluate as many lawyers as you desire until you find the right one.
We Handle Your Pedestrian Accident Claim So You Can Focus on Your Life
If you’re ready to change personal injury lawyers, contact the attorneys at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers. We handle many areas of the law. We believe you should be able to focus on recovering while we handle the legal details.
We truly care about the people of California. Contact us today for a free online case evaluation.