When you hire a personal injury lawyer after a serious accident, you are putting your trust—and in a way your life— in their hands. It’s absolutely vital that you hire a personal injury lawyer that you know, like, and trust.
Unfortunately, many, many people only realize after the fact that their lawyer is not what they thought. Maybe it’s a lack of communication, maybe it’s a lack of faith in their abilities, maybe it’s simply that you are unsatisfied with their handling of your case.
Whatever the reason, if you are unhappy with your current personal injury lawyer, you can and should consider hiring a new lawyer. If your gut is telling you that it isn’t a good fit, listen!
Common Client Complaints
I consistently hear stories from my clients (and other people) about their previous experiences with personal injury attorneys. The basic horror story goes like this:
“I was severely injured in an accident. I hired a big law firm with a flashy billboard that had a big dollar sign on it. Six months in, I couldn’t get in touch with anyone, when I did it was an assistant, I was never quite sure who my lawyer was, and —oh yeah—I was drowning in medical bills. Eventually, my case settled. But the entire experience left a bad taste in my mouth.”
Aspects of this narrative can differ. For example, maybe they hired the lawyer based on a 45-second Google search, or maybe they can reach the lawyer, but he’s dismissive and condescending, or maybe the case is still going on a year or more later.
Once they finish their story, I tell these unhappy clients something they apparently did not know: The Statement of Client’s Rights that they received and the representation agreement they signed explicitly state that they could sever the attorney-client relationship. In short, they could have fired their lawyer at any time.
I am certainly not advocating that clients fire their personal injury attorneys on a whim. That would be like divorcing your spouse after a single argument. Afterall, it’s very likely that at some point during your case you will be unhappy that, for example, your case is taking too long or you aren’t being kept in the loop. Unfortunately, other parties are involved and not all delays are your lawyer’s fault. Plus, such issues can often be fixed by talking them through with your attorney.
However, being unprepared at depositions, hearings, or mediations are legitimate concerns. In still worse cases, lawyers may act unethically, get disbarred, or simply disappear. If you have lost faith in your lawyer’s ability or desire to properly handle your case or if there has been a repeated pattern of poor behavior, switching attorneys might be the best option for you.
How to Avoid Picking the Wrong Personal Injury Lawyer
A few years ago, a friend told me that “people spend more time deciding what TV to buy than which lawyer to hire.” I can’t vouch for her sources, but my experience bears out the point. Many of these legal horror stories could have been avoided had the clients done a bit more due diligence up front to make sure they hired the right lawyer.
Clients who are the most unhappy with their choice in lawyer often committed one of these cardinal sins:
Blindly hired based on a recommendation. Recommendations from a friend or family member are fantastic and reduce your leg work, but your friend or cousin isn’t a lawyer. They don’t necessarily know what lawyer is right for your case. It’s vital that you verify the background or credentials of any recommendations.
Hired a lawyer that practices a different type of law. That your cousin’s wife or neighbor’s brother is a good business attorney or bankruptcy lawyer doesn’t mean they’ll be capable of handling your personal injury case.
Was misled by a billboard that flaunted huge dollar amounts. Each case and fact pattern are different. That one accident settled for $400,000 in no way implies that yours will too. And the “billions recovered for clients” statistic may be the sum of 10–20 lawyers over 30+ years of practice.
Contacted multiple lawyers and hired the first one to respond. A quick response to an initial inquiry shouldn’t be the prime consideration in hiring a lawyer any more than you should buy a car from the first dealership you see. Often, the big, “settlement-mill” law firms are able to respond much quicker than smaller practices simply because they have employees whose only job is to respond to such inquiries.
In the aftermath of a serious injury, choosing a personal injury lawyer is one of the most important and consequential decisions you will make. Despite the gravity, many people put more effort into choosing their next car than into hiring a lawyer to help them recover after an accident.
Fixing Your Mistakes
That being said, if you have already committed one of these sins and hired a personal injury attorney that you now can’t work with, here’s what you can do.
You should have found a new lawyer to take over your case before you fire your current lawyer. This will allow a smoother transition from one to other and, importantly, ensure that your case isn’t delayed or negatively affected.
Sign representation and fee agreement with the new attorney that gives them the right to represent you. You will likely receive multiple forms with this agreement, including the Statement of Client’s Rights and a HIPAA release.
Once you’re formally represented, your new lawyer will draft a “Consent to Change Attorney” form. This document tells the court, the attorney you are firing, and all other parties involved in your case that you have new legal representation.
Finally, your new lawyer will send a “Stop Work” letter to your previous lawyer that tells them to stop working on your case and to send any files or documents related to your case to your new lawyer.
Getting on the Right Path
If you are here, chances are that you or someone you know has been injured in an accident and that you are struggling with your current lawyer. We are truly sorry that you are going through this. You are worrying about many things right now, but whether you need a new lawyer shouldn’t be one of them.
Remember that you can break your attorney-client relationship if you feel you would be better served by a new personal injury lawyer. Afterall, the insurance company has qualified attorneys on their side to protect their interests—so should you.
The personal injury lawyers here at Personal Injury & Accident Law Center would love to speak to you about your case and tell you how we can help you get on the path to a full recovery. Call us today at (561)372-3800 or fill out a case evaluation form and a team member will contact you soon.