Have you lost confidence in your attorney? Do they keep you in the loop on the details of your case? Are you unhappy with the results, or lack thereof, with your personal injury claim or case?
It may be time to consider seeking out a second opinion regarding your claim, and if necessary, change your legal counsel.
You are entirely within your rights to fire your personal injury lawyer here in Utah. You are the one who hired them and at any time and for almost any reason, it is within your rights to let them go.
There are many different reasons for wanting to fire your attorney. Some of these reasons include:
- lack of confidence in your attorney’s ability to handle your case;
- disagreements with your attorney about your case;
- attorney’s lack of attention to the details of your case or to you.
Before moving forward, however, there are a few things you should consider about your case and your attorney. We often see clients wanting to fire their attorney because they believe the attorney did not get them a large enough settlement. The truth of the matter is, your case may not be valued as highly as you would like, and no amount of legal assistance will yield the results you’re looking for.
This is why it is important that you get clear about realistic expectations of your specific case with the attorneys you interview before hiring them for the job. A good attorney will never give you a specific dollar amount upfront, or a guarantee on how quickly it will be settled, they can however tell you how realistic it is to make a claim, and how confident they are on your specific claim and case about the legal process. You can learn more about language to look out for when you are hiring an attorney to see where their priorities are, your best interests or their pocketbooks.
So how do you decide whether your attorney is just getting bad results? Well, let’s look at a few red flags and warning signs.
1. Is there a lack of communication?
Trust and communication between you and your attorney are vital to the success of your case.
You should never feel like you’re being left in the dark with your legal case. Even if your case takes a long time you should get updates on a consistent and regular basis.
Here are a few questions to consider:
- What actions is your attorney taking to build your trust?
- How often are you speaking with them or someone from their office?
- Do you feel like your attorney understands you and your case?
- When was the last time your attorney checked in to see how your case is affecting your daily life?
- Do they understand your injury (or injuries)?
- Do they forget your name or the details of your accident?
- Do you have to repeat yourself about specific details of what happened on a regular basis?
- Are they willing to take the time to listen and address your concerns?
If you ask questions related to your case and they don’t have answers, chances are they don’t really know your case and are not advocating for you with the best intentions. Often, attorneys will request settlements from insurance companies without even reviewing the records or understanding the effect these injuries have had on your life. This can have a huge impact on your claim, and case.
You have to feel comfortable with whoever is advocating for you and build a relationship of trust that whatever they’re advising is based on the facts of the case rather than their business model and negotiating style. Each case is unique and requires different negotiation conversations. If you’re uncomfortable with the knowledge your attorney has on your case and your injuries, chances are you need a new attorney.
2. Who is handling your case?
The attorney you hire must do everything reasonably feasible to advocate for you and your case. Many attorneys don’t always handle every single part of a client’s case. They will use the support of a paralegal or assistant to prepare letters and legal documents or oversee a junior associate’s work on the case.
While having associates help with cases is not in and of itself wrong or bad, if the paralegal knows more about your case than your attorney, this is a factor you should take into consideration. Your attorney should be fully aware of what is happening in the case, stay up to date on the details, knowing which part of the process your case is in preparing for the next step and handling the more complicated legal concerns.
It’s important to remember that you should never take direct legal advice from your attorney’s paralegal or assistance. They can act as the go-between and relay answers but don’t ever accept advice that hasn’t come directly from your attorney. They should ALWAYS be your primary point of contact.
If, for whatever reason, the attorney you hired is not part of the team working on your case, that is cause for concern and a big red flag.
3. Your attorney is disorganized or unprepared.
Does your attorney know who you are? Are you constantly having to remind them or explain who you are and what happened to you every time you call or meet your attorney?
To put it bluntly, how professional is your attorney’s behavior. What does their office look like? Are things clean, well-organized, and put together? If you walk into your attorney’s office to a desk piled full of case documents and have to wait while they search for yours, this is a red flag.
While it may take a few moments to make sure they have your file, if they have to spend a significant amount of time to find your file for a scheduled meeting, that is definitely cause for concern.
The last thing you want is for your attorney to show up for a planned meeting or in court unprepared.
4. Has your attorney done something that will jeopardize your case?
Have you been asked to do something by your attorney that makes you uncomfortable or could possibly be seen as illegal? An example of this could be your attorney exaggerating the extent of your injuries or asking you to lie about the severity of the injuries you received.
Are they offering you a paid upfront bonus for choosing them as an attorney? Are they directing your treatment or medical care saying you can only go to specific providers or physicians? All of these are RED Flags that they care more about their bottom line than your best interests.
It is also illegal for a lawyer to direct care or provide required medical treatment or physicians. An attorney can give you recommendations, but ultimately who you seek out for medical treatment is your choice, not theirs.
Other things that justify firing your attorney include if they have committed any act that is considered unethical behavior such as breaking attorney-client privilege, asking you to do something you’re not comfortable with, or failing to inform you of specific details of settlement proceedings.
Next Steps to Firing Your Personal Injury Attorney
- Review your contract: Find out if there is a termination clause, and if so, what stipulations are listed and follow the terms of the agreement. In the state of Utah, you hired the attorney so you can fire them at will.
- Write a formal termination notice: Any legal changes made to the relationship you have with your attorney should be done in writing. Explain why you are ending the relationship and add any specified deadline as stated by the contract and send the notice (we recommend certified mail). In some cases, if you have hired a new attorney, they can help you with the termination process.
- Hire a new lawyer: You don’t want to be left without legal representation, especially if your claim hasn’t been settled or your case is active in court.
- Notify the court: If your case is currently within the court system, you must notify them of your new legal representation.
- Pay your old attorney: Despite firing your attorney, you may still owe them for work completed. The contract signed between you and your old attorney will state whether or not payment of termination fees is required, along with any costs incurred up to that point. This will vary depending on the attorney and it shouldn’t stop you from seeking out another lawyer if they are not meeting your needs.
If you are looking for a second legal opinion or have recently fired your legal representation and are looking for new representation, contact us at Johnson | Livingston to schedule a free consultation or by calling (801) 948-9670 to discuss your case free and confidentially.