A previous article in this series explored what your attorney should be doing for you in a injury solicitors">personal injury (PI) case. This article addresses how to deal with an attorney who's not doing what he's supposed to do.
It's always amazed me how some PI attorneys sit on a case. Think about it. PI attorneys are usually paid on a contingent fee - meaning, they get a percentage of whatever they can get for you. Why then would your attorney let your case sit idle? To be sure, the attorney's overhead expenses aren't sitting idle.
The answer falls neatly into two categories - either your attorney is too busy, or he's too lazy. While the former is certainly better than the latter, neither is good for you.
Here's the steps you should take if you suspect your attorney is too busy or too lazy:
1. Speak to or meet with a top PI attorney in your area to find out what a real attorney would be doing on your case.
These consultations are almost always free.
How do you find the top attorney in your area? Not on TV and not in the Yellow Pages. If you like, you may call me or email me and I'd be glad to help you. The best way to email me is to get your claim value by filling out the 10 questions in the Claim Calculator link below. That will give me both your email address and specific information about your case (amount of property damage, medical bills, wage loss, etc.) I'm able to find, through trial lawyer association list-serves and other means, the top attorneys in every area of the United States. I communicate directly with the attorney about your case particulars, and if he's willing to meet with you, I connect you with the attorney so you can schedule a time to meet or speak about your case.
How do you know an attorney is one of the best in your area? Simple - he posts his million dollar results right on his website. attorneys that I help people find are the best - their results speak for themselves. An attorney that doesn't post their results on their website is not proud of their results. You can rest assured an attorney that has repeatedly recovered over a million dollars for individual clients knows how to successfully handle your file. Successful attorneys also have reputations that insurance companies are aware of. That reputation can make a big difference when the insurance company is deciding whether to settle for a reasonable amount or jerk around your lazy attorney until he persuades you to take a low-ball settlement.
2. Fire him or make him quit?
What happens if you hire him? It varies state by state, so check with the new attorney you meet with. Typically, attorneys are entitled to be compensated for the work they've done on the case up till the time you fire him. Usually, this is determined by the number of hours he worked multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate (based on his experience). He must release the file to you (it belongs to you). He may keep a copy of the file, but usually the ethical rules require the copying be done at his expense. The attorney can place a "lien" for the time he spent on your case - which is only paid if and when you get a recovery with your new attorney.
Important: If your new attorney really wants your case (and you ask for it), the new attorney will often pay the old attorney lien out of the new attorney's 1/3 fee. In other words, switching attorneys won't cost you anything extra. In fact, for the same 1/3 attorney fee you were always going to pay, you now have a much better attorney who will get you even more compensation for your injuries.
What happens if he quits? If your attorney quits, he can't claim an attorney lien for the work he has done. If your attorney quits, you don't have to worry whether your new attorney will agree to absorb the attorney lien within his contingent fee. And the new attorney doesn't have to worry about fighting the old attorney on an unreasonable attorney lien.
A lazy attorney will usually grow tired of a client who persistently calls the attorney demanding proof the case is moving forward. Frequent calls to the attorney usually do the trick, although it never hurts to "pop by" the attorney's office and ask to meet with the attorney, or if he's not available, his paralegal. If no one's available by phone or in person, insist on a day / time to meet in person. Tell them you'd like to review the entire file. When you do meet (or speak by phone), find out when the attorney intends to file suit. Filing suit forces the insurance company to hire an attorney (i.e. pay money). It also triggers deadlines the insurance company must meet. Without deadlines, the insurance company is happy to keep your money in the stock market - which is really how insurance companies have historically built wealth. That's why insurance adjusters are trained to delay the claim as long as possible. By repeatedly demanding that your attorney file suit, or withdraw from the case so you can hire an attorney that will, you may be able to get rid of that lazy attorney.
Feel free to contact me (through the free Claim Calculator below) if you have any questions.