Can I Fire My Lawyer Before Settlement?

From miscommunication issues to a lack of transparency, you may encounter several issues that indicate you need a better lawyer.

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Posted: 03/14/2019
 Personal Injury    Workers Compensation  

The aftermath of an accident can be chaotic and disorienting. If you are filing a personal injury lawsuit or insurance claim, you may rush to hire an attorney who can represent your interests. However, many Montana residents can find that they made the wrong decision when they decided who to hire. From miscommunication issues to a lack of transparency, you may encounter several issues that indicate you need a better lawyer.

Signs You Need to Hire a New Attorney

Despite the rigorous legal education, exams, and training that a lawyer needs to be in good standing within the state of Montana, not all attorneys are equally qualified. In fact, several signs point to an unqualified and unprofessional personal injury attorney. If your lawyer exhibits any of the following behaviors, start looking elsewhere.

  • Your lawyer fails to explain his or her strategy for your case.
  • Your lawyer hands your case off to a case manager instead of handling your case personally.
  • Your lawyer fails to return your calls and emails consistently.
  • Your lawyer fails to explain the value of your case.
  • Your lawyer does not tell you what you need to do to prepare for your case.
  • Your lawyer tries to push you to do things you do not feel comfortable doing.

How Easy Is It to Fire a Lawyer?

As long as you are not close to a settlement, you can easily fire an attorney from your case. You will not have to pay the full amount of legal fees and you will receive your complete case file to pass on to your new lawyer. However, if you are close to settlement and have offers on the table, it is not advisable to switch attorneys at this stage.

To fire your lawyer, simply send a fax or email to him or her as notification. Explain that you are firing the attorney and, if applicable, give a reason for your firing. Tell your attorney that you intend to hire another lawyer and give him or her a date on which you will need to pick up your file. Provide your contact information for the firm to contact you when your file is ready.

Will You Still Owe the First Lawyer Money?

You cannot fire your first lawyer and not compensate him or her for the legal services. In most personal injury cases, you sign a contingency fee agreement that gives your attorney a certain percentage of your settlement if you win, along with deductions for any costs incurred during the case process. While you may not feel satisfied with your attorney's performance, the lawyer can (and will) charge you for his or her time.

The fired attorney will have a lien for legal fees and various case expenses, such as filing fees and police report requests, related to your injury that you will have to pay. If you hire a second attorney, he or she will usually pay the lien to the fired attorney on your behalf. You still retain the lowered out-of-pocket costs of your contingency fee agreement.

For example, say that you hired an attorney who fails to respond to your repeated calls and emails. You hire another attorney to represent your case and he or she obtains a $100,000 settlement on your behalf. You sign a contingency fee agreement with the second attorney for 33% of the final settlement so that the second attorney receives $33,000. You receive $67,000.

After the settlement, the fired lawyer files a lien claiming that he or she spent $5,000 worth of time on your case prior to you firing him or her. Your second attorney will pay the fired attorney the $5,000 and retain the remaining $28,000 for his or her legal fees and expenses. You keep your $67,000 share.

Firing an attorney comes at a little risk to you, especially during the early stages of the process. If you are unhappy with your attorney services in Montana, find someone else - many qualified personal injury attorneys practices in the state.

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