If you’re involved in a personal injury lawsuit, it’s possible you may not have a lot of experience in retaining and dealing with attorneys. Perhaps you saw a billboard or television ad and went with someone promising big results. But as things progress and you have doubts about the strength of your case, you may be wondering: can I change my lawyer during a personal injury lawsuit?
The answer is yes, you absolutely can. The law provides for it, and the rules of ethics provide for it as well. It’s a bit like consulting with a doctor. If you want to get a second opinion, you can always go out and consult with a second doctor. And if you switch care providers, that is your right. It is the same with car accident lawsuits and other types of injury claims.
Of course, there are things to contemplate before, during, and after the process of changing lawyers in a personal injury lawsuit that you should consider before making any decisions.
Changing injury lawyers: Should you stay or should you go?
Some cases are more complicated than others. It can be frustrating to be in the legal system and you may find yourself buried in paperwork and bureaucracy. You may think the process of evaluating and pursuing a case is very involved–and you’re right, it is.
That being said, there are realistic expectations to have when it comes to a client-attorney relationship.
You should feel respected by the lawyer/law firm that you have retained. They should respect not only your situation but your time. They should be knowledgeable about the area of law involved in your case, and they should have a track record to prove success in handling matters like yours.
The lawyer or firm handling your case should speak to you about the specifics of the case, rather than making sweeping promises to try to get you excited about a big payday.
If you’re worried about paying double fees, don’t. Switching lawyers during a lawsuit won’t impact your fee. Typically, your new lawyer and previous lawyer will split your fee according to the percentage of work each of them did on your case.
Most importantly, since rules vary from state to state, check the rules in your state. Your state may require a judge’s approval to discharge your current lawyer and add a different one. Your new lawyer can file a substitution of counsel request with the court. Usually, it’s not a problem, but if your case is close to trial and changing firms will cause a delay, a judge might not grant approval for the switch.
Things to consider before you change your car accident lawyer
When it comes to switching car accident lawyers during a claim, timing is everything. Whether or not you will be able to find a new personal injury attorney who will take on your claim will depend on what stage your claim is in when you make the switch.
When you use two or more attorneys on a single claim, they may end up sharing legal fees with the prior lawyer. This could make your case simply not worth it for a new lawyer to take the financial risk.
Another factor you should consider before you switch car accident lawyers is the fact that the original attorney may have used a strategy that is far different from what the prospective new attorney would use. This will make it more difficult for them to take over the settlement process – and less desirable for them to do so.
Some of the main reasons for switching attorneys during a case
These are some of the main reasons you may want to consider hiring someone new, mid-case:
- You don’t feel comfortable with your attorney or firm
- You don’t get along
- They do not listen to what you are saying
- They do not understand you
- They do not grasp the nature or scope of your injuries
- They are inexperienced
- They do not grasp what happened in your case, nor do they understand the law behind the case
- They are rude
- They are unprofessional
- They have missed deadlines
- They give inconsistent advice
- They do not return your calls
Finding another attorney in the middle of a personal injury claim
If you didn’t properly vet your previous attorney, now is your chance to do things right. Don’t blindly accept a reference from a friend or family member. Don’t jot down a random name from a billboard. Take the time to ensure you’re making a good choice, otherwise, you will waste even more valuable time and set your case back.
Switching your car accident lawyer once is fine, but hiring a different lawyer every few months is going to make things difficult for your case. Judges are less likely to grant extensions to allow new attorneys to get up to speed on your case if you’re on your fourth or fifth firm.
When you meet with new firms, you’ll want to discuss with prospective attorneys what you are currently dissatisfied with regarding your current representation. What will they do differently? Who will be the point person to discuss the case with you directly?
In addition, you need to discuss case strategy with anyone who represents you. What are the steps to see this case through? And what is the approximate timeline for completing those steps?
Make sure you don’t fall (again!) for big promises, especially during your first session when the attorney you are meeting with may not have all the details of the case in front of them. If they say you will definitely be awarded more money than your current firm is estimating, ask them to explain why. It’s important this time around to select an attorney with several years of experience dealing with cases just like yours.
Most importantly, make sure you have secured a new lawyer before you let your previous lawyer go! They will know how to handle the transition properly without losing an excessive amount of time.
How to change lawyers during a car accident case
You’re changing boats mid-journey. You need to ensure that any upcoming deadlines will be met on time and that your case will stay on track. These are the steps you need to take when switching attorneys mid-case:
- Write your current attorney a letter explaining that you no longer need his or her services. You don’t have to cite a specific reason, but you may if you want to.
- In the letter, ask for a complete copy of your file. By law, you are entitled to have any documents or other evidence returned to you. You are also entitled to get any documents the lawyer has written regarding your case.
- If you’ve given your current attorney a retainer or money to use for legal costs, you will be entitled to a refund of unused funds. Request an itemized breakdown of all the expenses so that all of the money spent is accounted for.
If you need help with the letter, your new representative should be able to help you, but make sure the transition is handled in writing. In addition, your new counsel will have to notify the at-fault party’s insurance company to make sure that all inquiries are now directed to the proper firm.
Expect a few delays
Your new car accident attorney must get up to speed, locate witnesses, and do all the research necessary to mount a successful case. Patience is necessary during these first few weeks, so your new attorney can absorb all the information they need to properly represent you.
At Yosha Law, we take pride in serving the legal needs of our community. If you are unhappy with your current representation and you’re looking for a firm you can trust to handle your case in an effective and professional manner, contact us today.
You have the right to demand proper representation from an experienced personal injury attorney. You, and your case, are worth it.