Considerations When Firing a Personal Injury Lawyer

You've decided to end the client-attorney relationship. Here's how to handle it.

You have a right to fire your personal injury attorney at almost any time and for any reason. There are several things that you should consider before firing your attorney, and we'll explain those below.

-- Along with the right to fire an attorney, you also have the right to substitute another attorney. A new attorney should be hired prior to firing your current attorney. You should also terminate the legal relationship with your current attorney in writing and notify the court of any changes in representation. Read on to learn more.

Potential Reasons for Firing Your Personal Injury Attorney

An attorney may disappoint you for several reasons. These reasons include:

  • Unfavorable decision by the court
  • Lack of confidence in attorney's ability to handle your case
  • Attorney's fees and the costs of the suit
  • Disagreement with attorney about important case issues, and
  • Attorney's lack of attention to your case.

Firing an attorney will not destroy your case. However, it is best to take time to evaluate your reasons for firing your attorney. For example, you may want to add an additional defendant to your case because you think he caused part of your injuries. The judge denies the motion to add the additional defendant. The attorney filed a good motion and competently argued the motion in court. In this situation, it would not help to fire your attorney.

If you have other issues with your personal injury attorney, like an attorney's lack of attention to your case, you should first attempt to speak with your attorney about the problems. The problem may be easily corrected and you will avoid the time and cost of hiring a new attorney.

Steps to Firing Your Personal Injury Attorney

When you make your decision to fire your personal injury, there are steps to take to minimize potential conflicts.

First, look over your contract for legal services. Determine if there is a provision in the contract discussing the procedure for terminating the attorney-client relationship. If there is a reasonable, prescribed procedure, attempt to follow it.

Second, hire a new personal injury attorney. You should only hire a new attorney when you are certain that you will fire your current attorney. By hiring a new attorney prior to firing your current attorney, you will not be forced to handle any legal issues on your own while you attempt to find a new personal injury attorney.

Third, write a formal letter (preferably certified mail) to your personal injury attorney explaining that you are terminating the client-attorney relationship. This letter should be concise and should specifically state that the letter constitutes the termination of the relationship. In the letter, request that your attorney provide all your case files to you or your new attorney. Provide the contact information of your new attorney, including address, fax number, and email address. If there were any payment advances, request a refund of any remaining balance of that advance. Note that if you paid a nonrefundable retainer to the attorney, you will likely not be entitled to any amount of that retainer payment.

Fourth, if your case is pending before a court, you must notify the court of the withdrawal or substitution of counsel. This step should be performed simultaneously or immediately after notifying your current attorney in writing that you are terminating the attorney-client relationship. In most cases, your old attorney will file a "motion to withdraw" as your legal counsel or your new attorney will file a "motion for substitution of counsel."

Payment of Remaining Attorney's Fees and Expenses

If you owe attorney's fees and other costs and expenses to your personal injury attorney, you should pay any undisputed amount. Depending on the state and the language of the contract for legal services, your attorney may have the right to hold your case files until you pay any fees and costs owed to the attorney. The attorney is also entitled to file a small claims action against you if you do not pay your balance.

A personal injury attorney who has been fired may file an attorney's lien in court. By doing so, the attorney may be able to recover his or her unpaid fees and costs out of the final judgment in your case.

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