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Can I fire my personal injury lawyer? Complete Guide With Pros And Cons

Accidents and injuries happen all the time. Those who cause those injuries are legally responsible for that damage. Most people who have been hurt recognize that they need a lawyer to help them obtain compensation for their personal, medical and financial losses, and guide them through the very complex legal hurdles they face.

Unfortunately, many people hire a personal injury lawyer without really knowing who they are hiring. Some of us are pressured into hiring an attorney who may not be the right fit for us or our case.

So what do you do if you have hired a personal injury lawyer but you are not happy with him or her?

The good news is that you are free to fire your lawyer any time. Yes, even if you have signed a contract (sometimes called a “retainer agreement”), which is required in Florida, you can fire or substitute attorneys at any time.

But what are the pros and cons of firing your personal injury attorney?

can i fire my personal injury lawyer

First, you want to be sure that this is really not the lawyer for you. Sometimes there are communication problems between lawyer and client. Perhaps the lawyer is not highly skilled in personal injury law.  Thousands of lawyers in Florida claim to be personal injury lawyers but they may just dabble in the field.  In this day of increasing specialization, the lawyer may not be fully immersed or trained in the very complex aspects of personal injury law and may not be a true specialist.

It may also be that the lawyer who you originally hired has referred you out to another lawyer who is really the one doing the work on your behalf. You have a right to know this and to find out if the lawyers are competent, capable and meet your particular needs.

You may also find that there is a personality conflict between you and the lawyer or the lawyer’s staff which makes continuing with that lawyer or law firm uncomfortable. Remember, this is your case and it may be the most serious legal matter you ever have.

Your future may be in the hands of the lawyer representing you, so you need to feel completely comfortable not only with the lawyer’s skills but also with their personality. You need to have enough of a relationship that you can reveal very personal and private details about your life that would ordinarily be confidential. If you don’t feel that level of comfort, you should consider changing lawyers.

Another reason for changing lawyers is if the lawyers do not listen to you and take into consideration your wishes with regard to your case. The lawyers should know what is necessary for the courts and the legal system, but nobody knows what has happened to you better than you.

If your lawyer is not taking that into consideration, or explaining how that fits into your case, you should seek another opinion. Likewise if you are being ignored by your lawyer or if they are not returning your calls.

Personal injury law covers a lot of legal landscape. There are car accidents, slips and falls, defective product cases (product liability), medical malpractice, negligent security/premises liability (someone hurt or killed from a criminal act), plane crashes, boating accidents (“admiralty” or “maritime”), traumatic brain injuries, sex abuse, nursing home abuse and neglect, construction site accidents, mass torts and many more variations of these.  This makes for a lot of legal complexity.

What makes personal injury law even more complicated is that most of the time your lawyer will be advancing the case expenses on your behalf. So what if your case really requires the services of several expert witnesses, many depositions around the country, site inspections, exhibits, investigation and more?  If your lawyer does not have the financial resources to advance all of the necessary costs to fight the other side, you may want to seek help elsewhere.

so can I fire my personal injury lawyer? Here are the pros and cons

1. There are pros and cons in changing lawyers. One pro is that you will hopefully find a lawyer who will be better able to get you a great recovery, either by settlement or trial. Lawyers that never try cases rarely get the best settlements because they have no bullets in their gun. Most insurance companies and defense lawyers know who the capable and highly skilled lawyers are.

2. Another pro is that you should have someone you can speak comfortably with about your case, and ask for advice based on their experience and skill.

3. Another pro is that changing lawyers should never cost you anything. If you have hired your lawyer on a contingency fee, that means the lawyers only get paid out of any recovery they get for you. Under Florida law, if you fire your personal injury lawyer after three business days, you will owe them a fee for the work they did for you but only out of the recovery your new lawyer wins.

You will never have to pay more in fees because you changed lawyers. Your new lawyer may have to pay the old lawyer some portion of the fee out of any successful recovery. That fee may be very small or nothing, or it may be a significant part.

In Florida if you fire your lawyer within three business days you owe them nothing for their fees. If you fire your lawyer “for cause” you may not owe them anything either. That would mean that you had valid grounds to terminate your lawyer’s services because they did something wrong or harmful to you or your case.

There are some cons to firing your personal injury lawyer.

This generally applies to situations where a client repeatedly changes lawyers. The other side, including the insurance company, will see a situation where they may think the client cannot get along with their own lawyer. Or the client does not take their lawyer’s advice. If this appears to be a pattern, they will treat the case with less respect and value it accordingly.

However, if you fire your lawyer and hire a well respected and skilled personal injury lawyer, they may assume you initially got into the wrong hands but were later directed to a powerhouse lawyer who will now be a greater threat. And that works to your advantage.

So now that you have decided to change lawyers, how do you do it?

If you have consulted a new lawyer, he or she will likely handle it for you so you do not have to talk to the first lawyer. They will most likely have you sign a letter to the lawyer advising them that you have retained new counsel and wish to have your file transferred to the new lawyer or firm. It’s as simple as that.

Once you have a new lawyer, they will take over your case. It’s important to be clear with your new lawyer about why you wanted to change lawyers and what you are looking for in your case. A good lawyer will listen but also give you advice and recommendations based on their experience, education and the facts of the case, combined with the location of where the case is brought, the insurance situation, witnesses and other relevant facts.

At Leighton Law, we are often approached by clients who have already hired a personal injury attorney but don’t think their lawyer is top notch. Sometimes we suggest speaking with the lawyer to try to work things out, as it may be a perception or communication problem. Sometimes we will agree to accept the client and help them. In rare occasions we will not become involved if there has been too much damage done and it’s too late to save the case. That’s why how you choose a personal injury lawyer is so important.

There are no cookie cutter cases in personal injury law. Each one is different because as people we are all different. Every case has its own facts and circumstances unique to the case. Discuss with your lawyer all of your concerns and questions.

When you feel comfortable with the lawyer you will know you have chosen wisely.

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