You have a contract with your personal injury lawyer but somehow your relationship has gone sour and you feel like you don’t want him to represent you anymore. You want to fire him but your biggest concern is if you will still have to pay him.
Personal injury lawyers work on contingency so they typically don’t require you to pay them until they’ve won your case. However, if you fire your lawyer, you will have to pay them based on quantum meruit.
The amount you are supposed to pay you lawyer will depend on the stage at which you fired them. If you fired them during litigation, then the amount you pay them will be much higher than if you fire them during the discovery phase.
Keep in mind that while you are allowed to fire your lawyer at any time there are a few things you need to consider:
Don’t fire him when you are emotional
Firing your lawyer should be a decision that you make based on solid facts and not in the heat of the moment when you feel like he hasn’t been answering your calls in good time.
It’s always a good idea to meet your lawyer face to face to clear any misunderstanding. In most instances, there’s usually a simple explanation as to why things are the way they appear to be. Almost all plaintiffs have doubts about their lawyer’s ability at some point and failure to address these doubts has made them part ways with unnecessarily. Now, this isn’t to mean that only the plaintiffs are at fault and their lawyers are victims. Most misunderstandings are usually as a result of lawyers not communicating properly with their clients.
We completely understand why a client might have doubts especially if they do not understand why the case is taking so long or why their calls keep going straight to voicemail. It’s important to schedule phone calls or face to face meetings to discuss how your case is progressing.
Of course there are situations whereby your lawyer is incompetent. For example, they show up to mediations unprepared or they are insisting on settling for a very low amount instead of going to trial. These aren’t issues that you can fix after a quick discussion so it would be a good idea to look for another personal injury lawyer.
It might not be easy to find another personal injury lawyer
Lawyers are always cautious about clients that have fired their previous lawyers. This is because most clients who’ve fired their previous lawyers are thought to be problematic clients in that they may have an abrasive personality or have unreasonable expectations. So rather than deal with a client who already has trust issues because of their experience with the previous lawyer, most lawyers prefer to take on cases that haven’t been touched by another lawyer.
Do you need to pay your old lawyer a fee?
If you didn’t have a good reason as to why you fired your lawyer, then you definitely owe them a fee. In most states, if you fire your lawyer before the monetary recovery stage in your case, you will owe them quantum meriut. How quantum meriut is determined varies from one case to another.
However, if you had good cause to fire your lawyer then your lawyer will not be allowed to collect a fee and you can even report them to the state bar.
What is good cause?
Outright misconduct or an ethic violation is considered good cause. For instance, if your lawyer wants you to bribe a judge in order to win your case or they ask you to falsify your medical records so as to exaggerate your injuries then that would be grounds to fire them with good cause.
The good news is that very few clients have ever encountered lawyers with such egregious offenses. Most clients usually have a problem with the way the case is moving along. They prefer to have it move along as quickly as possible. Other feel like their lawyer undervalued their case and others feel like their lawyers are poor communicators.
Always screen your new layer before hiring them
Now that you’ve fired your old lawyer, you should have a serious discussion with your new one about how much you will pay them minus what you owe your previous lawyer. You could suggest to your lawyer that their fee will be the same as the one you had agreed on with your previous lawyer and then deduct what you owe your ex-lawyer.
However, keep in mind that very few lawyers will accept such a deal so make sure you discuss fee arrangements with your new lawyer before firing your old one.
If you or a loved one have suffered a personal injury in Providence, RI, don’t hesitate to get in touch with one of our lawyers.