There are occasions where you have to change attorneys in the middle of a personal injury case. Occasionally, it's an issue where either the client or the attorney is unhappy with the professional relationship for some reason. However, most of the time, it happens because of something unavoidable—attorneys can get sick, die, or run into other problems that make continuing to represent you impossible. It can also happen because the attorney only agreed to represent you based on the idea that your damages would exceed a set amount and it turns out your case is worth less than he or she thought.
If you need to change representation suddenly, here is what you need to keep in mind so that you don't endanger your case.
1.) Don't assume you can't get another attorney to help you.
If your attorney dropped you because the value of your case isn't in the dollar range that he or she anticipated, don't assume that you can't find good representation somewhere else. Some attorneys only handle large cases where the injuries are near-catastrophic and the responsible parties have deep pockets. That's their specialty. Other attorneys are happy to work with clients who still need representation in lower-level cases.
2.) Don't wait to find new representation.
This can't be stressed enough. No matter why you are seeking new representation, don't let your emotions over the situation shut you down and destroy your chance at a fair settlement.
One of the biggest dangers to your case is that you could run past the statute of limitations, especially if your attorney hasn't yet filed your case. Attorneys often wait until close to the statute of limitations on a personal injury claim to file in order to gather the most information they can and to see how far you're going to physically improve (since that helps them determine what sort of damages to ask for from the defense).
3.) Don't hesitate to call the court about it, if necessary.
If you're due to be in court the following morning and you find out that your attorney was in a serious car accident the day before, call the court directly yourself if necessary. If your attorney is in a multi-attorney firm, they probably have a procedure in place that will take that burden off you. If your attorney is a solo practitioner, you want to make sure that the court is aware of the circumstances so that you can get a continuance on your case. Communication is the most important factor in these situations.
4.) Find out about any liens as soon as possible.
You may or may not have a lien against your case by your previous attorney. That may depend largely on why he or she is unable to continue the case and how much work he or she already put into the case. Either way, you need to know if you will owe the previous attorney anything out of your settlement or not—and so will any attorney who takes the case next. If you can get a letter releasing you from any liens prior to finding a new attorney, that can be helpful. Some attorneys may be reluctant to craft a fee agreement with you until they know all the details—which could leave you without official representation for a little while.
If you're in a situation where your previous representative is clearly not going to be able to continue, for whatever reason, reach out to a new attorney as soon a possible in order to keep your case moving safely forward and to preserve your rights. For more information, contact local professionals like Kidwell & Gallagher LTD.
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