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I changed car accident attorneys and my first attorney has a lien on my claim. Does he have to sue me to enforce it?

Los Angeles, CA |

I hired an attorney for my car accident. He said I had to wait for the insurance company to accept liability before it got my vehicle out of impound. Two days went by and nothing happened. So I got pissed and changed attorneys. Turns out my first attorney did nothing wrong and I was just impatient. When I notified my first attorney that I had a new attorney, my first attorney told me per our retainer he had a lien on my claim for the time his office spent on my case and I owed him $500 when cases settles. How can he try to enforce that lien? Will my new attorney give it to him directly if he shows him the lien or does my old attorney have to sue me to get it? Is he really going to sue me over $500. Is that even worth his time?

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Attorney answers 8


A properly attached lien is enforceable in most states and your new attorney will discharge it from the final settlement/judgement.

The author of this answer is an Attorney-at-Law, licensed to practice law only in the state of Arizona. Unless both you and the author have signed a formal retainer agreement, you are not the author's client, and the author's discussion of issues does not constitute legal advice. Opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author, and are neither privileged nor confidential.


He won't have to sue. He'll just notify the at-fault party's insurance company of his lien, and they won't give you a dime unless you take care of it. So you will have to authorize your new lawyer to pay him in order to get paid on your claim.


Be careful on this lien--make sure you discuss the ramifications of this with your current attorney--good luck.

*This information should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship.


He doesn't have a lien unless the contract you signed with him says so, using the proper language. Your current attorney can look into that for you. If the lien claim is proper, your current attorney will have to honor it and probably will insist on paying the first attorney out of any recovery you obtain.


His name will be on settlement draft. He won't sign until you pay him. He literally doesn't have to lift a finger.


Why not offer him something fair for his time and effort and avoid delaying getting your settlement? He'll likely accept something less than the $500, even though he's likely earned that amount, he's legally entitled to it, and you agreed to pay him a fee. Do the right thing.

This message contains general information about legal matters. The information is not legal advice, and should not be treated as such. This message does not form an attorney-client relationship.


If you are on a contingency fee with your new lawyer, then out of his attorneys fees the first attorney's fee should be subtracted, not from your portion. If you're new attorney thinks that he is Lena is unreasonable, then let your attorney argue it. However, this would not apply to any reasonable costs your first attorney incurred that are actually verified as being out-of-pocket costs. If he only had the case for two days, chances are that number would be next to nothing.

Good luck. And don't forget to be patient during the time your case is going to be litigated. Insurance companies are infamous for dragging things out. Cases cannot be resolved overnight if you're looking for fairness. Sometimes they have to marinate a bit to ensure you get top dollar. Hang in there and let your attorney do his/her job.


the insurance company will put his name on any settlement checks as a payee. He and your new attorney will resolve his lien.

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