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I have a very clear cut auto accident case in which I was "t boned" and the ins. co. states clearly they have no defense...

Longwood, FL |

My attorney is apparently too busy and has done nothing on the case in close to 2 years. Finally after complaining he states If I wish to terminate him I can but he will put a lien for his services which he has not rendered. Apparently he thinks he should get a $1000 for nothing. He said (I suppose as a way of seeming generous lol) he would "waive his file costs". 1. What does he mean by " file costs" and 2. who wants to hear more about this case and what I've been through with this crummy unethical, possibly criminal attorney who apparently settled the case a year ago without my knowledge or consent?

people keep saying they are confused about the supposed settlment. To clarify he settled the case without me knowing it. How? I dont know the process. I dont even know if he really did settle it as I have signed nothing and not seen the check .I got a letter stating the check was issued a year ago. I asked the firm to see the case file and check and was denied. I know it sounds crazy but these are the facts.

Attorney Answers 9

Posted

Clearly you need a new lawyer and that should be your primary focus right now. What does your fee agreement say about termination? Typically a lawyer will have a claim for the value of the work done. He will have to show in some way how he gets to $1000. In any event that does not seem like a very significant sum and again the focus should be on getting good representation and moving on. File costs are simply the expenses to date, for instance, the cost for medical records and reports, the filing costs with the court and for service of the complaint on the other side, etc.

If you feel this is the "best" answer or is "helpful," please indicate. Since I am limited to the information you provide, I cannot guarantee the accuracy of the answer. You should seek the advise of an attorney who can explore all aspects of your question. This communication does not form an attorney client relationship.

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Posted

As a preliminary matter, I am not licensed in Florida and therefore am not one of the attorneys who can potentially represent you. Your question does raise ethical and other issues, but It is unclear from your question exactly what your attorney has done or not done. For example, you say your attorney has done nothing, but it sounds like he may have filed suit on your behalf and settled your case.

The reference to "file costs" may be the filing fee if a lawsuit was filed on your behalf. There may be other costs/expenses associated with your case that your attorney has paid on your behalf. Refer to your fee agreement to see if it explains exactly what costs or expenses you are responsible for.

You should consult with another personal injury attorney in your area for an evaluation of your case. Try using the Find A Lawyer tab on Avvo to locate an attorney in your area. Good luck.

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Posted

Nothing is clear cut in the legal arena. You can get a new lawyer by sending a termination letter.

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Posted

Your question is confusing: How was the case "settled" without your knowledge? In order to settle a case, you must sign a release. If you've done that, then your case is over. If you haven't, then the case is not settled.

Additionally, "no defense" generally refers to coverage, not liability. A coverage defense is a defense such as an excluded driver, lapsed policy, or other issue allowing an insurance company to avoid its contractual obligations to pay claims. Liability is rarely "clear cut"--even in rear-end collisions where there is a rebuttable presumption of negligence. This is because Florida is a pure comparative negligence state, and while claims adjusters decide liability pre-lawsuit, a jury apportions liability at trial. A jury could easily say you were 25% or even 50% at-fault, and you would lose that much of its award. Nothing is certain when it comes to a trial.

Your attorney--if you leave him--is entitled to be paid for the work he put into your case. He has apparently put several hours into it, ordered medical records, and paid postage, and we attorneys who work on contingency always take the risk there will be no recovery in a case. The amount you owe is called a quantum merit lien (or "for what it's worth"), and you do owe it to him if he can support the amount with his time and expense logs. I have one bill for medical records right now that consists of seven pieces of paper and a dental X-ray film. The charge? $50. That's money I lose if the case is a loser. "File expenses" may be a term of art. I use another term for scanning and uploading my files--I run a purely digital office--but other attorneys rightfully charge for the expense of creating and organizing their paper files.

I'll also caution you that when you refer to attorneys in the manner that you have, other attorneys will truly be hesitant to accept you as a client. I turn away prospective clients quite frequently simply because I think they will be more problems than they are worth. If you come across as a problem client, only the desperate will accept you, and none of us are required to accept clients (although I've had prospective clients who have thought otherwise).

Lastly, none of us can contact you. You must contact us. The Florida Bar's rules against solicitation are quite clear on the issue, so if you see a post whose author interests you, then contact that attorney. Otherwise, use AVVO's "Find A Lawyer" function (I've received two calls in the past few days from people who found me on AVVO). Alternatively, I suggest you have a frank discussion with you attorney about your mutual expectations. I personally would not accept a client who didn't try doing that before terminating his/her former attorney. To me, communication is key to a good attorney-client relationship, and it is a two-way street. If a client won't communicate with me, then I drop that client or won't accept the client in the first place.

I am a Florida attorney who practices in the areas of personal injury, criminal defense, and civil rights. My answers on Avvo are not legal advice, and they do not create an attorney-client relationship. If you contact me--please understand that I cannot contact you--then I will carefully evaluate your case and determine if I will accept you as a client. Unless you and I sign a contract for legal representation, then I am not your attorney. Furthermore, Avvo is a limited forum and not well-suited for complex legal analysis. You should always obtain competent legal advice from attorneys who will carefully evaluate all your case's facts. Avvo isn't the place for that.

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4 comments

Julie S Luhrsen

Julie S Luhrsen

Posted

Mr. Dillingham lays it out very succinctly & expertly for you here!

Daniel Nelson Deasy

Daniel Nelson Deasy

Posted

Great answer!!

Asker

Posted

thanks for your time and info. the case was settled by his accepting the first offer without my consent. I signed nothing. I recently found out the check has been sitting in the file for a year. The no defense reference is about who was at fault. A woman failed to stop at an intersection and smashed into the side of my car totaling it and there is no possibility of mutual fault. It is as clear cut a case as you can get.As for my characterization of the attorney, it's spot on. Unethical potentially criminal and certainly disrespectful and deceitful acts by this man make him a crummy attorney in my book and hope yours too. Cheers

Christopher Robert Dillingham II

Christopher Robert Dillingham II

Posted

The case is not settled until you sign a release. It has not been deposited or the funds disbursed, so you are in no way obligated to accept the "settlement" and are not bound by it. Your characterization of you being totally negligent free is a common but mistaken one. A jury could easily find that you could have sped up, slowed down, or swerved to avoid the loss. While I agree, based upon your presentation of the facts, that it is not likely, I can assure you that in my over 10 years of handling claims for an insurance company that I have seen many comparative negligence decisions that would should you, and a few shocked me. If you feel that strongly about your attorney, then terminate the relationship. I won't comment upon your assessment of his character. That's between you and him, and there are often far more than two sides to every story. In any event, you owe the attorney for any rightfully supported lien. I'd tell any new attorney about the lien so it can be properly addressed during closing. The last thing you want is an attorney chasing you for money that you owe him. Personally, I convey every piece of documentation to my clients that I get from or send to opposing counsel, and my clients can see all of it in real time on MyCase, a cloud-based client management system. I highly suggest you find out if your next attorney has such a capability. MyCase also documents when clients sign in and if they looked at certain documents. I can also schedule reminders for myself and the client about court appearances and other important dates. Please be sure to get your file from your attorney: You're entitled to it, and frankly, the attorney may have done a lot more work than you realize. In fact, he may have done enough so that you can negotiate and settle the case yourself. Your weakness, of course, is that probably don't know the approximate value of your claim or how to counter the adjuster's arguments. Under no circumstances, though, would I encourage anyone to sue an insurance company pro se (without a lawyer). Good luck.

Posted

You might start by scheduling a face to face meeting with your attorney so you can get clarity as to what has or has not been done yet (your question is unclear as in one place you say he has done nothing for 2 yrs & in another you say he settled your case a yr ago) and determine whether you want to continue with him or not.
Otherwise, you should know that typically...
*your attorney will front your costs (postage to filing fees & so forth) and is entitled to be reimbursed for that at the end of your case. your retainer agreement will spell this out.
*once work is done on your case, especially if there is an settlement offer outstanding, then your attorney can assert a lien for the time & costs expended on your case should you decide to hire a new attorney; it sounds like your attorney said he'd waive the costs portion of his lien here.
*liens & other details related to your case are factors new attorneys consider as to whether or not they would be willing to take your case.
*you, the client, are the one that decides whether or not to accept a settlement offer; obviously your attorney provides his best advice as to whether or not this is the right move, but you authorize the acceptance.
hope this helps - good luck.

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Posted

I suggest you sit down with him and "clear the air" if possible. Look in your contract, there will likely be an hourly rate should you terminate his services for time put in on the file. Additionally, costs are things it takes to run a file, from postage/photocopies, etc., to medical records, reports, filing fees, etc. As a personal injury lawyer in Florida for 19 years, I can nothing comes easy or quickly these days. Ultimately if you can't work it out, you can terminate his services, but you will end up paying his lien and the new attorney's fees/costs as well. Good luck.

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Posted

Sorry to here about the bad experience. How could he have settled the case a year ago and now ask for a lien on the file? What I would do is hand deliver the termination letter and get a complete copy of the file. A 1000 lien is not much. The file should contain a breakdown of costs. Then I would hire another attorney. If your new attorney sees anything improper, he can call that attorney and ask him to explain. If he cannot explain then you file a complaint with the state bar. Good Luck!

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2 comments

Asker

Posted

Thanks for the reply Sir. I added to the original post to clear things up but the lien aspect is related to his options he sent me 1.accept the check with his fee taken out 2.terminate him and he will put a lien. I think I have a 3rd option : terminate for cause and fight his right to impose a lien by suing him for it or however you would go about it. I dont think you should get paid for screwing me around and being clearly unethical if not criminal never mind the sheer disrespect and contempt for me. He has done nothing on the case other than having his secretary write a demand letter. He should try to save face and just withdraw from the case.

Gerald R Stahl

Gerald R Stahl

Posted

I do not think that will fly. There are too many variables for me to intelligently comment. Good Luck!

Posted

Consult a local attorney to discuss your questions & concerns

This is not intended to be legal advise or as legal representation. I am a California personal injury attorney . Be aware that every state has its own statute of limitations; and statutes & case laws that govern the handling of these matters.

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Posted

I agree that a sit down with your attorney is overdue. You can always discharge an attorney and seek new representation. But first give your attorney an opportunity to answer your questions and to clarify the issues you have raised.

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