Lien negotiation is not required under the terms of most contingency fee agreements. However, most lawyers provide that service as part of their services in order to settle the case. Attorneys also frequently take a “hair cut” to make a settlement work. Obviously, if the client will receive very little or perhaps even owe money after a settlement, few clients would agree to settle.
Not all cases are winnable or will put money in a client’s pocket after all liens are satisfied. However, not owing money is a benefit of lien satisfaction.
If an attorney has already negotiated the liens downward to a reasonable amount and the client agreed to the settlement knowing the negotiated amounts, it would not be proper for the client to insist on further negotiation, nor would it be grounds to terminate an attorney’s services without payment of the agreed contingency fee assuming it is reasonable.
A client can always discharge an attorney. The attorney will simply notice and file a lien. A client is ill equipped to negotiate medical or other liens downward. An attorney has leverage -- an unrepresented client does not.
You may wish to review this blog post: Contingency Fee Recovery After Withdrawal or Discharge
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Lien negotiation is usually provided, but not mandatory unless it is included in the retainer agreement. The attorney is obligated to honor liens that he knows about, but should not disburse funds unless you agree. If there is a dispute, the attorney should keep the money in his trust account to let you try and work it out, or deposit the dispute money with the court and let you battle it out with the providers.
If the client has already agreed to a settlement, then it may be too late for the client to refuse to sign settlement documents because the defense might file a successful motion to enforce settlement.
Before the client accepts the offer, the lawyer should have negotiated lien reductions using as his or her threat to get the lien reductions the fact that the client won't agree to the settlement unless the liens are reduced.
Clients want to know what they will net out of a settlement, not the dollar amount before deductions. Lawyer and client should have a clear understanding of what the client will net before a settlement is agreed to.