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What can I do if my current lawyer almost cheated me of my personal injury car accident settlement?

Garden Grove, CA |

About a month after the date of my car accident, my lawyer/attorney supposedly wrote a check for $600, payable to me, as an advance/loan, which would be deducted from my settlement once my personal injury case comes to close. The problem is I never requested an advance nor did I ever receive the check. The secretary explained to me that It turned out that a paralegal, who works at the firm, accepted the request from my father, gave my father the check, and my father "signed on my behalf." I found out about this check because I was told the insurance wrote out checks for my car accident settlement and I questioned my lawyer why $600 was being deducted. I feel the lawyer should have confirmed with me about a request for an advance and handed ME the check and not to anyone else.

I didn't know an advance was given out under my name, dated in 8/13/12, until yesterday when I received a call from atty saying that the insurance co. issued checks for my settlement (1/3 atty, 1/3 chiro, and 1/3 less $600 & $20 for filing me). The secretary followed up and said that $600 was an advance my dad requested, he signed on my behalf and it was ok because this was sort of a "Korean style" or way of doing business. The problem is not the $600 that I didn't receive (I never requested for an advance and so I care less where the check went). They can go after my father as they should do so to recover their loss which would have been 100% prevented had they made a simple confirmation call to me directly. If I didn't question the $600, I would have signed the settlement check and lose $600 and never know why I was being deducted. My atty who is supposed to look out for me and put me in his best interest, failed to do just that due to his carelessness and put my privacy in jeopardy.

Attorney Answers 9

  1. Were you 18 when the atty was hired? If so, you are an adult. Your atty had no right to honor the request from your father. You can insist the atty give you the 600.00. The atty can then sue your father for the 600.00 Do you want that to happen? If you are a minor, and your father your guardian, then your father must acct for the money.

  2. Unless your father brought the suit on your behalf because you were a minor, then absolutely not. I'm not sure about California, but in Connecticut, that practice also happens to be unethical and can result in an attorney suspension. Demand the $600 from the attorney.

    This is general advice and does not establish an attorney-client relationship.

  3. Ask your attorney NOT to deduct any money out of your settlement.

  4. The answer to all of your questions depends on your age: if you are an adult (over 18) no one should be signing checks made out to you or taking any actions on your behalf without your consent. If you are a minor, your father can take actions on your behalf. However, you are not helpless in that case: state law requires that a judge approve the final disposition of your case, and if you have a problem with how the money was allocated, including that $600, you can raise it with the judge. Of course the best resolution is to work this issue out with your father and lawyer. I don't see how you say the lawyer cheated you when he gave the money to your father and your father supposedly (or should have) used it for your benefit. Your dispute might be your with your father, not the lawyer.

  5. Call the disciplinary board to resolve.

  6. In addition to the other attorneys responses about the inappropriate issuance of the check - Why not ask you Dad for the money back?

  7. It sounds like the attorney has agreed to restore the $600 to your account and disburse all funds payable to you. Note that you already received a full accounting -- no concealment or subterfuge. If the attorney is tendering all monies owed to you, then you have no remaining issue. Legal claims require more than "what if?"

    The State Bar is not going to pull an attorney license on the basis of these facts, and there is no outstanding reimbursement or recompense that must be claimed by you. Yes, it was a close call. But nothing you have stated here supports any inference of attorney bad faith or fraudulent intent. Your grief is with your father -- not the attorney who cannot be held to know that you and he are at cross-purposes.

    Handle your difficult family relationship as you choose.

    No legal advice here. READ THIS BEFORE you contact me! My responses to questions on Avvo are never intended as legal advice and must not be relied upon as if they were legal advice. I give legal advice ONLY in the course of a formal attorney-client relationship. Exchange of information through Avvo's Questions forum does not establish an attorney-client relationship with me. That relationship is established only by joint execution of a written agreement for legal services. My law firm does not provide free consultations. Please do not call or write to me with a “few questions” that require me to analyze the specific facts of your history and your license application and prescribe for you how to get a State license. Send me an email to schedule a paid Consultation for that kind of information, direction, and assistance. My law firm presently accepts cases involving State and federal licenses and permits; discipline against State and federal licenses; and disciplinary and academic challenges to universities, colleges, boarding schools, and private schools. We take cases of wrongful termination or employment discrimination only if the claims involve peace officers, universities or colleges.

  8. Time to have a SERIOUS face to face meeting with your attorney

    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.

  9. I tend to agree with the responding car accident attorneys. You need to have a face to face conversation with your attorney to go over your case and find out what is happening. Best of luck.

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