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What to do when you PI case was handled completely unethically?

Graham, WA |

I had a car accident back in November of 2009, it just settled on or about December 14th 2012. I had hired an attorney who did very little if nothing at all on my case for about a year, after asking over and over for this attorney to close it up he decided he needed more info from me, it was clear that he was dragging his feet. After promises of closing up my case (my treatment was over, very expensive & the bills were mounting) he needed yet more info from me. Being completely feed up with his run around, I fired him. I have a friend that is an attorney and she took my case. She had it for nearly 2 years and little to no progress happened with it. She had two of her friends from Law school join and then suddenly they want 40% I signed their fee agreement 1 day before the settlement came

Attorney Answers 7

Posted

There's not enough information here to make an informed judgment. My first question would be why the case took so long in the hands of two different attorneys - were the attorneys not doing their job or was there something about the case that made it more difficult to resolve? I would also want to know why additional attorneys were needed to resolve the case. While the timing of the new retainer and settlement is unusual, more facts would be needed about the case and its posture at the time the new agreement as well as the settlement to say whether there is an ethical issue.

Good luck.

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Asker

Posted

I gathered all medical records, all work related paper, everything and anything I could do. I was hurt, it was confirmed by 3 doctors, this is/was a policy limits case. The first attorney was just totally clueless, the second (my friend "the attorney" and her 2 attorney friends) were even worse, they did absolutely nothing, but appeared at the deposition and they never let me know what was going on. I never recieved on written correspondence from them and I could never get them on the phone, however this past November 29th I get a call from one of them saying that he couldn't get intouch with the other two, ever, so he needed me to sign his fee agreement or he would withdrawal, so i signed it. In the fine writing it said that the fee would go up to 40% if there was a lawsuit filed, there was one filed by one of them months prior, but our Otis's agreement was 30% so I didn't think the 40% pertained to me. I signed the fee agreement on November 29th and the full policy was given the next day...something smell funny? I have since hired a new attorney because they holding my money hostage and refusing to give it to the new attorney. I am at the point of filing a complaint myself, the new attorney says let's try to handle it without complaint to the Bar, however it's now costing me money with this new attorney..,,any suggestions?

S. David Rosenthal Esquire

S. David Rosenthal Esquire

Posted

I would follow the advice of your current attorney. Hopefully you have found a lawyer whose advice you can trust. Good luck.

Posted

I agree with Mr. Rosenthal. Need more direction from you (poster). Thanks

Personal injury cases only; I'm good at it; you be the Judge! All information provided is for informational and educational purposes only. No attorney client relationship has been formed or should be inferred. Please speak with a local and qualified attorney. I truly wish you and those close to you all the best. Jeff www.nyelderinjurylaw.com

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Posted

You need to review the contract with the friend/attorney. You can discharge the attorney and seek new counsel.

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Asker

Posted

I have hired a new attorney and he agrees that all has been done unethically. We are in the process of trying to get the other party to release funds but they are uncooperative. I even agreed to pay them the 30% we initially agreed on. The 3 of them did absolutely nothing on this case, the opposing insurance company just wanted to close this up. This was a policy limits case from the beginning.

Kevin Coluccio

Kevin Coluccio

Posted

I would talk with your new lawyer about the issue.

Posted

If you feel you were treated unethically, your remedy is either a complaint to your state bar association or a suit alleging attorney negligence. I don't believe a Fee Agreement can or should be renegotiated by the attorney at the last minute. I suggest discussing this with your attorney before initiating a complaint, however.
With regard to the perceived delays, there are often good reasons for this. For example, did you continue to treat during the time period? Did you insist on settlement without filing a lawsuit? Did you ultimately settle your case for fair value? Most importantly, did you discuss your concerns with either of your attorneys? Finally, did you do anything that contributed to the delays you have described? Perhaps the fault, if there is any, lies with your level of cooperation as well.

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Asker

Posted

By that time treatment was completely over. I had also got every scrap of paperwork of the first attorney (medical bill, work papers, etc) by the time my friend recieved the case everything she needed was there. Basically statue of limitations was coming up, the 3 new attorneys filed a law suit, never alerting me that their fee was going to be 40% and not keeping me on the loop whatsoever, but letting me know a week before deposition that I had a deposition. I could go on and on. But after months of trying to reach my friend the attorney without luck, her associate said that he was going to withdrawal from the case unless I signed his fee agreement and then SUPRISE! My settlement offer for the full policy can through the next day! They are trying to hold me to the 40% althought we had discussed 30% and all 3 of them share it

William John Carlson

William John Carlson

Posted

In Washington, I believe the contingent fee modification that late in the game is unethical. Ask the attorney for a fee reduction back to the 30% you agreed to initially. Failing that, call the WSBA or go online and initiate the grievance process.

Posted

In WA, "A contingent fee agreement shall be in a writing and signed by the client". RPC RULE 1.5.

The RPC does not specify, but I would think that the agreement must be signed earlier in the representation and not "1 day before the settlement came".

You should discuss your concerns with your attorneys. If you are not satisfied with their answers and think they broke ethical rules, you can file a complaint (free) with the WA State Bar Association at www.wsba.org . The WSBA is the entity that licenses and regulates attorneys in WA.

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Kevin Coluccio

Kevin Coluccio

Posted

Very good points by Mr. Nguyen. The fee agreement can't change the day before settlement. The Washington Bar Association has a number you can call to discuss issues with lawyers.

Asker

Posted

Thank you. I was pretty much forced to sign the agreement or the one attorney told me that he would have to withdrawal from the case and then the next day I received news that the full policy was given.....strange?

Posted

Fee arbitration.

Only 29% Contingency Fee! Phone: 215-510-6755 www.InjuryLawyerPhiladelphia.com

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Posted

Discuss your feelings with your attorney. Or, you could retain a different attorney and ask for their advice in this matter. If you feel like something unethical has happened you can report the conduct to the local bar association but their disciplinary proceedings generally do not resolve fee disputes. http://www.wsba.org/Licensing%20and%20Lawyer%20Conduct/Discipline/File%20a%20Complaint%20Against%20a%20Lawyer. If you feel the fee was too high you can ask the attorney to participate in alternative dispute resolution with you http://www.wsba.org/Licensing-and-Lawyer-Conduct/Discipline/File-a-Complaint-Against-a-Lawyer/~/media/Files/Licensing_Lawyer%20Conduct/Discipline/Alternative%20Dispute%20Resolutiont.ashx.

My responses to questions on Avvo are for informational purposes only and are never intended as legal advice. Please consult with an attorney in your jurisdiction.

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