My 2 sons and I were involved in a 2 vehicles collision on the I-15 in California last October. It was the fault of one of the vehicles. We have a lawyer, however I am not feeling as though we are in competent hands with him. I am curious if we are able to change lawyers without a penalty? His fees are that he is paid if we win- he gets 33% for my case and 25% per child. Are these average prices? We recently heard back from our auto insurance that pays up to $5,000 per individual for "Medical Payments". My lawyer told me today that I was awarded $4,300 and one of my sons was $5,000. He then stated he takes his cut from this. This does not sound right. Is he able to do this from our auto insurance? I thought he only takes from the actual settlement? We were told about the $5,000 per individual from our auto insurance before we hired a lawyer.
I would like to get a new lawyer, but am concerned this will further lengthen our timeline to get paid. Also, the accident was in the middle of nowhere between Barstow and Baker, CA on the I-15 so I am at a loss on where to find a lawyer. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you, Summer
All depends on what was stated in your retainer agreement. Please read it as to your med pay question. Yes, you can retain new counsel, but he will want to be paid for the services that he performed. Feel free to call any of us on this site . Many of us work that area where the accident happened. Thanks
You should consult with another attorney as use as possible to determine what you can do.
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Dear Summer, under California law, the client has the right to “discharge” his or her attorney at any time. The interest of the client in the successful prosecution of his or her action is superior to that of the attorney, and the client has the right to employ such attorney as will best serve the interest of the client. The relationship between attorney and client is such that the client is justified in seeking to dissolve the relationship whenever the client ceases to have absolute confidence in either the integrity or the judgment or the capacity of the attorney. A discharged attorney has the right to assert a lien for attorney’s fees and costs against funds recovered. The discharged attorney is entitled to receive no more than the reasonable value of the attorney’s services up to the time of discharge. The discharged attorney shares the total contingent fee earned with successor counsel, as there may only be a single contingent fee. Thus, in your case, the attorneys must work together in coming up with how they will share the contingency fee for your case and the minors’ case. The current fees being charged by your lawyer are customary. California law requires an attorney to notify a client promptly of the receipt of funds, including med pay. An attorney is required to contact the medical providers upon receipt of med pay and negotiate a resolution of the amount owed to the providers. I don’t know how every firm handles this issue. At my firm, we usually do not count med pay coverage as a part of the “recovery” because the money is earmarked to pay back the medical providers. I would ask your lawyer why he feels med pay is part of your recovery entitling him to take attorney’s fees from the amount. Finally, the location of the accident should not keep you from finding a good lawyer. Many lawyers will take meritorious cases in other counties and geographical regions within California. Good Luck
First off - yes you can get a new lawyer anytime. Second, if I understand correctly the $4,300 and $5,000 were distributions from your medical payment coverage to pay your medicals bills - if correct it is highly unethical for an attorney to take a fee from medical payment provision of your policy - as this is not a "recovery" (with the exception of an uninsured motorist case which then it can be considered part of the recovery). Additionally, those distributions from your policy must be reimbursed out of your settlement with the at fault party - which the attorney will take a fee from the third party settlement thereby double dipping on his fee when he take s a fee from your medical payments distribution. Lastly the 33% and 25% attorney fee is very standard.
You are free to obtain another personal injury attorney with no issues for the most part unless your case is already in suit. You would have to do so in writing (certified mail is probably best) and ask in the letter for your attorney to forward you a copy of your complete file. If the case is in fact in suit, generally, in most states, you would need leave of court to dismiss your attorney and be granted leave of court to obtain a new one, so you need to check your jurisdiction regarding this.
You will have to understand, however, that your first attorney will probably have a lien against whatever settlement or judgment you obtain (you will need to read the retainer agreement you signed, which is a binding contract between you and your attorney) for any work he or she has already done and for any costs fronted such as mailings, obtaining medical bills, etc. The legal term for this type of attorney lien is called a lien for “quantum meruit,” and your new attorney would be bound to honor the first attorney’s lien if notified by the prior attorney.
Because of this, I would be cautious about changing attorneys willy-nilly. I would contact your current attorney and ask for a face-to-face meeting to go over all of the issues, why he or she has handled you case in such a way, etc.
However, any new attorney will not take on your case until you officially dismiss your attorney in writing.
Good luck in however you choose to proceed!
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