You should try to find another attorney in your local area if at all possible. Do not worry about your prior attorney as it is standard practice for a former attorney to file a lien with the insurance company. When you get your new attorney, inform him/her of the former attorney's lien and your new attorney will resolve the issue with your former attorney. Contact me at the earliest possible time and I can discuss this with you.
The above is general legal and business analysis. It is not intended nor construed to be "legal advice" but rather it is analysis, and different lawyers may analyze this matter differently, especially if there are additional facts not reflected in the question. I am not your attorney until retained by a written retainer agreement signed by both of us. I have been licensed to practice law in California since 1978. See also avvo.com terms and conditions item 9, incorporated as if it was reprinted here.
Every client has the right to terminate their retainer agreement whenever they chose. Your prior attorney is entitled to a lien against the file for the value of the work performed and it's impact of the result in the case. If you retained your attorney on a contingency retainer and all he did was write a few letters, and then you discharged him and went about resolving the case yourself then you have a strong argument for him to receive very little. If however it was do to his efforts that the carrier wanted to settle and in fact was willing to settle with him before you discharged him then he should be entitled to his retainer percentage. In the end there are many factors that will come into play and the best way to resolve it is to speak to your prior lawyer and negotiate a fee. We as attorneys are committed to work out these types of issues with our clients and our ex clients. In addition our retainers require arbitration for fee disputes between $1,000 and $50,000. In the event your are unable to resolve it with your attorney you can contact the bar association's mediation service and they may intervene and help both sides come to a resolution.
as I understadn your question, you are settling your case directly with the insurance company and want to know how much your former attorney should get. Assuming you signed a 1/3 fee agreement that would be the maximum he could claim. But given the relatively short time he was on your case I would expect the will agree to a significantly lower amount.
You or another attorney on your behalf need to contact the former attorney to negotiate an amount. He will want to know how much the case is settling for and he may in fact be entitled to know that. If you are unable to reach agreement on the fee amount, have attorney give you letter with his requested amount, supported by an intemized list of work he did on your case, and then you can have the insurance company issue two checks, one for his amount with his name and your name on it that you can either continue negotiating over and/or let court decide, and the balance just to you so that is not held up by the attorney's claim.
If your attorney withdrew at your request he will be able to collect reasonable value for his services. You may want to contact him to request the amount of his lien. If he does not respond contact the local county bar association and set up a fee dispute arbitration and the arbitration panel will figure out his fair share of fees. All these sound too time consuming for a small matter. Practical Tip: Contact another alwyer and open up a line of communication and settle this.
Get another attorney who can negotiate down the lien. Find a lawyer with a low contingency fee, less than 30%, so you get the lion’s share of the settlement, not your lawyer. Thus, don’t get hurt twice by paying a huge fee. Good luck.
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