I cannot answer the legal questions that you posed in your inquiry above because you are already represented by counsel and I am not licensed to practice in California. However, you mention issues that you are having with your current. Anytime a represented person comes to me regarding issues with their attorney I always encourage them to meet with their attorney to discuss any issues/concerns that they have with their representation. Many times, I've found that many perceived issues are due to miscommunication between the parties. I would suggest that you schedule an appointment for a face-to-face meeting with your attorney. If you are unable to resolve the issues with that meeting, you may want to consider seeking other counsel.
You always have the right to change attorneys. The fee awarded will be the same, and if there are multiple attorneys they will have to split the fee. However, at this stage in the game it may be difficult to find another attorney. But you have that right.
Schedule a in-person meeting with your lawyer. Write out a list of questions and concerns to ask during the meeting.
Ask the attorney to explain the values of your claim, and the pros and cons of settlement versus proceeding to hearing.
If you are still not satisfied, consult a different lawyer for a second opinion.
Your summary of the case is a little unclear probably due to your anxiety and pain.
I believe you have stated that you had a primary treating physician and then a 2nd opionion PQME, and you disagree with the findings of the PQME. You should know that the determinations of the PQME are not always accepted as more credible or carry more weight than a primary treating physician's opinion. A judge will look to see how complete the report is (accurate history, complete review of records, and the reasoning behind an opinion). Furthermore, a judge will look a little more favorably towards a primary treating physician as that doctor has seen you many times and is usually in a better position to accurately assess your condition. A rebuttal medical report only helps if the there is a well reasoned opinion, not just a doctor stating a review of the PQME's report but disagreement.
Your treating physician should be asked to provide an Almaraz-Guzman analysis. If the primary treating physician does not include that in the report, your attorney should request the doctor to provide that analysis in the report. This analysis can only increase the permanent disability by stating the reasons for a more accurate impairment can be established through the AMA Guides, 5th Edition.
If you feel unsatisfied or have concerns about your representation, call your attorney for an office meeting to further discuss those concerns. If that is unsuccessful, then please feel free to contact me with any further questions you may have.
I can understand your concern. I do not practice in CA and I am only familiar with PA law on workers compensation but it appears that there are some things that are common in both PA and CA law. First, you say that you attorney is not acting aggressively for you. You are always able to get a second opinion. Call another attorney and ask if s/he will talk to you about your case. That might put your mind at ease. Did you ask your attorney about the settlement value and what value your attorney thinks is fair? Why have you not had the surgery yet? Surgery in most cases is either necessary or it is not necessary. If it is "possible in the future" then it might not have any true bearing on your case right now. If you need surgery then get it now..why wait? How much money will it cost to get a report from your doctor? Did you offer to pay for it or do you expect your attorney to put the money up for a report. Sometimes the reports costs up to $1,000.00. Are you willing to pay that money to help your case? Does your lawyer know that? The bottom line is you should be asking your lawyer lots of questions and demand straight forward answers. If your lawyer will not talk to you then you might have to consider getting another lawyer perhaps.
Although I am licensed in Georgia and our procedures are different than in California, I always encourage people who call me complaining about their attorney to try to talk to the current attorney first. Often the situation is resolved if there is better communication.
If you still want to change attorneys, you can. In Georgia, the attorneys on your case would have to split the fee so it will not cost you any more money to change attorneys.
A report from a Panel QME in and of ityself is more persuasive than any other, so I agree that perhaps your attorney should be seeking a rebuttal report or perhaps deposing the doctors. One would need more information and a review the rpeorts to effectively make those recommendations.
You can change counsel anytime you want and you would liekly get a new trial date based on chaing attorneys but the problem will be fidning an attorney whow ants to get involved at this late in the case. If you are going to shop around the case then you will need the Panel QME report and your treating physician's reports so some analysis can be made by any new potential lawyer.