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Lien on case by discharged personal injury attorney is preventing me from finding new representation- help!

Portland, OR |

I was in a terrible motor vehicle accident in 2008, and have been deemed disabled due to my injuries. I had at attorney who represented me from 2008- mid 2009 who did NOTHING (i.e. he only billed 16 hours of work in about 18 months- less than an hour of work per month). I would call him to tell him that I was losing all of my money to medical bills and was unable to work, but he wouldn't do anything! When my financial situation became unbearable, I fired this attorney and sought other representation. Other attorneys will not take my case because the first attorney has a 20% lien against any award I receive in this case (which would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $200,000+ because of my umbrella insurance policy, which is involved). Is there anything I can do? I need representation!

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Attorney answers 5


either call the oregon trial lawyers association to get the name of a member in your area or the local county bar association for its referral list. it sounds like you have a very good case and onewould think there are pleny of lawyers there who want your case. idk oregon law, but in indiana the prior lawyer would only be entitled to a fee for the value of what he/she did vs what the new lawyer does. he/she may claim 20% but that may not end up being the case. good luck.


Don't give up! Based on the description of your injuries, you really should be represented by an attorney in maximize your chances of recovering fair compensation.

You didn't mention what kind of fee agreement you had with the attorney that you discharged. You mentioned that the attorney billed hourly, which seems uncommon for representation arising out of an automobile accident case. You will need to discuss these matters with an OR personal injury attorney.

Do you have a copy of your fee agreement between you and your former attorney? You should have this on hand when you speak to other attorneys. Attorneys in your state can advise you on the scope of your former attorney's lien rights.

Bottom line, keep contacting personal injury attorneys until you come to fully understand what options are available to you.

You can search for personal injury attorneys on, using the "find a lawyer" feature. Also, look on and in your local yellow pages.

Best of luck in this matter.

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As to the fees, in CA you would be able to contest them through either the local or state bar. You might contact the state bar of Oregon.

The above is not intended as legal advice. The response does not constitute the creation of an attorney client relationship as this forum does not provide for a confidential communication.


Get a new personal injury lawyer who will work something out with respect to the fees owed to the prior lawyer or do fee arbitration.

Licensed in PA & NJ. 29% Contingency Fee. Phone: 215-510-6755


Based on your statement, it is difficult to understand if your attorney took your case on a contingent-fee basis or whether or not he was billing you by the hour. When a contingent-fee attorney is discharged without cause, he can claim payment for his work on the case on a quantum merit basis. If he is discharged for cause, as you appear to indicate, he may not be entitled to any recovery at all. No matter what has happened, he is not entitled to a 20% lien, as that is not what quantum meruit generally means. Any attorney looking to take on your case should be familiar with your first attorney's ability to successfully press his lien claim. An attorney does not get a contingency percentage when he is discharged, you are limited to quantum meruit in any State that I am aware of. Of course, your particular state law needs to be further researched.

Given the severity of your injuries, you must continue to search for an attorney who understands the attorney lien issue and is willing to represent you on your claim.

Legal Disclaimer:

If this information has been helpful, please indicate below.

Mr. Lundeen is licensed to practice law in Florida and Vermont. The response herein is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship. The response is in the form of legal education and is intended to provide general information about the matter within the question. Oftentimes the question does not include significant and important facts and timelines that, if known, could significantly change the reply and make it unsuitable. Mr. Lundeen strongly advises the questioner to confer with an attorney in your state in order to ensure proper advice is received.

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