Can I Fire My Workers' Compensation Lawyer in Pennsylvania?
There are many things to consider when you have become dissatisfied with your lawyer's representation.
How is a Workers' Compensation Lawyer paid?Workers' Compensation lawyers are paid through contingent fees. A contingent fee is one that is contingent on certain events occuring. If those events do not occur then there is no fee. In Workers' Compensation, there are three contingencies that trigger the attorney's right to a fee. The first contingency is if the lawyer obtains benefits on your behalf. This usually occurs when the claim is initially denied and the attorney is successful in getting a judge to award benefits. The second contingency occurs when the insurance company challenges your right to ongoing benefits and your attorney is successful in defeating the challenge to your benefits. The third contingency occurs when your attorney successfully negotiates a lump sum settlement of your claim in exchange for a release of your benefits. The contingent fee in Workers' Compensation cases is typically 20%.
When should I consider changing Workers' Compensation lawyers?Several factors go into making this decision. First of all, if your attorney is not responding to phone calls, email, letters, etc and you have tried to deal with this by sitting down with the lawyer then you should not hesitate to get a new lawyer. If you feel that your lawyer does not "believe" in your case you should consider obtaining new counsel. However, simply because a lawyer is not telling you what you want to hear does not mean that they are not doing their job. A lawyer must explain the pros AND the cons to your case so that you can make an informed decision regarding how to proceed. Lastly, if your lawyer is unwilling to spend the money to support the litigation in your case then you should consider new counsel.
What are the consequences of firing my lawyer?The first thing you need to do is read your contingent fee agreement. Typically, if your attorney has already done work that entitles him or her to an ongoing fee, they will continue to receive that fee until they agree to give it up or until a new lawyer does work that triggers his entitlement to the fee. Under no circumstances are you responsible for paying more than 20%. Sometimes the lawyers agree to split te 20% in some fashion but that does not affect what you are paying. In addition to the fee you msust also consider the costs. Most contingent fee agreements require the client or the client's new attorney to reimburse prior counsel for any fees he incurred. Make sure your new lawyer is aware of any outstanding costs before you decide to switch lawyers. Some contingent fees set forth an hourly rate that is applied to work the attorney has done and can be used to support an entitlement to fees that is called "quantum meruit". Howver, keep in mind that all fees in a workers compensation case MUST be approved by a judge.
How do I proceed with firing my lawyer?First of all, you should consult with new counsel before you fire your existing lawyer. Next, you should discharge your lawyer in writing and request the contents of your file. You are entitled to the file.