When it comes to hiring a personal injury attorney in the greater Los Angeles area, you have several options. You can ask friends for recommendations. You can find one online, or you can call a firm that advertises on television. In any case, choosing the right one is essential to getting the best possible outcome in your case. Hiring the wrong one can be disastrous.
So what if you make the wrong choice? Can you switch personal injury lawyers? In California the answer is, yes. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
Reasons to think about switching attorneys
There are plenty of reasons for clients to part ways with their personal injury attorneys. This often happens if:
- The court doesn’t rule in the client’s favor or the outcome is not what the client expected.
- The client isn’t confident about the attorney’s ability to handle the case.
- There are concerns about attorney’s fees and the costs of the lawsuit.
- The client and attorney butt heads over important aspects of the case.
- There is little to no communication.
- The client is dissatisfied with the amount of attention the lawyer is devoting to the case.
Sometimes, there are simply personality conflicts that weren’t evident at first. No matter what, it is never a good idea to fire your personal injury lawyer on the spur of the moment. Instead, take time to set your emotions aside and think about what actually happened and why. In some cases, your personal injury attorney may not really be to blame for an unsatisfactory outcome. In other cases, simply approaching your personal injury attorney about lack of attention to your case or poor communication may resolve the matter.
The rules for changing personal injury lawyers
If all else fails, the rules for changing personal injury lawyers can be found in the California Code, Code of Civil Procedure, or CCP. Section 284 of the CCP stipulates that you can switch lawyers at any time. However, you can only do so if:
- You and your attorney agree and the change is documented with the clerk, or entered upon the minutes.
- The court orders the change based on application from you or your attorney, after one of you notifies the other of the intent to request such an order.
Under Section 285 of the CCP, you must tell the other party that you have switched attorneys, preferably in writing.
Here’s how to ‘break up’ with your personal injury attorney
Once you have decided that you no longer want to retain the services of your original personal injury attorney, there are several things you must do.
The first step is to review the agreement between you and your original personal injury attorney. See if there are any stipulations pertaining to termination of the attorney-client relationship. If so, act accordingly.
Next, hire another personal injury lawyer. Doing so quickly lessens the chances that you will have to take care of any outstanding matters associated with your case on your own.
The third step is to notify your original personal injury attorney that you are officially ending the attorney-client relationship and request the transfer of case files to you or your new attorney. This should be done in writing and include relevant contact information for you or your new lawyer.
Finally, if your case is pending in court, you must let the court know by one of the methods detailed above. More often than not, your original personal injury lawyer will file a “motion to withdraw” as your legal counsel. Alternatively, your new attorney may submit a “motion for substitution of counsel” to the court.
What about attorney fees ?
Most personal injury attorneys work based on contingency fee agreements. This means you do not have to pay anything upfront. Instead, attorney fees and costs are deducted from your final settlement or award.
Switching personal injury attorneys does not necessarily negate your original attorney’s right to some of the fee when you are compensated for your losses. Having said that, some attorneys will relinquish this right, and some won’t.
This will undoubtedly figure in your new attorney’s decision to take your case, so it is important to have a candid discussion about it. That is only part of the equation, however. Ultimately it is up to your former and new attorneys to decide whether and how to split the contingency fee.
At the Law Office of Parag L. Amin P.C., we believe that every personal injury case is important. We also believe that every client is important. And we act accordingly. If you are in search of a new personal injury attorney we are here for you. Contact us today.