If I Am Not Happy With My Personal Injury Lawyer, Can I Change My Lawyer If I Already Have A Case Pending?
When you hire a lawyer you basically put your trust and your life into that person’s hands, so it is important that the attorney you hire to work for you is someone you can trust and believe in 100 percent. If you are not happy with your current lawyer, for any reason, you should consider hiring a new lawyer.
In over 45 years that I have been an attorney who has specialized and concentrated in the field of personal injury litigation, I have been asked the same question by many potential clients.
They had an accident. They were injured. They hired a personal injury lawyer. But unfortunately, they are now very unhappy with that lawyer. When I explain to them that they can change lawyers at any time and for any reason without any penalties or additional costs or fees, their answers are always the same: “Oh, I didn’t know I could change my lawyer after I hired this lawyer!"
This was brought home to me very vividly many years ago when my wife came home from food shopping. She had said hello to the man working in the cheese department and he seemed very sad and not like his usual happy self. When she asked what the matter was he quietly told her that his wife had died and left him with two young daughters and that he had hired a lawyer to bring a medical malpractice case, but 2.5 years had already passed and he could not get the lawyer to talk to him, whether on the phone or at the office, to find out the progress and status of his case.
My wife explained that this is what I, her husband, had been doing for a living for many years, and was actually very good at it, having achieved some measure of a reputation and success (my wife being my biggest fan and actually having come to court to watch some of my trials). She also explained, having been married for many years to a lawyer, that the consultation was always free and that all personal injury lawyers basically charge the same fee, so that he could switch lawyers at any time especially if he was so unhappy.
He then met with me, explained the facts of the case and why he was unhappy with his lawyer, and then hired my firm to represent him. We were fortunate that we were able to diligently prosecute his case so that it was concluded in less than a year with a pretrial settlement of over $2 Million. He couldn’t have been happier with the result and thanked my wife many times for her good advice. He simply did not know that he could actually fire a lawyer and hire a different lawyer after his case was started.
I have found that many people are unhappy with the lawyer they first hired to represent them, which was almost always immediately after their accident and while they were still recuperating from their injuries, for many different reasons.
Most often they complain that they can never get to speak to the lawyer whom they met with and hired, or to the lawyer who is actually handling their case. They get to speak only to a secretary, a receptionist or a paralegal. If they are fortunate, a junior associate will actually take the time to speak to them, who most of the time turns out to be nothing more than a message taker who will have to speak to someone else and then promise to get back to them with the information they need.
- You call and call and no one ever calls you back to answer your questions or concerns.
- Or, you are not being advised of the status of the case and the progress it is making. Why is it taking so long?
- Why has a year or more gone by from when I hired you and you still have not settled my case or even told me that you started my lawsuit?
- Because you are injured and out of work, money usually becomes a very serious issue but no one speaks to you about when the case will finally be over, if it will settle or not, or what is my case worth.
- You never have any contact or communication with the lawyer that you first met with and hired and who actually takes responsibility for and knows you and your case, no matter how many times you call and try to reach that lawyer.
When you are suffering from your injuries after an accident and after you have hired a lawyer to represent you in your personal injury case, these are not issues or problems that you should be adding to your life, which is certainly difficult enough already. Your lawyer should be responsive to your concerns and needs to make your life a little easier and not add to your burdens.
Ask yourself: When I was injured and looking for a lawyer, how did I get to hire the one whom I hired and am now so unhappy with? Did you interview many lawyers before hiring this one and see which one you thought was best for you and your case? Probably not. Most people hire the first lawyer who meets with and speaks to them.
How did you actually get to select and hire this particular lawyer? Did you know this lawyer from before? Probably not, since searching for a personal injury lawyer is usually a new and unplanned for experience. So most times the lawyer was recommended by someone you know. That someone is often a member of your family, a friend or neighbor, or maybe you saw the lawyer in an ad or searched the internet.
Assume the lawyer was recommended by a member of your family, a friend or neighbor. Ask yourself: How did this person know whether this lawyer was a good personal injury lawyer or not? Reputable or not? Successful or not? Most times people who recommend lawyers just know that they had a case with that lawyer. But how experienced and successful is this lawyer with similar cases to yours, and even more importantly, how are you now being treated by this lawyer with your case?
If you found this lawyer from an advertisement you need to ask yourself: What did you really know about this lawyer and the firm you hired other than that they have nice ads?
If you found this lawyer from an internet search then you need to ask yourself the same questions: What was your decision to hire this lawyer or firm based on? The New Yorker magazine many years ago ran a cartoon that is right in point. It showed a computer screen and keyboard with one dog typing on the keyboard saying to another dog that is watching him type, “On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog." This says it all in my view. You searched on the internet for a lawyer after you were injured, but what research did you do before actually hiring this lawyer or firm?
I hear about lawyers actually having desks in doctors and chiropractors offices where they try to solicit injured patients.
I actually hear of people being referred to their present lawyer by the ambulance driver, or from a doctor or nurse at the emergency room or hospital, or someone may even have called them at home! Someone whom you never met and do not know tells you that they know you need help after your accident and can help refer you to doctors and lawyers! I have even seen and heard about lawyers who just walk into your hospital room uninvited by you or your family and offer to represent you.
Now that you find yourself in the middle of your case and you are unhappy with your present lawyer, what do you need to know?
The good news is that you can change lawyers at any time and for any reason without any penalties or additional costs or fees.
So: What should you know and do before hiring a lawyer to represent you in a personal injury case?
First, regardless of how you were referred to this lawyer, get the following information from the lawyer when you first meet him or her. Do not be afraid to ask the following questions:
If you can you should always visit the lawyer at his or her office. That is always a good idea as how the office looks gives you a very good idea of how successful the lawyer is; you see how large or small the firm is and how many lawyers the firm has; you see how you are treated by the receptionist when you walk in; you see how the reception area looks; you even hear how the receptionist and others speak to their clients on the phone while you are there, and you can even see how busy the office is.
Do not be afraid to look around and to ask questions!
- Has this lawyer handled cases similar to mine? If so, what is his or her track record with these types of cases?
- How much is my case worth, whether by way of settlement or by a verdict?
- How long will it take until I know if the case is settled or goes to trial?
- Can I settle early if I want to? How will an early settlement affect what my case is worth?
- What lawyer will be responsible for my case if I hire your firm?
- If I want to speak to someone about my case, who will I speak to and how long will it take me to reach someone?
What do past clients say about the firm and its lawyers? If they have a website, then you can look at their reviews or “testimonials" — their letters and emails from prior satisfied clients.
Most often I hear from prospective clients that they actually hired the first lawyer they spoke to or met with, whether at the hospital, at home or at the lawyer’s office. They actually never interviewed any other lawyer after their accident before hiring their present lawyer whom they are now unhappy with!
After a serious injury from any type of accident, hiring the right lawyer for your case is one of the most important decisions you will ever make, and is a decision that will probably affect you and your family for the rest of your life. Yet, most people put much more thought and homework into what car they should buy than they do with what lawyer to hire after an accident!
At my firm, Jaroslawicz & Jaros, of which I was a founding partner in 1980, we try to help our clients and ease their concerns. If you are deciding whether to switch lawyers and hire our firm, Jaroslawicz & Jaros, then you will almost always get to meet one of the two founding partners, either David Jaroslawicz or myself, Abraham Jaros. You will be assured that one of us will always be available to speak to about your case, and also told that another one of our associates will also be familiar with your case, so that you will always be able to reach someone to talk to who is familiar with and knows the facts of your case.
You are invited to look at our website’s “testimonials" — letters and emails from actual prior clients — and see what they say about us. On our firm’s website you can also see the many appeals our office has successfully handled, and the various cases of ours that have been reported extensively in the news media over the past 40 years.
There is nothing that prevents people involved in personal injury cases from switching attorneys even after a lawsuit has been started. It’s actually a very simple process.
Step 1: Before you fire your current attorney, you should have another attorney lined up to take over your case. This will prevent your case from being delayed or even dismissed, because important deadlines may have passed by while you were searching for new representation.
Step 2: Sign a retainer agreement with your new attorney. This is a simple form that gives the new lawyer the legal authority to represent you.
Step 3: Your new attorney will then prepare a form called a “Consent to Change Attorney." This form tells the court, your present attorney and all the other parties involved that you have switched attorneys.
Step 4: Your new attorney will also prepare a “stop work" letter to send to your previous attorney. This directs that attorney to stop working on your case, and to forward the case file to your new attorney.
If you feel that you have the wrong attorney for you and your case or if you are dissatisfied with your current attorney for any reason, you should consider switching attorneys.
If you or a loved one was injured and are in need of legal assistance, but are unhappy with your current lawyer, then call Jaroslawicz & Jaros in New York at 212.227.2780or toll free at 800.269.2780, or submit an online questionnaire. The initial consultation is free of charge, and if we agree to handle your case, we will work on a contingency fee basis, which means we get paid for our services only if there is a monetary recovery of funds.
Or you can email me, Abraham Jaros, directly at email@example.com.