I have been practicing personal injury litigation for over 30 years in the greater Houston area. Every week I get telephone calls from someone who has a lawyer but is dissatisfied with the representation they were receiving.
This is especially prevalent with contingent fee attorneys as they are not paid on the basis of their time in the file but only upon results.
Certainly it is not an excuse for a personal injury attorney not to keep their clients informed simply because they are not paid by the hour. Alternatively, a client who has hired an attorney on a contingency fee basis should also understand that every phone call they make to the attorneys’ office involves time that others would be billed upon by the hour. It is fairly safe to say that a simple phone call could easily be billed in the range of hundred dollars per call if the client was paid by the hour and not on results.
Our advice to dissatisfied clients is usually always the same thing, call your attorney and request an in-person consultation to discuss your file. It is not an excuse that it takes time to keep their clients informed for a lawyer to fail to do so. Also, it is not realistic for a client to expect updates on his or her case when there may be nothing new to report. There are two sides to every story and there are two parties to every lawsuit.
The attorney representing the plaintiff does not control the insurance company who may or may not make a timely offer or the attorneys representing the insurance carrier or defendant and how they defend the case.
Requested a sit-down discussion with your attorney not only serves the benefit of having an eye to eye meeting but also lets the attorney know where you’re coming from and gives them an opportunity to express their opinions on the case.
The second largest reason for dissatisfaction with the attorneys seems to be driven by a client that prefers to act as their own attorney. If you were ill and went to the doctor, you would not tell the doctor what needed to be done to make you well or whether or not you required a surgical intervention. You would rely upon the doctor that you have selected or you would get a second opinion but you would not be making that choice by yourself.
Likewise, personal injury victims should do their homework when they select an attorney to represent them. You should look for the best personal injury attorney that you can find that practices in the immediate area where the accident occurred over the defendant lives. Do not accept the first attorney that has been recommended to you by a friend or family member, but do your research and make sure of your choice upfront.
If you’ve done your homework and selected a reputable and successful attorney you’d be well advised to accept their advice moving forward in your case. Attorneys who are paid by the hour or more than happy to have a client directing the case because they get paid when lose or draw for every moment that they touch the file. The more input the client has regarding how the case should be handled the larger their bill will be. But importantly, the attorney will be paid even if the clients requests lose the case.
Because personal injury attorneys are betting on the win and only get paid for results, many do not take well instructions on how to handle a case from the client.
By doing a little research before you sign paperwork with an attorney you can save yourself a lot of grief and make the personal injury litigation process much more rewarding. Who you hire really does matter.
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