We receive calls frequently from personal injury victims seeking to change attorneys for one reason or another. About 99% of the time, the problem involves communication gaps between the personal injury attorney and the client.
But can I switch personal injury lawyers?
Contingent Fees and Injury Cases
Attorneys take personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning they are not paid for their time until the case ends.
And then only if they win the case or recover money for their client are they paid the percentage they contracted for. In the meantime, the attorney or the law firm will have spent time on a case and case expenses out of their own pocket. The best approach is to ensure you hire the right lawyer first.
Hiring a personal injury attorney should involve research before you “sign up.”
In Texas, a Client May Fire Their Lawyer at Any Time.
Can you fire an accident attorney? Yes, but there may be consequences.
But when an accident victim fires their contingency fee lawyer, they may owe the lawyer money. If the lawyer is fired “for cause,” the client may not owe contingent fees if they collect through another lawyer or settle independently. However, the old lawyer may still claim the legal concept of quantum meruit.
If the attorney is fired for any other reason or something found not “for cause,” a fee may be due when money changes hands, even if the old lawyer was not responsible for the settlement. Thus, when working on a contingent fee basis, a personal injury law firm has some pay protection if fired without a compelling reason.
How Defense Attorneys Get Paid
On the other hand, defense attorneys are paid by the hour for each hour they spend on the file at a rate set between them and their clients. A 15-minute phone call – no problem, that’ll be 200 bucks. Send a letter with an update to the client- no problem, that’ll be another $300 – you get the idea.
The above example shows that if you fire a lawyer who worked on your case, they will have time and money in the matter. And with attorneys, time IS money.
Advice We Give to Those Seeking to Fire Their Lawyer
So when a personal injury victim calls our office seeking to change attorneys, our advice is always the same: sit down and discuss candidly with your attorney before you do anything else. The only exception to this advice is if their current attorney is not qualified for the specific case or has committed some act that justified firing, and the relationship is irreparable.
The State Bar of Texas indicates that clients may fire their attorneys at any time. This does not mean that the client will not owe the attorney either under the fee agreement or based on the work the attorney did on the file.
If a client has a good reason or “just cause” for firing the attorney, the client would probably owe case expenses advanced by the attorney and still may owe for work done on the file on an hourly basis or a percentage of the contingency fee.
A Fired Contingent Fee Lawyer Will Likely Retain an Interest
In short, should the attorney “retain an interest” in the case they worked on for the client- by firing a lawyer, the client may ultimately end up owing that attorney for work done on the file at the minimum.
Additionally, if the client hires another lawyer, the client potentially could be on the hook for two separate legal fees.
Cases Take Longer Than Clients Expect
The biggest problem we frequently see when personal injury victims call our office seeking to change lawyers is that clients have not been fully informed about how long some personal injury claims may take.
One unintended consequence of “tort reform” is that more and more lawsuits are required for cases with legal merit.
Tort Reform Made Litigation More Likely in Texas
This is because while tort reform limited Texas families’ rights when making a personal injury claim, Texas did not address insurance reform and abusive claims handling practices by insurance companies.
By failing to provide for insurance reform at the same time as tort reform, the Texas legislature ensures that insurance companies are dealing from a position of strength when attempting to dictate to Texas families who have been inadvertently injured through no fault of their own.
Consumers in Texas may want to contact their state representative and tell them they want insurance reform for Texas. This would require insurance carriers to spend a set percentage of dollars collected from Texas families on actual Texas claims.
Such reform ensures fair claims handling practices and reduces the insurance premiums for Texas consumers.
Insurance Company Tactics are Outside Your Lawyer’s Control
Lawyers who handle personal injury cases do not control insurance companies’ tactics, leading to much frustration for personal injury victims.
Litigation and lawsuits take time and effort; sometimes, reasonable, quick settlements are impossible, regardless of who represents the victim.
Can I Switch Personal Injury Lawyers?
Yes, in Texas, you can change attorneys whenever you want. However, you may end up paying the lawyer your fire under the contract you signed or based on the work done before they were fired.
If You Have Personal Injury Questions? Call Us!
6711 Cypress Creek Pkwy, Houston, TX, 77069
About Our Law Firm
Baumgartner Law Firm is a Houston personal injury law firm headed by Greg Baumgartner.
Our firm was established in 1985 and has helped thousands of injury victims get maximum compensation for their cases. If you have been injured in an accident in Houston, TX, contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation. (281) 587-1111.
Helping these areas around Houston