Will I have to pay attorney fees if I no long want my personal injury lawyer? 55 Answers as of July 12, 2013

My attorney has been extremely rude to me on my case. He has been working on it since November but hasn’t done anything. I wrote a letter stressing my wishes to not be represented by him anymore. Will I still have to pay his fees?

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The Law Office of Josh Lamborn, P.C.
The Law Office of Josh Lamborn, P.C. | Josh Lamborn
What you have to pay your attorney depends on your contract with him or her. Usually, lawyers that work on a contingency fee basis include a provision in their contract that account for situation where they are "fired" by their client. This provision usually provides that if any money is awarded to the plaintiff in resolution of the case that the attorney worked on the lawyer is to receive a share consistent with the time they have spent on the case. If you fire your attorney right before the case settles then I would expect that you would have to pay the attorney the entire bargained for amount in the contract. If the attorney only worked a few hours on the case prior to being let go then it should be consistent with time worked on the case. If another attorney is hired and takes the case to completion there should be a pro-rata accounting of the attorney fee based on the hours spent on the case. If you do get money and your lawyer has worked on the case they will likely file a lien on the award if the case has been filed with the court. If not the insurance company is likely to cooperate with the attorney in making sure the attorney gets paid.
Answer Applies to: Oregon
Replied: 8/2/2011
The Law Firm of Reed & Mansfield
The Law Firm of Reed & Mansfield | Jonathan C. Reed
If you could truly prove that he has done nothing you could get a new attorney w/o worrying about the present attorney making a claim. However, I am sure your present attorney will claim to have done some work on your case and that the is therefore entitled to a lien on your recovery. You should contact a new attorney and if you like this new attorney and the new attorney likes you and your case a lot, the new attorney will take over the case and promise to pay the former's attorney's fees out of whatever fee the new attorney earns.
Answer Applies to: Nevada
Replied: 8/1/2011
Bulman Law Associates PLLC Injury Law Firm
Bulman Law Associates PLLC Injury Law Firm | Thomas Bulman
It depends on what your contract says and whether your attorney has accomplished something. The first thing your new attorney should do is contact the first attorney and see what, if anything, he/she claims is owed.
Answer Applies to: Montana
Replied: 7/30/2011
Law Offices of Earl K. Straight
Law Offices of Earl K. Straight | Earl K. Straight
You have every right to fire your attorney, but that does not release you from the employment contract you signed when you hired him. He may or may not place a lien on your settlement proceeds for payment of his fees, meaning when you settle your case his name will be on the check as an additional payee. The only way to avoid this is getting a letter from him not only stating that he no longer represents you, but also that he does not have any liens upon your claim. Sometimes an attorney will be willing to waive his lien in exchange for a referral fee from your new attorney as payment for services performed to date. Most attorneys dont want a disgruntled client and are willing to work with you to reach an amicable solution. You may need to sit down with your attorney to discuss the situation and hopefully reach an agreement.
Answer Applies to: Texas
Replied: 7/29/2011
Law Office of Jared Altman
Law Office of Jared Altman | Jared Altman
You must agree to pay him for the reasonable value of his services out of the eventual recovery. He will work it out with your new attorney.
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 7/29/2011
    Judnich Law Office
    Judnich Law Office | Martin W. Judnich
    Everything depends on the fee agreement you signed. However, in most states, attorneys are entitled to the work that they have performed on your claim.
    Answer Applies to: Montana
    Replied: 7/29/2011
    Gregory Casale Attorney at Law
    Gregory Casale Attorney at Law | Gregory Casale
    Your lawyer will be entitled to either 1) compensation for the amount of time he has put into your case to date, or 2) a third of the last settlement offer on the case, if there has been one made. It really shouldn't effect you though in the long run. The new attorney that you hire will have to deduct whatever amount is due to the first attorney from his portion of the settlement. So in effect, you will still end up with two thirds of the final settlement and the first and second lawyers will have to split the one third due them. You should not let this issue influence your decision as to who represents you. However, I usually advise clients who approach me who are unhappy with their initial counsel to discuss their concerns with their attorney to see if they can mend the relationship. I would imagine that the lawyer may have done more work than is apparent to the client. Often times with PI cases it seems as nothing is being done when in fact either it actually is being worked or the attorney is waiting for the client to complete treatment, since no demand can actually be made until the client has completely finished treatment. Speak to your attorney and voice your concerns. If you are still unsatisfied there is no reason not to seek new counsel with whom you can feel comfortable.
    Answer Applies to: Massachusetts
    Replied: 7/29/2011
    Goolsby Law Office
    Goolsby Law Office | Richard Goolsby
    We recommend that you review your retainer agreement and talk with your own attorney to see if you can resolve your issues. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 7/29/2011
    Vincent J. Bernabei LLC
    Vincent J. Bernabei LLC | Vincent J. Bernabei
    This depends on your written fee agreement. The agreement probably provides that the attorney will be paid. You can pay him when you resolve your claim.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 7/29/2011
    A. Daniel Woska & Associates, P.C.
    A. Daniel Woska & Associates, P.C. | Dan Woska
    In all likelihood your current attorney knows and is aware that he has a lien on your case for work performed. The point is this, if you fire him he will still be able to make a claim for fees whenever the case concludes. As far as how much he gets paid out of the fee, it will depend on proof and evidence of what he did for you compared to the work of the attorney who actually caused you to win. "Direct threats require decisive action."
    Answer Applies to: Oklahoma
    Replied: 7/29/2011
    Coulter's Law
    Coulter's Law | Coulter K. Richardson
    Yes and no. You can fire your attorney at any time and for any reason. To the extent he performed services on your behalf, he is entitled to payment. It is just a question of how much. If you hired him on a contingency basis (not paid unless he wins), then he could get paid a percentage of the recovery though less of course than the attorney that finishes the case and only equal to the relative amount of work he performed on the case. You can work that out when the case is concluded.
    Answer Applies to: New Jersey
    Replied: 7/29/2011
    Law Offices of Steven R. Kuhn & Associates
    Law Offices of Steven R. Kuhn & Associates | Steven R. Kuhn
    If you retain a new lawyer, and this is a contingency fee case, the two lawyers will split the fee and you should not have to pay anything extra. If this is an hourly fee case, you would have to pay for the work done to date. You have a right to fire your attorney at any time.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/29/2011
    Andrew T. Velonis, P.C.
    Andrew T. Velonis, P.C. | Andrew Velonis
    Your case file belongs to you and you can demand that he turn it over. You will have to pay the expenses to date. If you get a recovery in the case, your new lawyer will apportion the fee with your previous lawyer according to the amount of work done by each.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 7/29/2011
    The Law Office of Stephen R. Chesley, LLC
    The Law Office of Stephen R. Chesley, LLC | Stephen R. Chesley
    In a negligence case you generally do not have to pay the lawyer attorneys fees. If you are unsatisfied with your lawyer you may change lawyers. If you would like to discuss this matter further.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 7/29/2011
    Harris Personal Injury Lawyer
    Harris Personal Injury Lawyer | Philip C. Alexander
    You need to read the fee agreement you signed with your attorney. You can fire your attorney at any time. Typically, in a contingency fee agreement, there will be a clause stating that if you fire the attorney, he/she will be entitled to assert a "lien" on your case for the hours (times an hourly rate) the attorney spent on the case before being fired, and the attorney will seek payment at the time of settlement. He can put the insurance company and your new attorney on notice of his lien to protect his right to be paid. The lien amount is typically negotiable, especially if he really hasn't worked on the case as you assert.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/29/2011
    Ewusiak & Roberts, P.A.
    Ewusiak & Roberts, P.A. | Christopher J. Roberts
    It depends on your fee contract. Typically, a lawyer who you hire on a contingency fee basis will only be able to recover fees from you IF you later recover money (after hiring a new lawyer), based on the amount of work the lawyer did on an hourly basis. If the lawyer did nothing, he/she should recover nothing. The lawyer can recover any costs he incurred on your behalf, but if he did nothing for you then there should be no costs either. If you are unsatisfied with your current counsel, contact another lawyer and he/she will help you figure out what you would owe your current lawyer if you fire him.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 2/20/2012
    Allen Murphy Law
    Allen Murphy Law | W. Riley Allen
    He may have a lien against your recovery (called quantum meruit) for the value of the services he provided (typically be the hour). More often than not, if you fire him, which you are free to do any time, your subsequent lawyer will take care of the fee from his or her fee, thus, not costing you any more in fees.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 7/29/2011
    Ramunno & Ramunno, P.A.
    Ramunno & Ramunno, P.A. | Lawrence A. Ramunno
    Normally, if you get a new lawyer, he or she will work out an arrangement whereby you will not have to pay two attorneys.
    Answer Applies to: Delaware
    Replied: 4/27/2011
    Paul Whitfield and Associates P.A.
    Paul Whitfield and Associates P.A. | Paul L. Whitfield
    Depends on what your contract with him says. I assume you signed an agreement with him. What does it say about such things. Call me after you review it.
    Answer Applies to: North Carolina
    Replied: 4/26/2011
    Law Offices of Joseph I. Lipsky, P.A.
    Law Offices of Joseph I. Lipsky, P.A. | Joseph Lipsky
    Under Florida Law you are free to change attorneys anytime you desire. However, your prior/old attorney will have a claim against the proceeds of your personal injury case for the time and money he spent working on your case. Generally speaking, trust should be your first concern in retaining an attorney; so, you shouldn't necessarily let the prior attorney's entitlement to a fee and repayment of his expended costs prohibit you from finding an attorney with whom you are most comfortable.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 4/25/2011
    Lacy Fields, Attorney at Law, LLC
    Lacy Fields, Attorney at Law, LLC | Lacy Fields
    He may be able to place a lien against your settlement for the value of his services.
    Answer Applies to: Missouri
    Replied: 4/25/2011
    David F. Stoddard
    David F. Stoddard | David F. Stoddard
    This depends on what your retainer agreement says. In most cases, the fee agreement requires you to pay the attorney for the value of his/her services if you terminate representation, but only after the case is settled. I would add, most attorneys would not have gotten a lot done on a personal injury cased within 4 or 5 months of being retained, especially if you are still seeing a doctor for your injuries. The attorney really cannot begin until after you are released from the doctor.
    Answer Applies to: South Carolina
    Replied: 4/25/2011
    Cody and Gonillo, LLP
    Cody and Gonillo, LLP | Christine Gonilla
    They may have a lien against the proceeds at least to the extent of the work done. If you have a new attorney that attorney should make arrangements with your former one on this issue. There are fee dispute resolution services through the bar association as well.
    Answer Applies to: Connecticut
    Replied: 4/25/2011
    Ferguson & Ferguson
    Ferguson & Ferguson | Randy W. Ferguson
    Costs of records and etc. only, if you have not gotten an offer on your case.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 4/25/2011
    Craig Swapp & Associates
    Craig Swapp & Associates | Craig Swapp
    It all depends on the contract you signed with your former attorney. Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency basis, meaning that the law firm will split the final settlement between the plaintiff and the law firm. Percentages of this split are also spelled out in the contract. The contract may also dictate that hard costs associated with settling case or going to trial may also be paid out of the plaintiff's final settlement. Some contingency fee contracts include a provision where if you fire your attorney and retain another attorney, your former attorney has a right to charge for his or her services against any future settlement your new attorney may win for you.
    Answer Applies to: Utah
    Replied: 4/25/2011
    Theodore W. Robinson, P.C.
    Theodore W. Robinson, P.C. | Theodore W. Robinson
    Yes, you will be responsible for whatever hours he's actually put into your case working on it at an hourly rate if you fire him or replace him with another attorney. Or if you simply replace him, then he will get a portion of the fees received by the new attorney which is set by law at 1/3 of the amount recovered for you. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 4/25/2011
    Law Office of Sam Levine, LLC
    Law Office of Sam Levine, LLC | Sam L. Levine
    I am so sorry that you are experiencing this. Assuming that your attorney has not filed suit, you do not owe him any money. As a valuable Client, we attorneys work for you & you are entitled to attention & respect & should accept nothing less. I am happy to talk with you if you would like. Just let me know & don't worry-everything will be ok!
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 4/25/2011
    Andrew R. Lynch, P.C.
    Andrew R. Lynch, P.C. | Andrew R. Lynch
    You have a right to an attorney of your choice. Your attorney can probably pursue a share of attorney fees proportionate to his/her work on your case so far.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 4/25/2011
    Patrick M Lamar Attorney
    Patrick M Lamar Attorney | Patrick M Lamar
    Generally, no. You could have to pay some portion of his expense and time in representing you so far. This is fairly common but usually a fired lawyer does not claim any fee.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 4/25/2011
    Wilson & Hajek, LLC
    Wilson & Hajek, LLC | Eddie W. Wilson
    Under the circumstances you have outlined there is not a charge. The attorney does have the right to charge costs and for time expended.
    Answer Applies to: Virginia
    Replied: 4/25/2011
    LT Pepper Law
    LT Pepper Law | Luke T. Pepper
    If he has spent significant time on the case, he can seek to put a lien against any award or settlement you receive if you change lawyers. Again whether or not he or she does this depends on time and expenditures. I am sorry you are going through this at a difficult time in your life.
    Answer Applies to: Pennsylvania
    Replied: 4/25/2011
    Law Offices of Timothy G. Kearney, LLC
    Law Offices of Timothy G. Kearney, LLC | Timothy G. Kearney
    Generally the attorney will have a lien on the file for any costs advanced and for actual work performed to date, not for the agreed upon contingency fee based upon the full settlement. Be aware that it takes a long time to gather all of the evidence for a personal injury case, especially if the injured party is still treating with their doctors, chiros or PT. In addition, most docs will not give permanency ratings, etc until the patient is one year post accident. Therefore it would be improper to settle the claim before that time. That said, if the attorney has been rude to you and you no longer feel confident in the representation, you always have the right to sever the relationship, subject to the lien mentioned above. I hope this helps.
    Answer Applies to: Connecticut
    Replied: 4/25/2011
    Ron Graham Attorney at Law
    Ron Graham Attorney at Law | Ron Graham
    You will have to pay any expenses they incurred.
    Answer Applies to: Ohio
    Replied: 4/25/2011
    Law Office of William R. Falcone, Esq.
    Law Office of William R. Falcone, Esq. | William R. Falcone
    You do have the right to change lawyers, and the original attorney is entitled to be paid for the reasonable value of the services provided plus receive reimbursement for any out of pocket expenses. I would however be pretty certain you have another lawyer lined up who is willing to take the case under these circumstances. I hope this answers your question and best of luck to you with the resolution of your legal matter.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 4/22/2011
    Michael Anthony Wing, P.C.
    Michael Anthony Wing, P.C. | Michael Anthony Wing
    Tough to tell from your limited facts. If you have in fact terminated the employment, and nothing has been done, you will be needing other representation. Make sure you understand your motivation for your action. If his rudeness is actually honestly dealing with the facts of your case, yet telling you something that you would prefer not to hear, like, "the value of your claim does not meet your expectations," then make sure you are not getting rid of someone telling you the truth. If on the other hand, you have met with the lawyer, reviewed the file, and have determined that in fact, nothing has been done, then be rid of him. Having said all of that, a personal injury claim involves the human body. Often it is not wise to settle a claim quickly, or at least not before the body has recovered to a point where you are reasonably sure that you will not have additional trouble arise that was not contemplated at the time you settled. If he has attained a reasonable settlement for you, then you should pay him. If he has done nothing, then you shouldn't owe anything. If he has invested his money in the case, for instance, collecting medical records, you should reimburse his expenses. Keep in mind that Alabama's statute of limitations for most civil claims is two years. Stay well.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 4/22/2011
    Law Office of Mark J. Leonardo
    Law Office of Mark J. Leonardo | Mark Leonardo
    If you terminate the lawyer he is entitled to was is called quantum meruit fees. This is the reasonable value of his fees up to the point of his discharge. If he wants to pursue it, he would have to file a lien in your case. Any costs he expended are clearly recoverable from you. If you hire a new attorney that attorney usually sets their fee and you have to pay attorney #1 from your portion of any recovery. Attorney #2 can be helpful in negotiating on your behalf. There are various factors that go into the value of Attorney #1s lien amount.

    Typically he will send the lien at his hourly rate for the number of hours he worked on the case. But in the end it is usually all negotiable unless he sues or pursues arbitration for his fees. Heres an example: if he worked 10 hours on your case and his rate is $250/hour, he will claim $2,500. But if attorney #2 puts in 30 hours and the case only settles for $10,000 it would be unfair for #1 to get $2,500 if #2 gets $3,333. Other factors include what settlement offers are on the table today as a result of #1s work and what the case settles for later. If they are offering you $5,000 today and #2 gets it up to $50,000, then #1s work was not very helpful. That is a factor. On the other hand, if they are offering $5,000 today and #2 only gets it to $6,000 10 months from now, #2 did not add much value. There is a famous case where #1 worked the case from day 1 up until the day before trial when the plaintiff got her relative to substitute in on the day of trial. The relative settled the case before the trial started. It was apparent that she was trying to cheat the lawyer out of his fee and the appellate court held that #1 earned his entire 1/3 fee.

    As you can see, there are a lot of factors that go into this process. But if you are not comfortable with your lawyer, you should not hesitate to change to find one that will get the job done well and in a timely fashion. If #1 truly has not done anything on your case, then his lien should be nominal or he may even forego filing one.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 4/22/2011
    Kirshner & Groff
    Kirshner & Groff | Richard M. Kirshner
    If you hired him on a contingency you don't have to pay unless he obtained an offer on your case or settled it.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 4/21/2011
    Law Office of Russell D. Gray, PC
    Law Office of Russell D. Gray, PC | Russell D. Gray
    Whether you have to pay attorney fees depends on what the engagement agreement says. You might want to check that.
    Answer Applies to: Utah
    Replied: 4/22/2011
    Law Office of Curry & Westgate
    Law Office of Curry & Westgate | Patrick Curry
    You may have to pay fees if you quit, however, find another attorney that you like and substitute that attorney into your case and they will work out the fees.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 4/22/2011
    Law firm of Cody & Gonillo, LLP
    Law firm of Cody & Gonillo, LLP | Christopher M. Cody
    Yes.
    Answer Applies to: Connecticut
    Replied: 6/11/2013
    Cary J. Wintroub & Associates
    Cary J. Wintroub & Associates | Cary J. Wintroub
    Assuming you entered into a contingent fee agreement, your discharged attorney has a right to qauntum meruitt under the law for the time spent while representing you. You can seek a release of lien now to possibly avoid payment or wait until your case resolves at which time he gets paid. In your interest you should discuss this matter with another attorney. Feel free to contact our firm for any way we may assist.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 4/22/2011
    The Law Offices of Mark Kotlarsky
    The Law Offices of Mark Kotlarsky | Mark Kotlarsky
    Your attorney may be entitled to some compensation. It is usually worked between your old lawyer and your new lawyer. You should not pay more just because you switched lawyers. Feel free to contact me to discuss the case.
    Answer Applies to: Maryland
    Replied: 4/22/2011
    Kelly A. Broadbent, Esq.
    Kelly A. Broadbent, Esq. | Kelly Broadbent
    The attorney technically has a right to lien your settlement based on an hourly rate for the number of hour put into the case. Most will try to come to an agreement for a portion of the settlement with the new attorney you hire.
    Answer Applies to: Massachusetts
    Replied: 4/22/2011
    Attorney Paul Lancia
    Attorney Paul Lancia | Paul Lancia
    Your lawyer is entitled to a reasonable fees for his time. If you need any information. Please call.
    Answer Applies to: Massachusetts
    Replied: 4/22/2011
    Barry Rabovsky & Associates
    Barry Rabovsky & Associates | Barry Rabovsky
    You may have a case, based upon the information that you have supplied.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 7/12/2013
    Law Office of Christopher F. Earley
    Law Office of Christopher F. Earley | Christopher Earley
    Good question. He would be compensated by the next lawyer who takes the case (assuming you are looking for another lawyer) out of whatever legal fee is generated. The first attorney is entitled to be compensated for the fair value of his work on the case.
    Answer Applies to: Massachusetts
    Replied: 4/21/2011
    Klisz Law Office, PLLC
    Klisz Law Office, PLLC | Timothy J. Klisz
    He may and would likely have a lien on your file for the work and costs already done, but you are not forced to continue with an attorney you don't like to work with.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 4/21/2011
    Tenge Law Firm, LLC
    Tenge Law Firm, LLC | J. Todd Tenge
    Assuming you get a new lawyer (which I highly recommend), your new lawyer will resolve any fees which may be owed to your prior lawyer out of his/her fees. Thus, you will not have to pay a contingent fee twice. If a prospective new lawyer wants you to pay his/her full contingent fee AND pay the prior lawyer some additional amount from your settlement, you should consult another lawyer. Costs are different. You will always owe "costs" no matter who your lawyer is.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 4/21/2011
    Lyle B. Masnikoff and Associates
    Lyle B. Masnikoff and Associates | Lyle B. Masnikoff
    He will have a lien but he will get paid a small amount from your settlement.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 4/21/2011
    Magnuson Lowell P.S.
    Magnuson Lowell P.S. | Richard S. Lowell
    It depends on the terms of the written retainer agreement you signed. Read it carefully and see what it says. If you hire another attorney, occasionally, that other attorney can review what the prior attorney has done - and negotiate a discount (or even a waiver) of the fees.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 4/22/2011
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