People hire attorneys for their legal knowledge and skills as well as their representation in important legal matters that can greatly impact their lives and future. As with any profession, there are good lawyers and bad lawyers out there, and you may have hired an attorney only to discover that you can no longer work with the person for whatever reason. Now, you are considering your options for hiring new legal counsel.
Like all other states, California allows you to change lawyers at any time, even if legal proceedings, such as a trial, have already begun. So, yes, if you hired a lawyer to handle your personal injury claim or lawsuit, you have every right to fire them and replace them with another attorney. However, there is a process involved, and you need to consider various factors before making your final decision.
Why You Need to Change Lawyers
When you hired your attorney to represent you with your personal injury claim, you assumed the person was knowledgeable about the law, and you likely determined that they had experience and success with personal injury claims. You also may have read their client testimonials and felt at the time that they were competent and trustworthy.
Since that time, you have come to the realization that this is not the case. Whether you believe your lawyer lacks the skills you thought they had, or whether you’ve discovered that you and your attorney don’t communicate well together, you have tried to work with the attorney to resolve the dispute or problem with no success.
The most common reasons people want to change lawyers are because of trust and competency issues.
- Trust – You are placing extremely important aspects of your life into the hands of another, and you need someone you can trust. In fact, lawyers have a legal responsibility to act ethically and within their clients’ best interests at all times, and if they don’t, you can pursue legal action to hold them accountable.
- Competency – Just because someone graduated from law school and passed the bar exam, that does not necessarily mean they are competent at their job as an attorney. Some lawyers prefer trials, whereas others are not comfortable in the courtroom. Personal injury lawyers who try to avoid litigation at all costs or are not effective negotiators may simply accept the initial settlement offers from the insurance company.
Furthermore, some lawyers have limited staff or no staff at all, and they may struggle to keep up with all of the necessary filings and documentation, etc. A lawyer needs to be a good manager of their business as well as a competent attorney.
Changing Lawyers in the Middle of a Claim
While you have the right to change lawyers in the middle of a claim, you should consider the following:
- You will likely have to pay the attorney for any work done so far. Even if the lawyer said they worked on contingency, they might expect payment when you inform them you are no longer using their services.
- If your case is close to trial or the trial has already begun, changing lawyers may cause a delay in your case, and it will take time for your new attorney to get up to speed on your case. This will cost you additional money.
To change attorneys in the middle of a claim, you must complete the Substitution of Attorney-Civil form, and you, the lawyer you are firing, and the lawyer you are hiring all need to sign the form. You must then file it with the court.
If you think you can do a better job representing yourself without legal counsel at all, that’s probably not in your best interests. You may have grave misconceptions about the legal process and how complex personal injury claims can be, particularly if you have to go to trial. Without an attorney, you can hurt your chances of obtaining the best outcome possible, and you could even make mistakes that would diminish your compensation.
The San Diego personal injury lawyers of Jurewitz Law Group Injury & Accident Lawyers have been nationally recognized for our exceptional professionalism and legal abilities, and we have received countless client reviews and testimonials from our clients.
We will always place your interests above all else as we fight zealously to help you get the compensation you need. You should not be expected to pay for the injuries and losses you suffered because of someone else’s wrongdoing. Contact us today at (619) 233-5020 to request a free consultation.