Can My Lawyer Settle My Case Without My Consent?
I was asked by a prospective client the other day an intriguing question. It seems that they were injured in a car accident and already had an attorney. The attorney called them up one day after their treatment had been completed and told them that they had reached a settlement and to come in and pick up their check. They were considering firing that lawyer and hiring a new personal injury lawyer to settle the case. Can a personal injury attorney settle a client’s case without the client’s consent, knowledge or permission? Well, I think the obvious answer is no, at least not any reputable, ethical, professional and honest personal injury lawyer.
Our policy in our office is that a personal injury case is never settled unless the client comes into the office, goes over the offer with us, understands the breakdown of all the numbers from the gross offer, after fees, to payment of expenses, medical bills and insurance liens, and what the net recovery of the client is. The client is given a hard copy data sheet to that goes home with them to convey all the numbers in writing. Further, we discuss the pluses and minuses of the offer and whether the client should accept it reject it. The case is never settled without the client’s consent, ever, no way, no how!
Now, I can’t speak to how other personal injury lawyers conduct their business with an injury client. This is not the first time I have heard a prospective client complain that their lawyer settled the case and that they never consented to the settlement. While technically, the attorney can get the check and release into their office by simply informing the insurance company that the case is settled, the case really cannot be settled or closed unless the client signs a settlement release sent by the insurance company. Secondly, many times the insurance company will send the settlement check and it will require both the signature of the attorney and the client to deposit the check into trust. So the answer to the question posed above which is “Can my lawyer settle my case without my consent,” the answer is no. If your attorney is trying to pressure you into settling and you do not want to settle either because you think the settlement is unfair to you, or feel the attorney is self serving, it is time to go shopping for a new personal injury lawyer. Don’t be pressured into settling, unless you are completely on board that the settlement is favorable to you as the client and the settlement is the better alternative to what the outcome might be to you if you wind up going to trial. Your injury case should be about you as the client, not the lawyer. Any attorney who pressures their client into settlement or settles the case without first discussing the proposed settlement with the client is doing that person a complete disservice, and arguably violating SCR ethics rules that require attorneys to communicate all matters of importance to their client on a timely basis, so the client can make an informed decision on the progression of their case.
When injured in an accident and considering the settlement of an injury claim, you have the right to a second opinion if you question the advice of your personal injury lawyer. Call one of our attorneys today for a consultation.