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Can You Change Lawyers in a Personal Injury Case? Exploring Your Options

What happens if you want to switch attorneys midway through your case? Here we explain the things to keep in mind before finding a new attorney to represent you in an ongoing lawsuit.

What Causes People To Be Unhappy With Their Attorney?

There are a variety of reasons why people might be unhappy with their attorney. Sometimes, it is just not a good fit because the client and attorney have different expectations about the outcome or legal strategy of the case or maybe there is a personality conflict between you and your lawyer. In these situations, both sides can decide to part ways because it isn’t working for anyone.

Sometimes, it can be a bit more contentious between a client and their lawyer. People may feel that their attorney is not keeping them informed about the progress of their case or not responding to their inquiries quickly enough. They may feel that their lawyer is not providing adequate representation or doing enough to win their case. If an attorney has a conflict of interest in the case, such as representing another party with interests that are at odds with the client, that can also cause the client to lose confidence in their representation.

It's important to remember that changing lawyers is a serious decision that should be made after careful consideration of all options. If you're unhappy with your attorney, it's best to discuss your concerns with them and try to resolve any issues before making a change.

Things to Consider Before Changing Attorneys in Your North Carolina Personal Injury Case

If you continue to be unsatisfied with your attorney, you can consult other personal injury law firms, explain your case and see if they will be willing to take over representation in your case. Be sure to ask questions about communication, strategy, and outcome expectations so that you can avoid the same problematic issues that occurred with your first lawyer. It's important to discuss the process with your new attorney. This includes sending a "stop work" letter to your former attorney, preparing a “Consent to Change Attorney” form, and discussing any potential issues or concerns your new attorney may have about your case. It's also important to ensure that the new attorney is familiar with your case and has the necessary experience to represent you effectively.

How to Request Your Files

Draft a letter to your former lawyer, requesting a copy of the case file. In the letter, specify the case name and number, if applicable, and the documents and materials you would like to receive. You can either send the letter via certified mail or hand-deliver it to your former lawyer's office. If you choose to send it via certified mail, you will have proof of delivery. Your former lawyer may take a few days or weeks to respond to your request. If you do not receive a response within a reasonable amount of time, you may want to follow up with a phone call or another letter.

It is important to note that your former lawyer has a professional obligation to return your file to you, but there may be specific laws and regulations that govern the process. If you have any concerns or questions, you should consult with your new attorney for guidance.

The Basic Rules of Fee Sharing Between Terminated and New Attorneys in a Contingency Fee Case

In personal injury cases, attorneys typically work on a contingency fee agreement, where they get paid as a percentage of the settlement or trial rather than an hourly rate. When an attorney is terminated in a contingency fee case, they are entitled to recover the “reasonable value” of their services up to the date of termination. The original law firm will want to recoup their expenses if you decide to get a new firm and may bill you for their services and expenses that they invested into your case such as such as filing fees, expert witness fees, and other expenses.

In non-contingency fee cases, such as defense cases, the attorney may charge an hourly fee and the existing attorney may expect to be paid for all time spent before the switch. In some legal services agreements, the “reasonable value” of the services is defined by an hourly rate. This is usually expressed in terms of a flat dollar amount per hour based on a set number of hours or days worked.

A new lawyer may expect you to pay an hourly fee for all the time spent going forward, including time spent ‘catching up’ with your previous lawyer. It is important to review your fee agreement with your attorney to understand the specific terms and conditions of the arrangement, including what fees you may be responsible for if you fire your attorney. 

Timing of an Attorney Change Matters

Before firing your existing lawyer, it is important to arrange for another attorney to take over the case and ensure a smooth transition. This includes notifying your previous lawyer of your decision so that they stop working on your case and prepare a file for you. To make the transition as easy as possible, it's best to document all of your communications so there's no ambiguity about what was discussed.

The timing of when you change lawyers can significantly impact whether a new attorney is willing to take over your case. For example, if you change lawyers too close to a case trial date, the new attorney may not feel confident in their ability to win the case and decline to take it. They may not feel that you have a strong enough case to win a settlement based on the facts of the case. If your previous attorney has not provided a complete file to the new attorney, it may be difficult for the new attorney to fully understand the case and represent you effectively.

They may not feel that you are a good fit for their type of legal strategy in your particular type of case because of how the case was originally handled. If you have a history of firing attorneys, a new attorney may view you as an unreliable client and decline to take your case. Additionally, attorneys are often very busy, and if the new attorney is already handling a heavy caseload, they may not have the time to take on a new case.“It's important to have open and honest communication.” advises Corey Rosensteel, an attorney at Rosensteel Fleishman, PLLC. “It's best to discuss concerns with your attorney and try to resolve the issues before considering a change in representation.

Call the attorneys at Rosensteel Fleishman, PLLC today at 704-714-1450 for a free consultation about your case.

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