Can we reject mediation after only making a verbal agreement?
My husband and I have been going through a 4 year trial asking $4,000,000. They tried to settle for $215,000. We were assaulted and beat up in a casino by a man who tried to pick me up. When my husband told the first man I was his wife he wouldn't leave, even when we asked a slot host to help, he replied "not my job". Then the guy went and got his bachelor party buddies, came back and hit my husband over the head from behind with beer bottles.
My husband sustained a concussion and short term memory loss and had to have 3 surgeries. I tried to help my husband and one of the men picked me up and said, "no one f__ks with my bro", then threw me to the ground. My teeth were loose, jaw injured, I had herniated discs, etc, not to mention the emotional stress (tons). We have 2 eyewitnesses.
My husband is now on permanent disability due to some past medical issues as well as the injuries he incurred that day. At mediation we were pushed so hard to settle. My attorney did not fight not one bit. We never had an answer to some stupid things that could harm our case.
We were told, or I have to say "reminded", that we would need $25,000 by trial if we continue on. That left us 11 days to come up with the money and our lawyer knew exactly how bad our finances were because we tried to borrow money from lending tree etc. a couple of times.
We feel no one was on our side at the mediation including my lawyer, and the worst part is my lawyer had more liens we would owe if we didn't win the trial (we didn't know about these until the day of the trial when he said "you better settle, you owe victims of crime $32,000 and we better take what we can get").
My lawyer never obtained a lost wages report saying my husband could not go back to his current job due to his brain injury. My husband was making close to $100,000/yr with bonus, car, great benefits and he loved his job. We have sold every possession we own. We are in foreclosure and maxed out all of our credit just to live during this ordeal. Our credit was previously excellent!
What should we do? Do we have to pay court fees if we decline the settlement and we go in front of a judge and lose? How can we finance a trial? Can we sue our lawyer?
One last thing, we had a verbal agreement at mediation but no signed papers yet. Is it too late to do anything, I mean will they win if we go to trial because we made the verbal agreement?
Please help us. We don't trust our lawyer. We thought he had enough evidence to make these horrible men never forget what they did to us, and to get compensated by the casino scene where we should have been protected. But now it doesn't seem to be working out. Any information or help you could give would be greatly appreciated.
A very emotionally drained husband and wife
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ANSWER for "Can we reject mediation after only making a verbal agreement?":
It is legally inappropriate for us to interfere in the attorney-client relationship. We can though make some general observations about the facts you present. In most personal injury cases an attorney's fee is a "contingent fee", meaning the attorney doesn’t get paid until she either settles the case or wins it at trial.
Some personal injury attorneys will agree to “finance” or pay many of the costs of a lawsuit themselves before and during trial. After the case is settled or won the attorney will take the amount she financed plus her contingent fee as payment in full.
Some personal injury attorneys will not finance cases. They require the client to pay in advance the costs of expert testimony, exhibits, subpoenas, etc. Other attorneys use a combination of both methods.
You have every right to dismiss your attorney before the case is finalized. If you do, it may be very difficult to find another attorney to accept the case. That’s because your original attorney will retain a "lien" on the final settlement or court award for her legal fees and the expenses we set out above.
Too many times clients and their attorneys develop a wedge between them. Regrettably many times it is the fault of the client.
Most clients hear what they want to hear, and not what was actually said. When initially discussing your case it is probable your attorney was enthusiastic about the outcome. She may have said it’s a "4 million dollar case" or something along those lines. That’s normal, and at the outset of the case your attorney may have believed every word of it. But things happen in a lawsuit and the case doesn’t always turn out the way clients or their attorneys would prefer.
We don’t have in front of us the massive amount of documents, interrogatories, depositions, court transcripts, mediation transcripts and the like. As a result we can only give you general ideas about how the case may have developed for you and your husband.
Many of the questions you have about the attorney’s compensation can be found in the contract you signed with her at the beginning of the case. The contract controls her decisions and actions as it does yours. Sit with her and ask every question you can possibly think of. At this point that seems to be your best course of action.
Best of luck,