Ethical rules for attorneys asking you to sign a contract after an accident?
My 32 year old son was struck by a vehicle while riding his motorcycle and put into the hospital for 3 months, 1 of which he was in a coma. 18 months later my son still requires 24 hours supervision and is still undergoing therapies due to the Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) to his frontal lobe.
A lawyer that I knew came with a colleague of mine to the ICU after the accident, to bring me a bag with some snacks. The lawyer brought me a contract, to read and sign to represent my son. His office kept calling for me to sign and I finally did on his behalf, 8 days later from so much insistence.
Was it ethical or legal for the lawyer to come to the intensive care the next morning and then insist on my signing? How long before a lawyer can ask to sign a contract after an accident? What are the rules about this? Thank you.
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ANSWER for "Ethical rules for attorneys asking you to sign a contract after an accident?":
Diana (Orlando, Florida):
In your description, you state the following...
- You knew the attorney
- The attorney came with your colleague
- The attorney brought you some snacks
- You did not ask the attorney to leave
Subsequently, the attorney left the contract with you to sign. The attorney did not pressure you to sign the contract while in the ICU. The above actions do not appear to constitute ethical misconduct.
Later, the attorney's office repeatedly contacted you to sign the contract. There is a legitimate reason for doing so.
Car and motorcycle accident legal representation requires an attorney to promptly deal with crash reports, police departments, evidence production, insurance companies, witnesses, medical narratives, and more.
With each day's passing, the negligent driver's insurance company, along with its attorneys, are constructing a defense to protect the driver and the insurance company from having to pay a fair amount of compensation for your son's injuries and related medical bills. While this is going on, your son has no one protecting his interests.
In serious car and motorcycle accidents, "Time is of the essence." That's why the attorney wanted you to sign the contract. The attorney was only trying to do his job.
You could simply have said "No" when repeatedly asked to sign the contract. Instead, you finally chose to say "Yes," and signed the contract.
After checking the Florida State Bar Rules of Professional Conduct, we were unable to find any prohibitions against an attorney, especially one known by the victim or victim's family, from coming to a hospital to discuss legal representation and leaving a contract to retain his or her legal services.
You can read the applicable sections of the Florida State Bar Rules of Professional Conduct at the Legal Information Institute website.
You have the right to dismiss the attorney and retain another. While the original attorney may have a lien on the future settlement or court award, if the contract was only signed recently, the attorney's lien should not be substantial.
The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.
Best of luck,
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