Fired my lawyer, now on my own...

by Sharon
(Atlanta, GA)

I fired my lawyer after the defendant's insurance company sent him a fax stating that my 'injury' was due to a car accident and that the insurance company would only offer a 'cost to defend' amount of $35k.

The lawyer, and his Lamborghini driving partner, browbeat me to the point of tears, told me "this case was not worth pursuing," then dictated a letter for me to write saying that I'll settle for $10k. The contract that I had signed with them was for 33% of any settlement.

I am 65, disabled at 57, and was injured in the defendant's home (her fault), and my hip was broken. Medical expenses are just over $80k. Now I have to respond to the insurance company adjuster on my own. I received an email from the law firm's owner saying that I owe them nothing, not even expenses as he does not want me to be unhappy.

Methinks it's to keep me from suing him. Anyway, I owe him no fees and I do not have a Medicare balance. I may have a Medicaid balance though. So, I am having to purchase a scanner, fax, copier, printer combo so that I can proceed on my own with the insurance adjuster.

In your opinion what are my first steps (clarification on the injury cause, I'd guess), then what? Counter offer on a settlement on my cost of medical bills? The homeowner has a $300k liability coverage policy on her home. Thanks for any direction you can give.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Fired my lawyer, now on my own...":

Sharon (Atlanta, GA):

It is our policy here at not to interfere with the attorney-client relationship. To do so would be wholly inappropriate.

Unfortunately, without an attorney you are at the mercy of the insurance company. The insurance company knows by dismissing your attorney you have lost any leverage in the negotiation of your injury claim.

Practically speaking, at this point you can't file a lawsuit against the other party. (In personal injury lawsuits, the injured party must sue the person at fault, and not the insurance company.)

Even if you are somehow able to draft a legally admissible petition, and have it served on the other party, the insurance company's attorneys would litigate the case. That means you will find yourself in a courtroom subject to the Washington State Rules of Evidence, including motions, hearings, objections, and on and on.

Your apparent aspersion of your attorney's partner because he or she drives a Lamborghini seems inappropriate. Like any other business people, attorneys work hard to build their businesses. The attorney has obviously been quite successful in the representation of his clients. That's the type of attorney you need.

A contingency fee of 33.3 percent is perfectly reasonable and customary in personal injury cases. In fact, many personal injury attorneys charge 40 percent if the case goes to trial. Remember, you paid the attorney no fees in advance for the time and effort he would expend in pursuing your claim. He does have a right to be paid for the work he performed on your behalf.

Without knowing more about the underlying facts of the injury, including knowing whether or not you had a prior injury in a prior car accident, it's difficult to suggest what amount would be a reasonable counter-offer.

If you don't think the $35,000 settlement offer was fair, then negotiate up from that amount. However, don't be surprised if the insurance company rescinds that offer. They are under no legal obligation to honor previous settlement offers.

Therefore, it would be in your best interest to see if you can find another personal injury attorney to represent you. Without an attorney, all you have to rely on is the insurance company's empathy for your plight. Unfortunately, it is quite likely the company is fresh out of empathy.

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,

Judge Calisi

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