Legal Malpractice in Car Accident Settlement?

by Lulu
(Buffalo, NY)

In May 2010 I was hit head-on by a drunk driver. He got tickets for leaving the scene of an accident and DWI. I called around and found a lawyer. The accident put a lot of stress on me with all the doctor and lawyer appointments, work and trying to get my car replaced.

Three years prior to the accident I had a heroin problem for a few months and completed treatment. I was clean for 3 years until right after the accident. I started using again. My lawyer knew of this because I had gotten charges and I talked to him about this. My back is really messed up and my chiropractor told me I would be lucky to walk in 10 years and I would have problems from the accident for the rest of my life.

The lawyer came to me a few days before Christmas and told me I could only get $1,000. He said if I didn't sign the agreement I would be responsible for all past medical bills and my car. So once the lawyer took his money I only got $600. I was on drugs at the time I signed. He also told me he did a lot of work to get this so I would have money to get my family something for Christmas.

I went to treatment again and completed it and have been clean since. I didn't know anything about lawsuits. That's why I got a lawyer. I wasn't trying to get a bunch of money I just wanted to get my back better. Now I'm having a lot of problems with my back. So I have been talking to people and they said I should have gotten a lot more.

I'm wondering if there is any way I can reopen my case for medical reasons or if I can sue him civilly for lawyer malpractice? This lawyer is one of the biggest firms in our city and I don't even know if anyone will take the case and go up against them. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Legal Malpractice in Car Accident Settlement?":

Lulu (Buffalo, NY):

As you've learned Personal Injury Attorneys work on a contingency basis. Depending upon the progression of your case the fees your attorney charged were probably between 33.3% percent and 40%. With that said, it is unlikely your attorney put in all that time just to settle for barely enough to pay your medical bills and only a few hundred dollars for you.

In a case like that it wouldn't be surprising if she lost money on the case herself. She may have exercised her contractual right to her attorney's fees, but from the facts you present, those attorney's fees probably weren’t very much.

It is very difficult for us to comment specifically about your case without more information.

The amount of the medical bills is very important. The injuries you suffered visa a vis your medical bills usually determine the amount of a personal injury settlement. Compensation for chiropractic bills is often more difficult to settle than are medical bills.

Another dimension to your case was probably your addiction to heroin. Although such an addiction is in and of itself a devastating disease, the Claims Adjuster may have relied on that disease as a pre-existing disease which exacerbated your personal injury.

You are right. Very few attorneys enjoy suing other attorneys. Those attorneys are usually considered the “bottom of the barrel”. They especially would be hesitant to go after an attorney from a major firm.

The best thing to do is sit with your attorney and calmly review every aspect of your case. Hopefully doing so will afford you some satisfaction and closure.

Best of luck,

Law Guy

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Bar Association Board of Review
by: TIM

You can't fight your attorney but you can put your complaint in writing and file it with the State Bar Association's Board of Review. They will investigate the matter (they have to by law any time there is a complaint to the bar association).

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