Can I Fire My Workers' Compensation Lawyer?

Before you fire your workers' comp attorney, make sure you can find another one.

By , Attorney · UC Law San Francisco

If your workers' comp attorney is not living up to your expectations, it's natural to consider getting a new lawyer. But don't act too fast. If you're unhappy with the pace of your workers' comp case or the settlement offers made by your employer's insurance company, that may not be your lawyer's fault.

What to Consider Before Firing Your Workers' Comp Lawyer

Workers' comp cases are notorious for moving slowly and some workers' comp insurance companies are known for making low-ball offers. That means you might want to give your attorney some latitude in how they handle your case. After all, they're professionals and they navigate this system every day.

That said, if your lawyer doesn't seem to be doing any work on your case, isn't responding to your phone calls (and you're not calling too frequently), or doesn't seem to know enough about workers' comp laws in your state, you may be smart to consider changing lawyers.

How to Fire Your Workers' Comp Lawyer

It's usually a bad idea to fire your lawyer out of the blue. Instead, share your concerns with your attorney, whether it's a lack of communication, a slow-moving case, or something else. Your attorney might have a good explanation for what you perceive as substandard performance.

But if you're convinced that your attorney isn't the right person to represent you, you can write, email, or call their office and simply state that you wish to terminate your attorney-client relationship. Ask your attorney to send you any files related to your case (or forward them to your new attorney, if you have one).

Don't be surprised if you receive a bill from your former attorney for case-related expenses, including:

  • copy expenses
  • medical record requests
  • deposition costs
  • postage, and
  • travel.

Attorneys' often require reimbursement of these items regardless of whether you win or lose your case, and these are charged over and above the standard 15% (or so) fee. Consult your fee agreement for specific details.

Complications Around Finding Another Workers' Comp Lawyer

You may have trouble finding a new workers' comp lawyer if you decide to fire your lawyer. That's because your new lawyer will have to split the attorneys' fee with the old lawyer. And in most states, workers' comp is limited to a small percentage of the permanent disability payments you win, usually as little as 10% to 15%.

A good workers' comp attorney is able to turn down cases that don't promise to bring in a big fee, and because the attorneys' fee will have to be split between two lawyers, yours will become one of them, even if your permanent impairments are serious. On top of that, when prospective lawyers hear that you fired your last lawyer, they may think you're difficult to work with and be reticent to work with you.

If you're intent on switching lawyers, make sure find a lawyer who's willing to take your case first. Interview a few lawyers and ask questions to make sure the problems you had with the old lawyer won't happen again with the new lawyer.

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