Can I Fire My Workers' Compensation Lawyer?

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

Question

I'm not happy with my workers' comp lawyer. My case has been dragging on forever, and it's not looking like I'll get much from the insurance company. Can I fire the lawyer and hire another?

Answer

If your lawyer 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, this may not be your lawyer's fault. Workers' comp cases are notorious for moving slowly and some workers' comp insurance companies are known for making low-ball offers. You may want to give your attorney more of a chance. 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.

However, 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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