Lawyer Not Returning Your Phone Calls? Advice From a Lawyer.

Lawyer won't return callNothing is more frustrating for a client than when his lawyer won’t return his phone calls. Having been guilty of this offense myself on occasion, let me offer some insight into why attorneys do not return calls and advice on how to get your call returned.

Why Lawyers Don’t Return Clients’ Phone Calls

The personal injury lawyer’s most valuable asset is his time. This time is divided between tasks that move his cases forward toward resolution (and payment) and those that do not. Guess which category “client phone calls” fall in, more often than not? Unless you are calling your lawyer to give him some crucial piece of information, odds are good that your phone call is doing nothing to advance your case. Most clients call with questions about their case’s status or concerns over how their case is developing. While these calls are important to clients, they are important to lawyers only to the extent that lawyers don’t want pissed off clients. Client phone calls take the lawyer away from doing things that make him money. This is why they often end up on the “back burner.”

There is no doubt that lawyers have an ethical duty to keep clients informed about the status of their cases. However, this rule doesn’t necessarily mean that your lawyer needs to convey this information personally, or even over the phone. More often than not, a paralegal assigned to your case can answer your “case status” questions. Some lawyers send out once-a-month “status” letters to their clients to cover this ethical obligation. Anything beyond this is usually considered “hand holding,” a practice which lawyers find annoying at best.

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Most personal injury lawyers will tell you when you first hire them that there will be long periods of time during your case when they are simply gathering information and waiting until your case is ready for settlement or trial. When something significant approaches, such as a deposition, an IME, or a mediation, they will call you. In your lawyer’s mind, if he hasn’t called you, there is usually nothing he needs to talk to you about. A call from you will trigger the following internal dialogue in your attorney’s head: “Why is this person calling me? I told him I’d call when I had any news. He’s probably calling just to be a squeaky wheel and bitch about how his case isn’t moving fast enough, or maybe to gripe about how he doesn’t have any money — as if I don’t want his case to settle as soon as possible.” This instinctive response to client calls comes from experience. Your call may not be like that at all, but your lawyer doesn’t know that. Would you rush to return a call from someone who just wants to complain about how he thinks you’re not working fast enough?

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How You Get Your Lawyer to Return Your Calls

Now that you know why lawyers don’t return client calls in general, how can you get your lawyer to return your call? First and foremost, don’t call your lawyer all the time. The story of the “Little Boy Who Cried Wolf” should be your guide here. Only call when it is important, and only ask to speak directly to your lawyer when you have to. If his paralegal can answer your question, let her. It is fine to call your lawyer’s office and specifically ask for the paralegal to get your regular status updates (and when I say regular, I mean “once a month,” not “once a week”).

Secondly, I can not stress enough how important it is for you not to be rude or abrasive when calling your lawyer’s office. I don’t care what your lawyer did or how pissed off you are. The goal here is to get a return phone call. If you vent your spleen on the paralegal, you significantly reduce the odds that your call will be returned. Worse, your return phone call could be to tell you that your lawyer is dropping your case because you’re a jerk (yes, they can do that). Try to think like your lawyer. Who would you call back first: the friendly client who’s always pleasant and doesn’t keep you on the phone forever or the angry client who wants you to call him so he can bitch you out for an hour? Bottom line: nice clients tend to move to the front of the line for return calls. Jerks move to the back.

Third, when you call, leave a message about why you’re calling. If you have a question, leave a message with the actual question. This way, your lawyer knows exactly why you’re calling and will be able to get your answer ready before he calls, saving him time on the phone. If you have a couple of questions, e-mail them to your lawyer and his paralegal. Anything you can do to show your attorney that your call isn’t going to just waste his time will help get you a call back.

Finally, when you do get your lawyer on the phone, don’t waste his time. He’s not your therapist or your friend. Ask him questions about your case, not about what to do with your life. Also, don’t pull a “bait and switch,” where you get him on the phone under the pretext of a quick question, but you really just want to bitch about how he never returns your calls. If you want to express dissatisfaction with your lawyer for not keeping you informed, do it constructively. Dropping F-bombs may feel good in the short run, but it will poison your relationship with your lawyer and with any other lawyer if you fire your current one (yes, lawyers who take your case over from another lawyer will find out how you behaved).

Tell your lawyer that you know he’s busy, but you get concerned when you don’t hear from him after (whatever amount of time it’s been since you last heard from him). Promise not to waste his time when he gets you on the phone in exchange for him promising to return your calls faster. Establish yourself as one of his clients who respects his time and doesn’t call him unless it’s important.

Practical Tips for Making Sure Your Lawyer Calls You Back

If you’ve tried the tactics contained in the previous section and still don’t get a return phone call, try these suggestions (in order):

  1. Make an appointment for a 15-minute phone call with your attorney. Have his paralegal check his calendar and schedule you for a time when he’s available for a 15-minute phone call. Now he can’t say he doesn’t have time to call you. Be sure to establish “who calls whom” when you make the appointment. If he fails to call you for the scheduled phone call, you need to move to the next step.
  2. Make an appointment to come in and meet with your attorney in person. Don’t take “no” for an answer. If his office won’t give you an appointment, remind them of his ethical duty (use the word “ethical” specifically) to keep you informed about your case, and tell them that if they don’t call you back by the end of the day with an appointment to see him, you’ll have to see what other options are available to you. Basically, you’ve just sent a coded message to your lawyer that you’re going to file a bar complaint against him if he doesn’t agree to meet with you. Do not actually come out and threaten him with the bar complaint. As long as it is a veiled threat, you can possibly mend the relationship with your lawyer and continue to work together. Once the threat is made explicitly, I doubt your lawyer will want to continue to represent you much longer.
  3. Stop by your lawyer’s office without an appointment (try around lunch time) and try to see him. Go only when you have the time to wait him out. He can only hide in his office for so long.
  4. As a final step, if none of the above advice has helped you, you need to find yourself another lawyer. You may have to fire your current lawyer before other lawyers are willing to speak to you about your case.
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183 Responses to Lawyer Not Returning Your Phone Calls? Advice From a Lawyer.

  1. Concerned Relative says:

    Thank you so much for your website. Great and helpful info on how to navigate this tedious process. My close relative is asking me to step in to help relieve the increasing stress/anxiety of a case that’s been in the works since August of 2010. Based on your website FAQs, it sounds like this process is moving right along (slow, tedious and super frustrating). My relative was rear ended by a self insured company’s truck. No issues as to liability. Two back surgeries and tons of appointments, follow ups, economic analysis, waiting, etc. is making my relative’s anxiety issues go through the roof. My relative was laid off last year and is at the end of their rope financially and emotionally. He feels like a pawn and that the attorney (mainly paralegal) doesn’t care and isn’t communicating well. The latest development that set my relative off was an IME requested by his attorney (not the defense). My relative has asked me to intervene as the paralegal/client relationship seems to have soured badly, in the same way you have eloquently described in other posts. I’m happy to help. I have a more objective perspective and have a business background that I think makes me a good and fair advocate. I’m thinking this might be a win-win for me to help, but I wanted to get your perspective on what it might mean for the attorney/paralegal as I get involved. I want to help my relative get stress relief and a feeling that things are moving forward. Do you think this is a good idea? Do I need to get any specific legal permission from my relative to act as their advocate? What’s your advice? Again, thank you very much for this important service you provide.

    • fl_litig8r says:

      Generally speaking, lawyers don’t like dealing with clients’ relatives. Attorney-client privilege issues arise, and the lawyer also has to wonder if the information he gives you will be conveyed accurately to the client (and if you are giving the lawyer instructions with which the client agrees).

      That being said, if your relative has become difficult to deal with, his lawyer may be o.k. with it. The safest way to handle it would be for your relative to sign a durable power of attorney giving you the right to act on his behalf in legal matters. This should avoid any attorney-client privilege issues, as for all intents and purposes you are stepping into your relative’s shoes through the DPOA.

      As to the IME, there can be several good reasons why your relative’s own lawyer has arranged one. One could be that your relative’s treating doctors aren’t supporting the claim strongly enough. Another would be if the lawyer doesn’t think that the treating doctors would perform strongly at trial (some doctors are excellent physicians but lousy witnesses). Also, having your own IME doctor gives you one more medical witness on your side that you otherwise wouldn’t have. I know you didn’t ask about this, but I figured I’d address it because you brought it up.

  2. Charity Long says:

    Hello, thanks for your articles! I suffered a brain injury about 9 months ago and retained an attorney shortly after. The situation became very frustrating though because in the 9 months I have never met him and he avoids a personal meeting. Now, because my injury is more significant that first realized, he doesn’t want to send a demand letter and wants to just jump filing a suit but informed me that he now wants about $7000 to do this despite our contingency fee arrangement. He said that this type of lawsuit is just so expensive to take to court. I am seeking a second opinion and have found someone who is reviewing my case. The question I have is that it’s been over a month and she still hasn’t reviewed my case file, she said that she has been really busy. I respect that and am trying to not be too anxious but I feel stuck and am wanting some answers. Is this a long time to review a case for a second opinion? I don’t want to be too push but need to know if I need to move on to someone else or not. Thanks!

    • fl_litig8r says:

      You are wise to have gotten a second opinion after your first lawyer tried to change your arrangement. It is highly suspicious that you never met him, and also very suspicious that he would not attempt settlement before wanting to file suit.

      As to your second lawyer, if she’s too busy to let you know if she wants to take your case after a month of review, she’s probably too busy to do an effective job on your case if she ultimately decides she wants it. I think it’s time to move on to lawyer #3. To help you avoid picking a lawyer who may be operating a settlement mill (which lawyer #1 may be) or one who is carrying too many cases (like lawyer #2), I suggest you read this article before hunting for lawyer #3.

  3. dominic says:

    I filed a bar complaint against one of the defendants attorney in a small claims case (I believe they acted unethically towards me by not telling me that they were in contact with the other defendant before getting me to tell them about my case). I did not have an attorney at the time but felt very taken advantaged of. We tried ending the small claims at mediation as the other lawyer for the other defendant and I were will to dismiss but the lawyer for the other defendant, who I made a complaint about, is unwilling and seems to be making this into a personal beef with me. Is this unethical?

    • fl_litig8r says:

      It sounds like this lawyer may have violated the following ethics rule when he first spoke with you (this is taken from the model rules of ethics, and may be altered somewhat for your particular state):

      Transactions With Persons Other Than Clients
      Rule 4.3 Dealing With Unrepresented Person

      In dealing on behalf of a client with a person who is not represented by counsel, a lawyer shall not state or imply that the lawyer is disinterested. When the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that the unrepresented person misunderstands the lawyer’s role in the matter, the lawyer shall make reasonable efforts to correct the misunderstanding. The lawyer shall not give legal advice to an unrepresented person, other than the advice to secure counsel, if the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that the interests of such a person are or have a reasonable possibility of being in conflict with the interests of the client.

      It is probably not unethical (at least towards you) for the lawyer to refuse to go along with you and the other co-defendant. If not going along with you is not in the best interests of his own client, it would be an ethics issue for his own client to raise, not you. In deciding how to handle the litigation, he only needs to consider the interests of his own client, even if that hurts co-defendants.

      • dominic says:

        So if the attorney did break the Rule 4.3 what can I do or what can happen next? Keep in mind this is a young attorney so they were probably unaware of it at the time. Myself, my attorney and the other defendants attorney are under the impression this attorney that broke the Rule 4.3 has taken a “personal” nature to the case now for the Bar complaint as this could have been settled in mediation. Any thoughts on that? Thanks again for the useful information!

        • fl_litig8r says:

          The only remedy for an ethics violation is a bar complaint, which you’ve already done. If he duped you into thinking that he was interested in representing you, you may be able to get him (and probably his whole firm) taken off the case through a Motion to Disqualify. Basically, you’d have to allege that you shared what you believed to be privileged information with him (even discussions with lawyers who you are thinking about hiring, and haven’t actually hired, are privileged), which creates a conflict of interest that requires he withdraw from the case — his conflict will almost surely be imputed to the rest of his firm, as well.

          As far as him making it personal due to the bar complaint, there’s no rule against that as long as he is acting in his own client’s best interests.

      • JoAnne says:

        I have a problem with my attorney in that he has refused to talk to me about my case; never sent me one piece of paper from the courts; refuses to show me the depositions taken of my employer and my doctor; ignored letters; left me sitting for over a year-and-a-half and wasn’t going to tell me my case was over. Now can I get this attorney to answer one question from my case?

        • fl_litig8r says:

          If you can’t set up a face-to-face appointment to either resolve these issues or fire him, your only other recourse would be a complaint to the state bar. When you say that your case “was over”, what happened? Did it settle, was it dismissed or was judgment entered against you?

  4. Christine Mannino says:

    Hello. I suffered an injury outside a restaurant back in September 2009 resulting in a broken foot and immediately hired an attorney to represent me in a personal injury claim. He took the case and assured me he would work as hard as he could to get me a settlement, at least for my lost wages. I even drove back the two hours to the scene of the accident to take photos at his request, brought the photos to him, signed all the paperwork and moved forward with him. Since then I have spoken to him twice and it’s been over a year since he’s returned a phone call of mine. Even if my case is dead in the water, doesn’t he have a responsibility to inform me of that? Where exactly do I go from here? I’ve left SEVERAL messages with his paralegal and just get rushed off the phone with phony promises of a call back. Help!!

    • fl_litig8r says:

      If he no longer wanted to represent you, he should have promptly notified you of that fact. The “silent treatment” is not the ethical way to dump a client. As I suggest in the article, call his office, and if he’s supposedly unavailable, make an appointment for a 15 minute phone conference with him. His paralegal will have access to his calendar, and it should be no problem to find a 15 minute opening within a day or two. Don’t accept any excuses as to why such a conference wouldn’t be possible. If they try stonewalling you when setting up this appointment, tell the paralegal to remind him that he has an ethical obligation to keep you informed as to the progress of your case, and that if you don’t get your appointment, your next call will be to the state bar.

      • Christine Mannino says:

        Thank you SO much, I truly appreciate your help. I’ll call them tomorrow and demand my phone conference.

  5. Corey says:

    I was rear-ended in February. I got an attorney. I try to just send him a text every 3 weeks to see what’s up? Sometimes he never replies. I texted him one Saturday afternoon and he called me immediately and scorned me for calling him on a weekend. He told me that he contacted all of my medical bills providers to put “holds” on the bills. I kept receiving collections notices. I called them individually and they said they don’t have any record of anyone calling about the bills. So my perfect credit is about to be ruined…I don’t know what to do… :(

    • fl_litig8r says:

      I have to side with your lawyer about contacting him on the weekend. I’m shocked that he would give you his cell phone number, to be honest. Don’t abuse that trust by using his cell for anything less than a dire emergency, especially outside normal business hours.

      That being said, have you signed any letters of protection for your medical providers? Usually providers won’t hold off on collection attempts unless they have a letter of protection.

      If your lawyer hasn’t had you come in to sign any letters of protection, you should probably raise this issue with him. Gather up your collection notices from the different providers and set up a face to face meeting with your lawyer to show him the notices and ask him if any of these providers have agreed in writing to withhold on collections while your lawsuit is pending. If any of them have, get copies of the agreement so you can provide it to the collection agency. The provider may not have notified the collection agent that it made such a deal.

      If your lawyer doesn’t have any agreements in writing from your providers, ask him if he can see if the providers will accept a letter of protection. This is a common practice for most personal injury lawyers, so it shouldn’t be a big deal. The worst thing you can do is to ignore the collections while there may be an easy way to stop it. Not all providers will accept letters of protection, and there’s no way for your lawyer to force them to. For them, you’ll either have to figure out a way to pay the bill, or take the hit on your credit score.

  6. josh underwood says:

    We currently are holding a note against a gentlemen that owes our company a fair amount of money. The attorney asked for $750 2 months ago, and has yet to send out any information, or return a phone call. If we “fire” our attorney, we are losing money, which is the primary problem here anyway. Any advice?

    • fl_litig8r says:

      As long as someone is answering the phone at the attorney’s office, you should be able to schedule a phone call with him. Just ask for the person who keeps his calendar and set up a 10 minute appointment for your phone call. Make it clear that you will be calling him. If he “no-shows” for the phone appointment, or if his office refuses to make an appointment, let them know that while you really don’t want to involve the state bar in this matter, you will if he does not call you by the close of business that day. That should scare him enough to call you back (use the bar complaint threat only if necessary, though).

  7. sohy says:

    Is my motor vehicle accident lawyer fighting for me, not taken defendant to court since 2007?
    My husband had a motor vehicle accident in January 2007 (he was behind the red light and was hit from the driver’s side at the speed of 80km ,He was taken to hospital by ambulance , the car was totaled ).As he had already registered to sit for dental aptitude test in Ontario back in 2006 (test was dated February 2007 ). The exam result was not good as he went to the center with pain. Result; science 17 ,Perceptual Ability 24,… Eventually he could not get in the program b/c results were not good and after trying it few times, he lost his strength and confidence AND I COULD SAY THE ACCIDENT WAS THE CAUSE OF IT .He has proven to be of the best researchers and he had published articles in gene magazine ,etc.
    He is suffering sever depression, anger , anxiety , pain (usually walks like a person with disability ), loss of concentration (he keeps staring in a page for an hour like he is watching an interesting movie ) , WE don’t connect anymore ,… NOT THE SAME PERSON AS HE USED TO BE.
    After all these year’s lawyer has not taken the defendant to court and as he says court will be in 2014. (My husband’s insurance company, North Waterloo, paid for some of the treatments and offered him 100K; of course LAWYER TOOK 90K, which was surprising).
    I am not sure his lawyer is really working for him and IF he is an honest lawyer!!! HOW DO I KNOW IF LAWYER IS ON HIS SIDE AND FIGHTING BACK TO GET HIS RIGHTS ?!! what would be the approximate settlement amount for this case IN TORONTO ?! if you had OR know someone that had such experience PLEASE PLEASE EMAIL ME . [e-mail address removed by Admin]

    • fl_litig8r says:

      I am not a Canadian lawyer (and, sadly, I don’t personally know any), so I really can’t tell you how cases normally proceed in Toronto. I am a bit confused by your statement about your husband’s insurer offering $100k and the lawyer taking $90k. Are you saying he took $90k in fees and costs out of a $100k settlement? Do you have a contingency fee or an hourly contract? What type of coverage was this paid under (med pay, uninsured/underinsured motorist type coverage, etc.)?

      Did your lawyer tell you that he has an actual trial date set in 2014? I know in U.S. courts, it’s not uncommon for trials to be set a year or more in advance, but 2014 seems a bit long to wait (your court system may be more backed up than ours).

      At this point, it sounds like you really don’t know what’s going on in this case. I’d strongly suggest setting up a face-to-face meeting with your lawyer to have him explain what’s going on. If, after that meeting you are not comfortable that he is adequately representing your husband, consult with another lawyer to address your concerns and make sure nothing unusual/unethical is happening.

      Sorry I can’t be of more help, but I just don’t know enough about how Canadian lawsuits typically proceed to tell you if you should be worried.

  8. sohy says:

    thanks for your caring reply .
    my case was :the 90K out of 100K included
    1- the 33% of the settlement +
    2- the costs (including the specialists he had sent my husband to & … OF course the lawyer himself says that he takes 50% from the doctors fee as his commission for sending them patients ) . **** 1+2 was about 70K .
    3- And he held about 25K for the previous lawyer’s fee. ( my husband has fired the first lawyer ) . my husband had the court inspecting the fees . and to cut the story short : we paid about 17K in fees to the fired lawyer. ****1+2+3 was about 90K .

    I know it sounds like a story and makes us look like stupid immigrants BUT is real .

    • fl_litig8r says:

      As an initial matter, I’m going to restate that I’m ignorant about Canadian law and ethics rules for lawyers. Some of the things you’ve said would be problematic in a U.S. lawsuit, but may not be unusual, illegal or unethical in Canada.

      The 33% fee paid to your current lawyer is reasonable, and is the customary rate for most lawyers for a pre-lawsuit settlement in the U.S. as well.

      The money paid to your former lawyer may not have been avoidable. In the U.S., if you fire your lawyer without “good cause” you usually still owe him some kind of fee for the time he worked on your case. The article I just linked to covers this in detail, but may not be accurate for Canada.

      The money your lawyer paid to medical personnel, either as expert costs or to pay for actual medical treatment, is also customarily done in U.S. cases.

      The money your lawyer took as a “referral fee” to the doctors would be unethical (a bar rule violation) in the United States. This would be considered a pretty egregious violation and would result in some pretty harsh sanctions. You should consult with another Canadian attorney or contact the relevant bar association to see if this is ethical in Canada.

      If you still have a claim remaining after this settlement (you had indicated that you have a trial set for 2014) you should make sure that your lawyer is not acting unethically before letting him resolve this other claim for you.

  9. sohy says:

    My point is that if he charged me about 75k out of 100k settlement of my husband’s car insurance (33% contract ) then he has reimbursed his firm 42K in costs ( whatever that may be : expert advice , his hourly rate , building my husband’s case ) . But the settlement amount offered last time by the defendant’s insurance company was about 40K. SO WHAT DO YOU THINK, it seems fishy. ( it means I have my lawyer just 42K to the second lawyer and about 17K to the lawyer I fired ,both lawyers trying to build a case and my husband was offered way less than the amount he has paid in costs excluding the percentage 33% of settlement ). IN MY opinion, there is something going on with his case.
    I have built a blog about his case, and I am wondering if I could introduce it here, and if I can put your link in my BLOG?!
    I am trying in this blog to transfer our experience in MVA case to people with our situation AND also to gain more information & hear peoples comments and stories .
    I know that your time is valuable and I thank you for taking the time to comment on my issue .

    • fl_litig8r says:

      You’ve totally lost me. I already told you what I thought about the way the $100k settlement was divided up by your lawyer, and what you should do to see if he violated an ethical rule under Canadian law.

      When you say that the “settlement amount offered last time by the defendant’s insurance company was about 40K”, I assume you mean a settlement offer from a different defendant (as the first one settled for $100k), but I honestly can’t tell from what you’ve written.

      You really need to bounce these questions off of another Canadian lawyer, and the quicker you do it the better. I really don’t know what else to tell you.

      I’ve allowed your blog link (it’s linked to your name in your last post) and you’re free to link to my blog. I would refrain from making any serious accusations against your lawyer (or actually naming him in your blog) until you get an opinion from a Canadian lawyer that he did something unethical or illegal. Otherwise, he may sue you for libel.

  10. blondechic says:

    This is simply the best advice ever!!!!
    I googled ‘how to get a lawyer to call you back’ and found this site…Literally within an hour of sending an email consisting of the points covered–specifically tip #2–my lawyer sent me an email reply I’d been waiting *weeks* for!
    I chuckled a little bit to myself thinking what an a** he is, but once I read how to “talk” to him, and how easy it was to get an answer, it turned out to be no problem at all.Haha!
    Thanks so much!

  11. Valencia says:

    My personal injury attorney doesn’t have a paralegal or receptionist. I know his time is valuable so I send him an email once every six weeks regarding the status of my case. He doesn’t even return my email. I don’t bother him with annoying calls. The agreement is on contingency and he sent over a settlement demand back in January of this year. My gut is telling me he got the settlement and thats why he is avoiding me. When he finally got back to me he said the claims adjuster had been switched around however I never told him that I knew he was lying because the claims adjuster has been the same the entire time. I knew this for a fact, so I was wondering why would he lie to me about that. It was a food poison claim with all the documentation and the store upfront sent me a letter accepting all fault for it. How do I find out if in fact there was a settlement disbursed already? I just found out that this attorney had been disciplined before by the state of california, but I am unsure of why?

    • fl_litig8r says:

      Most insurers won’t send out a settlement check that isn’t payable to the plaintiff (and her attorney, in most cases), so if you haven’t signed a settlement check, I doubt your lawyer got one. Almost no insurer would send out a settlement check without you first having signed a release, so, again, if you haven’t signed a release I doubt your case settled. I suspect he’s probably just put your case on the back burner, which is why he’s slow to communicate with you. You should either call him or go in to see him to discuss your concerns. If you have proof that the adjuster is still the same, you can ask why he said he or she wasn’t.

      Attorney discipline can be for any number of reasons, and can range from a “slap on the wrist” for minor offenses (like “laziness” offenses, such as not keeping clients informed or not diligently prosecuting cases) to suspension and disbarment for the more serious ones. Clearly, yours wasn’t disbarred, so his offense wasn’t among the worst (like stealing client money).

      The only way I can think of to see if a settlement was made is to check directly with the store you sued. As a party, you are free to communicate with another party, even though both of you have lawyers. The defendant’s insurer almost certainly won’t speak directly to you while you are represented by a lawyer, which is why the store itself may be your best bet. Of course, the store may choose not to speak with you.

  12. Susan says:

    Great website. I’m having a problem with my divorce case in Virginia where my lawyer will not communicate with me over phone or at his office. I have been trying to approve the settlement agreement that has been sitting on his desk for a month and my lawyer won’t return my calls and he skips the office appointments that he arranges. How can I motivate my lawyer to finish my case? The only thing he needs to do is contact my spouse’s lawyer to tell him I accept the modified proposal that I orignally proposed? I’m ready to move on with my life, but I now I feel like I have to force my lawyer to do his job. All other issues of my divorce are settled. Literally the only thing I need is for my lawyer to call my spouse’s lawyer with my approval but he hasn’t communicated with my about my case in nearly 2 months. Suggestions?

    • fl_litig8r says:

      I’d first suggest using the “ethics” language I mention above towards the end of the article — that would scare most lawyers. If you’re not opposed to contacting your soon-to-be-ex, you could tell him to have his lawyer contact yours. Parties are not forbidden from speaking to each other, even when represented by counsel. Generally, this is a bad idea — but in your case, I’d make an exception. Your husband’s lawyer may have better luck forcing your lawyer’s hand.

      Aside from that, the only thing to do would be to file a bar complaint, which could get ugly.

  13. Tim says:

    This site is very helpful. I am at the end of my PIP case (Rental Car company) and I signed release papers for a settlement the last week of June. I waited till the end of July to began calling to ask about updates. To date I have only called about 6 times and still no call back. Is this normal after signing a release. Does is usually take this long to issue a 4 figure settlement?

    • fl_litig8r says:

      I’m not sure what the hold up is. If your lawyer has received the settlement check, it should only take about 10 business days to clear his trust account. Take a look at this article and the comments about how long it takes to get your money after you settle.

  14. Whackamole says:

    We are working with a small town attorney in a different state for a matter regarding real estate (in that state). We have been with him since January 2012. The issues at hand were rather minor, we just needed some legal advice and a few contracts written up.
    Fast forward 9 months, we still don’t have any of the issues resolved or completed. He makes promise after promise which he rarely fulfills. He is impossible to talk to because he never responds to e-mails or phone messages. When we do finally talk, he makes it sound like he just needs to make a few more phone calls and everything will be settled. Always says he’ll do it the next day and two weeks later we still don’t hear anything. Then we finally reach him and we find out he hasn’t done what he promised. What should have taken 3-4 weeks to complete is going into 10 months and a bill I’m sure we’ll have a coronary over (haven’t seen one of those either after requesting).

    Anyhow, we are 90% into this now and don’t want to risk starting over with another attorney. What can we do to push this along? I almost feel like he is evading us for some other reason he doesn’t want us to know about. We feel completely helpless. Threatening him with a Bar complaint, I’m afraid, will just make him even less motivated to help us. We’ve tried being super nice and patient, we’ve tried being stern. They all get the same results.
    Any suggestions????

    • fl_litig8r says:

      It sounds like you’ve done almost everything you can. You may want to put your concerns in writing (politely), noting that it has taken far longer to resolve this matter than it should have, that he does not keep you informed as to the progress, that he does not seem to follow through on things you have discussed and that you are very concerned that you have not received billing information as requested. Send this via fax or mail (with delivery confirmation), not e-mail. Taking the time to actually write a physical letter sends a message about how serious you are, and creates a more threatening paper trail than e-mails (which he can say he never got). Normally, I’d suggest a face-to-face meeting, but seeing that you’re in different states, I don’t suppose that’s doable.

  15. Zaid says:

    Hello,

    I have a 2009 case that is still going. Lately I have been trying to make an appointment to meet with my lawyer (as the one that started the case was no longer with the firm they have changed my lawyer) and everytime the appointment is set there always seems to be a problem the day of the appointment and i get cancelled on. It has been 3 cancellations and everytime i want to make another appointment they prefer to have the lawyer call me and explaing things on the phone. What can I do in this case before I decide to change attorney.

    Thank you

    • fl_litig8r says:

      The next time you speak to the lawyer on the phone, just let him know that you want a brief face-to-face meeting due to the fact that you’ve never met him. Let him know you’re not going to take a lot of his time, but that you feel uncomfortable having a lawyer you’ve never met handling your case. If he still balks at this idea, tell him that if he’s too busy to give you a half hour for a meeting, that’s probably a sign that he’s handling too many cases at once, so you want to take your case to another firm that has the time to meet your needs. Don’t be pushy or angry. Just calmly explain your concerns, and fire him if he isn’t responsive. Before firing the lawyer, you should consider the fact that you still may owe him fees — his failure to give you a face-to-face meeting may not be sufficient “good cause” to warrant termination without payment, especially if he’s otherwise diligently handling your case.

  16. I ledesma says:

    All attorney(s) especially the one that wrote this are dicks. Plain and simple. This attorney is honest about his humility and most attorneys are quite full of themselves. If in doubt go to court one day and just look at the bafoons trying like they know the first thing about a case. Lawyers are actors with special edicate filing motions and delaying. Call it what it is, they are just planning their next vacation with your money.

    • fl_litig8r says:

      I haven’t refused to post any comments thusfar, but this one came close — mainly because the commenter doesn’t do anything but vent and name call, which hardly adds to the conversation.

      I chose to let it through as a cautionary tale. If you find yourself sounding like this person when trying to get in touch with your lawyer, stop. Just think: if I were a lawyer who had a client with an attitude like this, would I be eager to return his phone call? Do I want to go the extra mile for such a client?

      Even if you have a legitimate complaint about your lawyer, you’re not going to get him to do what you want by being a rude asshole.

  17. john anderlik says:

    hi ive been fighting a workers comp claim for over two years on shoulder injury caused by company neg, ive had surgury in 2011 now i have a tear in tenden need surgury again, my doctor scheduled my operation on aug 7 2012, we have been waiting for the claims adjuster to say i can have surg, or cant have it ,we flied appeal 14 day, its been almost 30 days hav’nt heard nothing, it took my attorney 6 months to get my claim reopened because i thought my arm would get better but it didn’t therefore we have been fighting this speciality risk ins company forever what can i do, i’m loosing alot of money from o.t because i was put on light duty because my shoulder was hurting so bad, i’m so let down with my attorney, the insurance comp, my company help me please john

    • fl_litig8r says:

      I’m not a workers’ comp lawyer (and the procedures for handling these claims varies from state to state), so I’m sorry that I really can’t say whether there’s anything else your lawyer could be doing to move the matter forward. What has he told you about the cause of the delay in having this issue resolved?

  18. Joanne says:

    Hi,

    I hired an attorney two weeks ago to look over mortgage forebearance paperwork from my mortgage company. I didn’t want to sign anything before an attorney looked over it. I have 14 days to get back to my mortage company. I faxed the paperwork and sent up and appt with him same day. I met with him for 15 minutes. It was a Friday, he told me he would look over and for me to call him on Monday for his findings. I paid him $250 ($125/hr). Called him on Monday, now answer. I have been calling him almost everyother day for past two weeks. When I reach him he sets up a time to call me later in the day. He has an assistant call to say he was in court. He has been putting off and now time has run out. I need repond to my Mortgage company tomorrow and I have nothing and out $250.

    • fl_litig8r says:

      Well, there’s not a whole lot you can do at this point. If he doesn’t give you answer early tomorrow, you’ll either have to make the decision to sign on your own or see if you can get an extension from the mortgage company (if you can, you should find a different lawyer). Unless he gives you an answer very early in the day that demonstrates he’s actually reviewed the paperwork, I’d demand my money back. I’d definitely demand my money back if he fails to contact you at all, and threaten a bar complaint if he refuses (which you could still do even if he pays you back, but you need to decide if it’s worth the hassle).

      • Joanne says:

        Thank you for your response. It’s 1:30 and no call as I expected. I will demand my money back next week and also call my credit card company to dispute the charges since I didn’t get anything. If I have any issues with the refund, I will do as you suggest, and threaten him with a bar complaint. Thanks again, Joanne

  19. Natasha says:

    I had a possible case a few years ago. Not only my lawyer had never called me, he made me sign papers that I will NOT discuss my case nor present my case to any other lawyers until he will have “look and see”. The “look and see” took him SEVEN, SEVEN freaking months and then he told me “NO”. During 7 months of wait time I’ve been talking to his nurse and she kept telling me “he has other cases he’s working on and we’ve been very busy” how the hell is that my problem???? Look at my case and tell me yes or no. It doesn’t have to take 7 months to review 10 pages of printed information.

    Another case I had was a car accident (where it wasn’t my fault), my car was damaged, I didn’t go to work for a week and had financial and mental distress. After I hired this so called “attorney” he then made other insurance company pay just for my car repair and that’s it. I asked the attorney where the heck is my compensation and he replied “your compensation is MY compensation for my time”. He’d send me an invoice and in that invoice he charged $700 for faxing, $300 for mail etc it added up to $6000. Then he said the insurance co will mail me the check and if I don’t sign the check and won’t endorse it to him, he (my attorney) will take me to court!). Back then I had a good salary job so I just let it slide but I should’ve taken it to local bar association with him. He was so demanding about that check…he actually drove to my work (it was a 40 min drive for him) he held the check in his hand and asked me to endorse it to him and then he left…. Will never forget that crappy lawyer.

    • fl_litig8r says:

      Sorry for your bad experiences. We’re not all like that. While it’s of no use to you now, that contract you signed with the first lawyer was likely unenforceable. Contracts which restrict your right to select your own attorney (aside from actual fee contracts with an attorney who has taken your case) are almost always found to be invalid. While he may have been able to make you pay for the costs (not fees, just out of pocket costs) he incurred in investigating your case prior to you informing him that you didn’t want to hire him, legally, he couldn’t restrict you from speaking with or hiring another lawyer.

      As to the second lawyer, those costs he charged really sound outrageous, especially if your case was never litigated.

  20. fed up says:

    What if you have done all the above and the paralegal AND the attorney do not return calls or emails? I did try to get another attorney and as you stated, found I can not until this attorney “withdraws” from my current case. How can I fire someone I can’t get in contact with??

    Let me rephrase, I have done most of the above. I have NOT been an asshole to my attorney. I just read that one. :)

    • fl_litig8r says:

      You could either hand deliver or mail (certified return receipt requested) a letter to his office, detailing your attempts to contact him which have received no response and notifying him that you consider this an abandonment of your case. State that if he does not withdraw within 10 days from the date of the letter (you may just want to spell out the date so there’s no confusion), you will be forced to notify the bar of his conduct. If that doesn’t get him to withdraw, then file a bar complaint.

  21. Emily says:

    Been going through a brutal divorce, a separation agreement was reached through mediation and I moved out. It turns out that a rental home I took–through the mediation (which felt more like a gang attack), had a Home Equity Loan on it that made it completely under water. First lawyer never demanded financial statements from Ex, or demanded he answer interoggatories. It does not have my name on it and Bank officials have told me that I have no access to or benefit of the account. No history of the account, no record of the last time it was drawed upon or guarantee that he isn’t still drawing on it. First Lawyer then bailed on me, saying she was now “a witness in the case”. I have been referred to numerous lawyes. The most recent–a friend of first lawyer– took $5000 retainer, wrote a letter or two, then said that he didn’t understand my complaints or what I expected out of the case and I have not heard from him for over a month. I have sent several emails asking for the remainder of the retainer with not one response. Any advice?

    • fl_litig8r says:

      E-mails are too easy to ignore. If you can’t get him to set up a face-to-face appointment with you via a phone call, you can either go directly to his office without an appointment (if he’s not there then insist on making an appointment) or send him a physical letter, certified return receipt (the green card) demanding an appointment and/or the return of your retainer. If he refuses or fails to respond after that, you’ll need to call the state bar and inform them of your situation.

  22. K. Fritz says:

    I’m pro se counsel in a domestics relation case seeking to settle the case with opposing counsel. I intend to lay out the framework of a settlement for his client’s approval. My efforts by phone and email to reach him have not been successful. Till now I have not left substantive messages, just the request that he return my call. My impulse is to not set out in detail the proposal on a voice mail, particularly as I realize he will have to go to his client before talks can really move forward. I imagine attornys are notorious for not responding well to pro se opposing counsel Any thoughts on how I can get even base line cooperation?

    • fl_litig8r says:

      The next time you call, don’t ask for him. Ask for his paralegal. Then set up an appointment for a 15-minute telephone conference with him (it’ll be pretty hard for her to explain why she can’t do that). Tell her that you will be calling him at that time (don’t have him call you, or he’ll likely “forget” it). If this doesn’t work, you could send him a letter (or fax) explaining your numerous attempts to contact him which have gone unanswered and asking that he call you immediately. Lawyers don’t like having paper records of them ignoring files, as they tend to look bad should something go wrong for their client down the line that could have been avoided had they been diligent.

  23. EnoughisEnough says:

    Hi
    I am in a situation where I need advice due to my attorney not returning my phone calls, not taking care of things in a timely manner. I don’t feel comfortable giving out details publicly, but would very much appreciate it if I could email you details just to get some advice. I have been dealing with this case for almost 3 years now, still with no resolution in sight. I’m frustrated, at my wits end and ready to move on and get on with my life. Again, your help would be very much appreciated.

    • fl_litig8r says:

      I really don’t do private e-mail consultations. I answer people’s questions in comments because their questions and my answers to them can then help future visitors who may have the same problem. If your question isn’t already answered by this article and the other comments, and you can’t ask it publicly, then I’m afraid I can’t help you.

  24. Robert says:

    In 2010 I filed for Chapter 13. All was well until I recieved a letter from the court trusttee that my case was “unfeasible” due to a creditor that was not originally accounted for. The trustee said we needed to file a Motion to modify the plan payment. My attorney did so, 6 months later but it was rejected due to not having a reason for the request to modify or the financial documents requested. (I had provided the financial documents twice). I’ve been trying to get him to re-file the motion since July of 2012. When I call, the paralegal says either he his reviewing the file, or she has no update. I told her that the trustee could file a motion to dismiss the case if she audits it and finds it still unfeasible. Her reply was: “If it gets to that point, we’ll still have time to fix it.” I told her she didn’t understand, I don’t want it to “get to that point” I just want to get this fixed now. I entering the final year of my BK and I am worried this won’t be fixed in time. Should I fire my attorney and get a new one? If so, what paperwork do I need? Also, would I be able to do the paperwork and file the motion to modify the plan payments myself? Thanks

    • fl_litig8r says:

      I only have a vague familiarity with bankruptcy law, so I can’t tell you whether you would be capable of handling the matter from this point forward. I wouldn’t suggest it unless you absolutely had to. I suggest you do what I advise in the article about making an appointment for a phone call or a sit down meeting with your current lawyer first. If the matter doesn’t get resolved through that, or if he refuses to give you such a meeting, you should fire him. I’d call other bankruptcy lawyers first, to make sure that one would be willing to take your case in its current state, in the event you decide to terminate your current lawyer.

  25. ruth says:

    hi
    my mom’s had gotten hurt at work in oct 2011 hasnt been back since then. she suffered back injury she got a lawyer (workers comp) and been working with her since. they were sending her weekly checks up until nov 2012 and the doctor told her there was nothing else they could do for her back since she didnt want to get surgery just to keep getting back injections for the pain. the doctor then said he wouldnt put her on disabilty, and they stoped the checks in nov 2012. since then weve been trying to contact her lawyer and to no avail, its been 3 months almost 4 months now nothing we leave messages and no returns.she’s not working and we have no money coming in. what do you suggest that we do? should we maybe look for another lawyer

    • fl_litig8r says:

      If you fire her current lawyer, you may still have to pay him, so I’d suggest that instead of leaving a message with the lawyer, you set up a 15-minute phone conference through his paralegal, so that she checks his calendar and sets up a time when he will definitely be there and available. That way he has no excuse. Make it so that you’ll call him at the assigned time.

      If that doesn’t work, find another lawyer.

  26. ruth says:

    ok thank you i will

  27. Carlos Hernandez says:

    I hired an attorney to file the writ for me away back,I come to find out he never filed anything all the copies that were give to me, I couldn’t never find them in any court house, habeas corpus court , just verified the work that the writ was filed .He just accepted all payments every week or month and never returns my calls. What should I do,
    I need some help here, please.

    • fl_litig8r says:

      If you can’t contact the attorney using the suggestions in this article, and his paralegal can’t provide you with the proof you need to verify that he filed what he said he would file, you should contact the state bar.

  28. Shelly says:

    My case settled and I have future medical I have only been able to go to the dr once with it because it is so difficult to get I touch with my attorneys office and have them make my appoint members the last time I went was back in 2006. I have been seen by my primary dr since its easier but I don’t think it’s fair, I have been trying to get an appointment since December since I no longer have the same primary dr and my current dr is difficult. They never return calls the last time I went I had to call the insurance company myself to get the information and was reprimanded for it told that the attorneys office needs to be doing it. To date it’s going on 3 months and I have gotten no where I have found out the dr I go to no longer works for that clinic I need a new authorization and I have called the attorneys office they say they are waiting on the clinic. I was so upset told them they never do their job I needed an appointment with the attorney, they said he was out for two weeks. I don’t know what to do at this point do I just pull my file and handle my own future medical? Is it because they make no money on this that they do not follow up? Can I put a complaint against them I have copies of letters I’ve sent my phone records.
    Thank you

    • fl_litig8r says:

      Before firing the lawyer or contacting the state bar, I’d first try to schedule a telephone conference with the lawyer. Even if he’s out of the office for two weeks, he’ll still be reachable by phone. If they still say he’s unavailable and there is no other lawyer who is covering his cases for him while he’s out, I’d suggest telling them that you intend to contact the state bar if he does not call you by the close of business the following day — this should give them enough time to contact him and tell him that he may be facing a bar complaint, which should motivate him to call you. If even that fails, contact the bar.

      I suggest doing these things before firing him or immediately contacting the bar because you’re usually better off having a less-than-diligent lawyer than no lawyer at all. If you can avoid firing him, you should, as you may not be able to hire another lawyer if you need help down the road. I can’t say why he isn’t contacting you, but telling his office that “they never do their job” when you call is a bad idea, even if it’s true. As I state in the article, lawyers are usually not too eager to call a client who is going to chew them out.

  29. Patricia says:

    Hi,
    My husband had an automobile settlement for $300K. Where the lawyer took her 33%. My question is if it is ethical to take the 33% before deducting all the expenses? Or did she have to subtract the expenses and then divided the rest of the money, for lawyer and client? Please let me know. He still hasn’t signed the check.
    Thanks Pat

    • fl_litig8r says:

      Typically, the attorney fee is deducted from the gross amount prior to the costs being taken out. As most of these expenses are things your lawyer paid in full out-of-pocket during the litigation, she expects to be reimbursed in full for them. If the costs were deducted before fees, she would essentially be paying 1/3 of your costs. Her fee is for her time only (and general overhead). Costs are separate and come out of your share of the settlement.

  30. s young says:

    my case is not final still trying get attorneys office to get my daughter from foster care to me and they keep dragging there feet and i get told today to get another attorney can they do that

    • fl_litig8r says:

      Lawyers can unilaterally drop their clients cases at any time if they have never filed anything on their behalf in court. If they have filed something, they must get court approval by filing a Motion to Withdraw. These motions will typically be granted unless the case is at such a crucial stage (e.g., days from trial) that it would seriously prejudice a client if the lawyer was allowed to withdraw at that time.

      If you paid a retainer to this lawyer, you could be entitled to a refund of the unused amount, depending on your fee contract and state ethics rules.

  31. Greg Schneider says:

    Don’t call the lawyer all the time? Little Boy who cried Wolf? Who the hell do you think you people are? If I pay somebody thousands of dollars of my hard earned money they are employed by ME. I will call him whenever I damn well please. If he doesn’t like it he will be terminated. Why do you think your occupation puts you above anyone else? Don’t call the plumber too much, the accountant won’t call you back if you make yourself to be the little boy who cried wolf, the money manager is very busy ask for his assistant when you need to talk to him. news flash buddy it’s just as absurd for you to expect that.

    • fl_litig8r says:

      With your attitude, I think you can expect most lawyers to take their sweet time calling you back. Your lawyers are not your employees. Employees can’t fire you. Lawyers can.

      Your claim that I think lawyers are better than other people is a straw man. I never implied such a thing. I’m just passing along basic etiquette that is expected of clients (but you don’t seem particularly big on etiquette, so I guess that’s lost on you).

      Aside from that, the whole point of the article was to give advice to people who actually want to have their lawyers call them back. My approach gets results. You can talk tough all you want, and maybe you’ll get some short-term satisfaction by chewing your lawyer out for not calling you back immediately, but long-term your approach won’t get results (better communication from your lawyer), and will likely get you fired by your lawyer. Your whole “if he doesn’t like it he will be terminated” strategy will work great if you plan on handling the case yourself afterwards, and you don’t mind still paying your former lawyer. A client who fired his last lawyer is a huge red flag to most lawyers that the client may not be one they want to deal with. Good luck finding another lawyer once your reputation spreads around — new lawyers always contact their predecessors before accepting a case.

  32. Not That Client I Hope says:

    Hi, what a useful site for us clients! I’ve got a question related to the above. My attorney’s a good person and very methodical, and I’m a polite client. However, I’m good at digging up research, and I’ve been regularly hunting data and strategy useful to my case and depositing it like ducks and bones at the feet of my master (attorney), lol. Do clients like me annoy attorneys? The kind who hire detectives, do background research, and find evidence of faults and inconsistencies in the opposing claim, then deposit these to you guys in regular emails?

    Doing my best not to annoy my lawyer, and he and I both laugh about the frequency of my emails from time to time. But he doesn’t understand how it feels to be accused of false things, be able to provide evidence of my innocence and the other side’s torts and perjuries for discovery, and then have to sit quietly while discovery approaches. Isn’t it OK for me to spend this hair pulling, silent period digging up facts and developing strategy?

    I don’t want to become That Client. But at times the silence from my atty’s office makes me worry he’s too nice a guy and might be missing stuff he can use against these guys. I’m digging, hunting, finding info and hedging my bets. Does this strengthen my case if the evidence or strategy works? Or am I “doing my attorney’s job for him” and bothering him? Am I crossing a line?

    • fl_litig8r says:

      I have to say it does seem like you’re overdoing it. It’s one thing to get your ducks in a row to dispute things alleged by the defense, and another thing to pepper your lawyer with information every time the defendant says something you dispute. I’ve had clients like this, who have sent lengthy e-mails over and over telling me “how the other side is lying and here’s how to prove it.” It gets tiring very quickly. We know you mean well, but you have to trust us to know that a good deal of information we get from the defendant is in dispute. We also know which pieces of information really don’t matter in the case, and which things we need to be concerned about. Clients are concerned about everything, so they tend to overload us with information we largely feel is irrelevant (or is at least irrelevant for now).

      Giving us names of witnesses is one thing. Feeding us gossip about the defendant’s prior lies and bad behavior is another — for the most part, this type of information isn’t even admissible.

      It seems like your lawyer is handling your “help” well for now, but I’d really suggest dialing it back. Let him know that you’re available as a resource if he needs to fact check anything with you or if some legwork needs to be done, but stop e-mailing him information about the case unless it is something he absolutely can’t find out on his own. Let him do his job and trust that he will do it. Also, it’s not a great idea to suggest strategies to your lawyer — many will take this the wrong way and think that you don’t trust them — or that you think they’re stupid for not seeing something obvious.

      The more you flood him with information (and I suspect like some of my former clients you tend to repeat things in subsequent e-mails), the less likely he is to really pay attention to it.

      It might help you to know that lawyers usually work by cramming for cases — we don’t know everything about every case we have every day. When an issue comes up in a case, we bone up on that case by cramming and then address the issue — a week later, we’ve probably forgotten most of it and are cramming for another case. There are times we need to cram for the whole case, such as before mediation or trial, but for the most part we absorb information about the case on an “as needed” basis. If you send him a flood of information when he doesn’t need it, it is unlikely that he will go back and pour over it later (or even remember it) when he’s cramming. So, if you know what is coming up in your case, you could delivering only the information relevant to that event — so, if he’s about to depose the defendant’s IME doctor in a week, you could send him an e-mail about what happened in the IME from your perspective. If he’s negotiating the amount of your damages for settlement purposes, you could send him a narrative about how the accident affected your life and the things you can no longer do.

      In other words, try to time your delivery of information according to what you think his needs are at the moment. Don’t just flood him willy nilly with information about the case randomly. I know it might be hard to know what he needs at any given time, but take your best guess.

      So, in summary: send fewer e-mails, leave the strategy stuff to him and deal only in facts, leave the facts to things you think he can’t find out on his own, and try to time the release of information to him for when he needs it. It is far better if you let him pull the information from you, but if you must push the information onto him, these would be the guidelines I’d follow.

  33. Bernie Migas says:

    Yes I was hit by a car in Buffalo NY in 2009 walking across the street at a intersection and well my case went to trial June10th 2013 with a jury and the case was over the next day ! They had to handle my case by percentage, who was more at fault me or the the guy that hit me ! Well we won more or less. The jury seen me at 30% fault and the person that hit me at 70% at fault ! We sued for 87,500.00 and well the guys insurance was going to appeal my lawyer said. Well after 3 weeks later my lawyer said well if we minus 5000.00 from the total amount we sued for and take 82,5000.00 then they wont appeal and will settle the case, so I told my lawyer ok , I will agree to that! ! Well right after my case was over with in court though ,I asked my lawyer well what will I get after all your fees and that ! And he told me I would see around between 50-60 thousand dollars ! I also asked him when we first took my case even though the guy that hit me, his insurance company is paying all my medical bills, will any of that come out of my lawsuit money, and he said no. Well as I remember my lawyers fee was a 3rd or 33 and a 3rd ! Well I went to see his secretary yesterday to sign paper work I guess that I agree to the 82,500.00 and to release the money or what ever ! I guess my case was what they call a no fault case ! Well after I signed all the papers and that! The secretary went into that she has to see if I have any leins against me or that, and as far as I know I don’t. I’am also on SSI, Medicaid and foodstamps so she said that they would have to set me up where I don’t lose my ssi and that paperwork would cost me a few hundred dollars to get that rolling ! And then she went into some other things. But then I asked her does she know about how much I will be getting after my lawyers fees, and she goes well I don’t know that yet, we have to ad up all the stuff we did for you, as in how many stamps they used and paperwork and every little thing ! Well I thought that this was all included in with my lawyers fees ! Cause I was going by what he told me in court when I asked him, how much will I get after your lawyer fees and everything, and he told me between 50-60 grand ! Well more or less what i’m getting at is now after hearing all this stuff the secretary told me and some things I didn’t understand, but my wife kinda did, cause she was with me ! Well guess what i’am getting at is ! Now it looks like I wont be getting all that money , the 50-60 grand my lawyer told me in court after he takes his fees out! So how come now I feel like I was lied to and the way it is sounding, I might get maybe a lot less than what my lawyer told me I would be getting after his fees ! This just don’t sound right to me, and I feel as if i’m getting the shaft in a way from my lawyer now ! Why do I feel like i’m being screwed now ! Thanks Bernie M

    • fl_litig8r says:

      You may be jumping the gun on getting mad at your lawyer. If you really don’t have any outstanding medical liens, then there’s a pretty good chance that your part of the settlement will be around $50,000.00, depending on your lawyer’s costs. As long as his costs are less than $5,000.00, you’ll get more than $50,000.00.

      Costs are almost always charged to the client separately from fees, so your lawyer is definitely not pulling a fast one doing that. Costs are paid by your lawyer up front and out-of-pocket. Because most lawyers eat those costs if they lose the case, it’s like giving the client a (usually) no-interest loan which the client doesn’t have to pay back unless he makes a recovery. Costs are only those expenses which your lawyer can specifically attribute to your case, like depositions, copies, postage, expert fees, travel, etc. They are not part of the lawyer’s normal overhead, which includes rent, utilities, legal research fees, paralegal salaries and advertising. Those ordinary overhead expenses are included in his attorney’s fee — not the individual costs attributable to your specific case.

      • Bernie Migas says:

        Well thanks now I understand that a lil better , but now I have another problem ! I went to see my lawyers secretary about 4 weeks ago !To sign 3 papers ! 1- I agree on what we settled for, 2 -I cant sue the other people again, and 3- I sign a paper that means I don’t have to come in and sign the check , when they get it ! Then we talked to the secretary about that i’am on ssi and my money is suppose to be put in a special trust where it wont hurt my ssi and i’m allowed 2000.00 a month out of my settlement money ! And if we do the paperwork for that it will cost me a couple hundred bucks and if they do the paperwork, it would cost a thousand or two ! And my lawyer knows about this me being on ssi .Then she said I would have to fill this paperwork out and then be setup for a interview to see if I can get approved for this ssi thing or not. Then I asked her does she know about how much i’m getting ! And she goes well I will have to calculate all our fees and that and let you know ! Then she said that when they my check it will have to sit in some Bank thing for awhile and it could take from a month to a few months before I see any of my money ! Then she goes well I will get everything started about your ssi paperwork and get started on tabulating the extra costs like you had mentioned ! And I mentioned ! And she goes if you don’t hear or get anything from in the mail me or us at the lawyer firm in 3 weeks. Then I should call them up and ask for her, the secretary that we signed the paperwork with and talked about the ssi stuff and that! But she said in them 3 weeks I should have the amount you will be getting after all our fee’s and have the ssi paperwork ready for you ! So we said ok and thanked her and left! Well 3 weeks went by and nothing from the lawyers office and nothing in the mail ! So I call the lawyers office up and ask for the secretary we talked to 3 weeks ago ! Well she gets on the phone and I said, well you told me to call you if I didn’t get anything in the mail from you’s or hear from you’s ! So that’s why i’am calling ! So I ask her about the ssi paperwork and does she have the amount that I would be getting after all their fees ! And she acted like she forgot about everything we talked about in the office 3 weeks ago ! She goes does Bob, my lawyer, know about setting you up with the ssi paper work ! And I said yes he knows all about that and so should you, cause you are the one that brought it up about getting the paperwork going for my ssi. Then she goes well Bob, my lawer, is out of the office till next week, so when he comes back I will have to ask him about that! And i’m telling myself, what is with this secretary , shes acting like she doesn’t have a clue about my ssi ! Then I ask her, well can you at least give me the amount I will be getting after all your fee’s ! Cause you told me 3 weeks ago you would have at least both of these things for me ! And she goes , well I cant tell you the amount, cause I didn’t start tabulating anything up yet ! Now i’m telling myself , what the heck is going on with this secretary ! She said she would at least have these 2 thing for me within them 3 weeks ! And now she’s acting like she don’t have a clue about what we talked about 3 weeks ago, when we talked to her ! So I didn’t say anything ! Then she goes, the check from the insurance company we should be getting it by next week ! And then that’s all she said ! So I just said to her, you told me you would have some of this info for me by now ! And you haven’t done a thing ! And now that’s 3 weeks wasted already and I still don’t have no answers ! So I just said i’m going to email my lawyer about all this and your going to be on the top of the list in my email to him about why none of this work has been done yet! And I hung the phone up ! So I emailed my lawyer last week right after I got off the phone with her and asked him why none of this work has been done yet and why is your secretary playing stupid with me and a couple other things ! Well it’s been a week now and I haven’t got a email back from my lawyer yet or a phone call from his office ! So now this makes me very worried why none of this has been done yet. I still don’t know if i’m getting between 50-60 grand or not, and why is his secretary playing like she had no clue on what we talked about 3 weeks ago in the office, when I went and signed them papers. When here she’s the one that brought up the stiff about the ssi paperwork I have to fill out and that she said if I don’t hear from her in 3 weeks, to call her ! But by then she said she would have these two things done for me, setting the paperwork up for the ssi and what I will be getting. And here 3 weeks have gone by and wasted and I still have no answers ! So now i’am very worried why none of this work has been done yet! By the time I see my money i’ll be old and grey ! Man this crazy, and theres another 3 weeks of waiting for some answers, wasted ! So I don’t know whats going on ! So now i’am worried ! This secretary sounds like she’s either a newbee or don’t know what she’s doing ! Thanks Bernie

        • fl_litig8r says:

          Bernie, no offense, but you need to learn how to summarize your situation more concisely. That was one long post for what amounts to a pretty simple situation. It sounds like the secretary just dropped the ball. After promising to get your SSI trust paperwork and your cost information at your meeting to sign the release, she likely just put it off and ultimately forgot about it. It happens. I’m not making excuses for her — she should have done what she promised. I just don’t see it as being a crisis, especially since your check hasn’t cleared the lawyer’s trust account yet. Your lawyer will have to provide you with a closing statement which details his fees and costs and the amount going to you (or into a trust for you) before he disburses any money from the trust account (even to pay himself), so while it would have been nice to have this information sooner, you will have it before any money leaves his trust account.

          Try not to get too outwardly hostile towards them over this, as that will make them slower to respond to you. Right or wrong, no one likes dealing with the angry client. I know it’s hard, but try to be patient a little longer. They have every incentive to prepare your closing statement by the time the check clears their trust account, because, as I said, they don’t get paid until you sign off on it. Use this as leverage to get them to move along on the SSI trust issue, as well. Just politely refuse to sign the closing statement until they have the trust issue in the works (just say it makes you uncomfortable to sign it until you know your SSI is protected) and that should move them along.

          • Bernie Migas says:

            Yeah sorry that was so long what I wrote ! I already signed a paper that means I don’t have to come in and sign the check ! Now you mentioned a closing statement I have to sign. That I didn’t know about ! Well if theres a closing statement I will have to sign, then I will do like you said and not sign it till they get the ball rolling on my ssi trust setup which I have to pay for and be interviewed for it , to see if I get approved for it or not ! It just bugs me how the secretary played like she didn’t know what we were talking about when it came to my ssi ! When here she’s the one that brought all that up 3 weeks earlier ! Well I guess I will just have to sit back and wait longer ! I really appreciate your advice ! Cause I know nothing about this legal stuff ! Well I will keep you posted on what goes on ! And I do appreciate your advice ! Thankyou ! Bernie M

          • fl_litig8r says:

            The form you signed to let them sign the check and deposit it in their trust account is a separate matter from the closing statement. I can’t envision your state’s ethics rules allowing them to bypass the need for a closing statement before paying themselves. After referring to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct (upon which state ethics rules are based), it appears that not all states require that the closing statement be signed, and New York is unfortunately one that doesn’t. So, the statement is still required before he can disburse the money, but your signature on it apparently is not. It would be pretty risky for him not to get your prior approval on the statement before paying himself, however. Sorry that I mislead you by assuming that most states had the signature requirement.

          • Bernard Migas says:

            Well since I talked to you last. Well I just got a thing from the insurance company we sued just stating that the agreed on the amount we settled for and that the check was sent to my lawyers about a lil more than 10 days ago ! Well I have emailed my lawyer and when I call , he is out of his office and they transfer me to his voicemail ! Well I emailed him last week and voice mailed him last week and I still haven’t heard a word from him ! So I would think by now he would at least got back to me and not a word yet ! So what should I do ! Still sit here and wait for them to get a hold of me or what! And I hope he shows me that closing statement you talked about ! So right now i’m still in Limbo ! Thanks Bernie M

          • fl_litig8r says:

            Seeing that it can take up to 10 business days (2 weeks) for a settlement check to clear his trust account, I don’t see a need to panic just yet. I suggest you do what I recommend in this article and instead of leaving him a voice mail, schedule a 15-minute telephone conference with him if he’s not available the next time you call. They really shouldn’t have any excuse for not being able to do that.

          • Bernard Miigas says:

            Well i finally found how much i’m getting and my lawyer sent me paperwork to fill out, so that i dont lose my ssi, the place is called Legal Services for the Elderly, Disabled or Disadvantaged of WNY, Inc. And its some kinda pooled trust fund, they are setting me up for a interview ! But the lady from there , i called her and asked her a few questions ! And what i’m finding out is , that more or less they are gonna tell me how to spend my money, and i asked her if i could use my money to pay bills and stuff like that and she said no ! She said i could use my money for stuff like if i need a car, tv, furniture set ! So here i cant even use my own settlement money to pay bills with. Which i seriously need to do ! Something does not sound right here ! I have to ask them and tell them what the money is for, and here they make the decision on if they will write a check out for it or now ! Man like i said, something doesnt sound right here at all ! Man i need to pay bills and the lady tells me i cant use my money to do that! Man is there another way i can just take my money and have it setup so i dont lose my SSI , cause this place doesnt sound right at all to me ! Here is there website ! From what i’m hearing these people say, its like they are telling me how can spend my money and i cant even use my own settlement money on bills ! Is there another way around this ! I live in Buffalo NY ! Please Help ! Here’s their website. Bernie Migas Thankyou

          • fl_litig8r says:

            After visiting their website, I’m convinced that there’s been some miscommunication between you and the representative from the LSED. Take a look at this page on their site, and scroll down to the subsection of Section IV marked E. Allowed Trust Expenditures – Client receives SSI. It states that while payments from the trust for food, clothing or shelter will reduce your SSI benefits, payments for other services like cable, telephone, cell phone, and Internet service, or payment for travel, local transportation (including a car service), entertainment expenses, and educational expenses are all permitted without any risk of reducing your SSI.

            The whole reason for the trust is to avoid you having assets or income that would reduce or eliminate your SSI. For that reason, the settlement money must be out of your control. Putting it in a trust places it out of your control, but the trustee still has a fiduciary responsibility to use the money for your benefit. This trust will approve your requests for payments as long as those payments don’t threaten your SSI benefits. So, you can’t ask for cash, or to have a bill paid that would result in loss of your SSI benefits. If you had complete control of the money in the trust, it would defeat the purpose of having a trust at all — SSI would consider all that money an asset of yours and cut you off. That’s the reason you must make requests from the trust for “your own money” — if you had direct control, you’d lose your SSI.

            While I can understand your frustration over certain bills not being paid through the trust, that’s SSI’s fault, not the trust’s. The Social Security Administration sets up the rules for when bills paid on your behalf will reduce your benefits, not the LSED. The LSED is just following those rules. If you don’t like it, you’d have to avoid a trust entirely, take the settlement cash into your own account, and lose your SSI benefits at least until the money is spent. I don’t see that as a very good option.

            I really suggest you discuss in detail with an LSED representative what specific bills can and can’t be paid through the trust. The link I gave you suggests that payment for food or shelter may still be allowed, even though it would reduce your SSI by 1/3 of your benefits + $20.00 per month. See if your situation would allow such an arrangement if that’s how you want the money spent and you’re willing to take a reduction in monthly SSI.

          • Bernard Migas says:

            This lady from this lsed told me that if I go through them, all they can pay is my tv, phone and cable and that’s it ! Out of my money ! I heard and know through ssi that i’m allowed 2000.00 a month in cash as long as my money is put into some kind of trust or that! And these people said that they cant even do that and give me the 2000.00 a month! So do I have any other alternative going through some other legal agency where I can at least get the 2000.00 a month In cash with it being setup in some kind a trust or structured settlement ! And not have to deal with this lsed of WNY. Cause man it stinks ! I have a lot of bills which I would love to get paid off and get back on my feet again ! Is there any other way you know of, how I can get get this setup without losing my ssi ! This lady told me that if I don’t go through them, I couldn’t even try to get my ssi back for 6 years ! And man I don’t understand that at all ! She said if I took the lump sum and spent it lets say in a month, I couldn’t even try to get my ssi for 6 years ! So man I don’t understand that! All I want is to find a place that will put my money in some kind of trust, so I don’t lose my ssi and I can at least get some other bills and people I owe, payed off ! That’s all i’m asking ! Do I have any other options !??? THankyou Bernie M

          • fl_litig8r says:

            You misunderstand how income affects SSI benefits if you think you can receive $2,000.00/month and still get SSI. I think you are confusing the $2,000.00 “countable resources exclusion” with SSI’s monthly income limits. The $2,000.00 exclusion is a measure of your total assets, minus certain excluded items like your home, its furnishings and one automobile. If your assets ever exceed that amount, you lose eligibility for SSI. It does not mean that you can earn $2,000.00 a month by any means. Your earnings are governed by separate income rules.

            First, know that the SSA treats earned income differently than unearned income when determining the reduction to your SSI benefits. For earned income (income from work), SSI benefits will be reduced by 1/2 of your earned monthly income after your deduct the $20 general income exclusion and $65 earned income exclusion. So, if you make $1,000.00/month in earned income, the SSA will deduct $457.50 (1000-20-65 = 915, 915/2 = 457.50) from your SSI benefit amount. If your SSI benefit was $710.00/month, it would be reduced to $252.50 (note that this example doesn’t take into account the possibility of SSI benefits being stopped entirely due to you engaging in “substantial gainful activity”).

            With unearned income, which is how the money received from your settlement will be considered, the SSA deducts the full amount received minus only the $20 general income exclusion. So if you have $700.00 in unearned income per month, SSA will deduct $680.00 (700-20) from your monthly SSI benefit amount.

            These deductions to SSI based on income are explained here. Examples of how they are applied can be found here.

            If the money you receive cannot be used to obtain food, clothing or shelter, it will not be considered as income at all by the SSA. This is why the trust will not pay for those items. Every dollar it pays towards one of those items (or gives you in cash) after the first $20 would reduce your SSI benefit on a dollar-for-dollar basis. Anything other than food, clothing or shelter it pays for will not reduce your SSI benefit at all, as that money would not qualify as “income” under the SSA’s rules.

            As far as the 6-year wait before reapplying for benefits if you don’t go through them is concerned, that is wrong. Here’s how it actually works. If you took the settlement money as cash, your benefits would be suspended in the current month due to you exceeding the monthly income limits. After that, whether your benefits are suspended is determined by how much you have in countable assets on the first day of each subsequent month. So, if you get $10,000.00 in October, you’d be cut off in October due to exceeding the monthly income requirement. On November 1, if you still have more than $2,000.00 in cash and other “countable resources” your benefits will remain suspended for that month. It will remain suspended every month thereafter until your “countable resources” drop below $2,000.00. If your benefits are suspended for less than 12 months, you can get your benefits reinstated without having to reapply. You’d only need to prove that you reduced the amount of your countable resources to $2,000.00 or less. If it takes more than 12 months, you would have to file a new SSI application and wait to be re-approved.

            So, in theory, if you get $10,000.00 in October and spend all of it on bills and other things that don’t result in you accumulating countable assets worth more than $2,000.00 before November 1, your November benefit and all subsequent benefits would be paid as usual. You’d only lose your October benefits under this scenario, because of the monthly income limit.

            Your state medicaid benefits’ income/asset levels are described in this document (pdf warning). Because NY medicaid is given automatically if you receive SSI benefits, these benefits should be reinstated as soon as your SSI benefits are should you choose to go the “take the cash and spend it” route. Of course, I would suggest bouncing all of this off of a New York lawyer to confirm the information I’ve given you.

            Whether you should go with a trust or take the cash and have your SSI/medicaid benefits suspended really depends on how quickly you will spend the cash and how much you would lose

          • Bernard Migas says:

            Well me and my Fiance talked to this lady from LSED and she said that because my lawyer still has my my money, I would have to ask him for some money, so this way I could at least get some of my bills paid up before I went with this Lsed of WNY place ! So been calling my lawyer and leaving voicemails and emails about setting up a appointment with him to talk about this and ask a few questions, and as usual, he hasn’t gotten back to me ! I do have a a question though ! I don’t drive and our car is on its last leg ! If I went with this company, could I at least by a car even though I don’t drive, cause our car is in my fiancés name, and she takes me to all my doctors appointments and everything ! And its my only means of transportation to go anywhere ! It’s funny, the place states I can buy luxury items like a car tv furniture set, but cant use my money on bills accept for tv, cable, internet and phone ! But would I be able to buy a car even though I don’t drive and then have it put in my fiancés name !? Man I been looking for other alternatives better that this place, but the way its looking, I will be stuck , having to go to this place, looks like I will have no choice, cause I don’t want to lose my ssi ! Help

          • fl_litig8r says:

            You shouldn’t have a problem buying a car using special needs trust fund money. There may be an issue with titling it in your girlfriend’s name during the initial purchase as far the SSA regulations are concerned (as you would technically not be using the money to buy your own transportation — I know she drives you around, but I still see this as a potential issue which should be avoided). A possible workaround would be to buy the car and title it initially in your name and then transfer it to her, but that is something I’m not comfortable advising you on — let the lawyer you’re paying stick his neck out to advise you on that.

            As I said before, changing trustees won’t help you, as the restrictions on how you spend your money are imposed by the SSA, not the trustee. It is the SSA’s policies that keep you from spending the money on food, clothing and shelter items, but let you spend it on a car or TV or other seemingly more frivolous bills, like cable and internet.

          • Bernard Migas says:

            Do you think, seeing my lawyer still has my money, I could ask him for about 8-9000.00 dollars out of my lawsuit money, so we could go get a car quick and pay some bills , before I go with this lsed of WNY ?? Bernie

          • fl_litig8r says:

            If you do this, you’ll lose at least one month of SSI benefits, as you’ll exceed the monthly income maximum allowed by SSA. Your benefits will also be cut off for as long as you have more than $2,000.00 in countable resources (so if you don’t spend all the money on the car and the extra you keep puts you over $2,000.00, for every month this persists your benefits will be suspended).

            As a side note, if you insist on buying a car for your girlfriend, I would strongly suggest you get rid of your own car (trade it in or sell it). Otherwise, you run the risk of the SSA considering your girlfriend’s car to be your second car, or worse, that they’d consider it a fraudulent transfer of assets (like giving cash to a friend to “hold” for you so it doesn’t get counted as yours by the SSA). If you get rid of your own car, either before you get the new car or contemporaneously with getting the new car, this eliminates that risk, because even if the SSA considers your girlfriend’s car to be yours, it would merely count as the one car you are allowed to have under SSA guidelines.

          • Bernard Migas says:

            Well if my lawyer ever calls me back, cause now seems lately he only wants to call me, when he wants ! I want to setup a appointment with him to see if he could give me 10 grand out of my money, I’m willing to lose that month of SSI , cause believe me it will be spent on a car and bills and will be all gone probably within a week, cause our car is seriously on its last limb ! I don’t drive and don’t have a drivers liscensce. My my fiancé like I said takes me to my dr’s appointments and everything, plus thats our only means of transportation ! So yeah we want to get rid of this car, sell it or trade it in on a newer used one ! And I could prove in writing within that week to SSI that there would be no money left ! I would be willing to lose that month of SSI .And we want to get rid of the car we have now, cause its in bad shape ! But the thing is, it just seems my lawyer is avoiding me to setup a appointment with him, so I can ask him if I can at least take that 10 grand out out of my money and at leat get a newer car and get a few bills paid, before I have to go with this LSED of WNY. I have been leaving voicemails with him and emails about setting up a appointment with him, so I can come in and talk to him about this and ask him some other questions ! BUt for some reason , he just aint calling me back, so I can setup a appointment to talk to him ! So it’s like now he’s avoiding me ! And I don’t think that’s right ! He’s my lawyer and right now as far as I know of, he has my lawsuit money ! So it’s like, I dont know what the heck to do here ! UUUGH Bernie

          • fl_litig8r says:

            All of this advice I have to give on the subject of a lawyer not returning phone calls is in this article.

  34. Jean says:

    I hired a lawyer that was recomended threw my work lawyer, this was over two years ago. I told him my case and asked would this be a waste of my time and money to hire you for this case. he said to me you cant afford not to do this case. I told him I didnt have alot of money, he told me give him $2000 and 15% of what he gets back for me. I agreed that was good he told me to drop the check off to his office and he would start the case. well its been over two years and he has never took the time to meet me he took a year and a half to serve the other person. I have yet to see a court room I call once a month to see if anything has moved forward and i get his secrtary who dont know anything I have asked her to have him call me to let me know what is the next step and he never returns my call. I feel like i have been taken for 2000 and know in the hole even more and he never took the time to meet me in person so discusted whith this world is everyone just out to get the money. it didnt take him two years to cash my check. please could you guide me he also said he worked with this other attorny for the person i am trying to get money back from I am starting to think im getting the cold shoulder till i just give up. please help me . what can I do.

    • fl_litig8r says:

      As I suggest in the article, the first thing I would try is to schedule a 15-minute phone appointment with him. Set it for 15 minutes even if you expect the actual conversation to take longer — the goal here is to get him on the phone. The secretary will be hard-pressed to come up with an excuse as to why he doesn’t have 15 minutes available within the next few days to speak with you. Then, if she refuses to set the appointment, or he isn’t available when you call at the scheduled time, it’s time to involve the state bar.

  35. A client who deserves respect says:

    Thanks for confirming for me once again that 99% of lawyers-including you, apparently, are self-centered, narcissistic, greedy scumbags who couldn’t care less about justice, helping others, giving good customer service, or ANYTHING but bleeding their victims- er, “clients”- for every dime they can. This is not in reference to personal injury cases in which the lawyer is paid after a monetary award is made. It is in reference to the lawyers that are on retainer and then bleed their victims dry.

    • fl_litig8r says:

      There are bad lawyers and there are bad clients. If your lawyer isn’t returning your calls (which is how I assume you arrived here), you can either take my advice and get your call returned or be insulting and rude and never get your calls returned. I really don’t care if you think your rude behavior is justified — you need to put that aside if your goal is to get your call returned. You can falsely infer whatever you want about me and lawyers in general. Your own attitude is likely causing part of your problem.

  36. Jane says:

    Thanks for the post. I already know what the lawyer’s perspective is and already tried the options you gave. The problem with my lawyer is that he doesn’t keep anyone informed or give any updates about the case and doesn’t dedicate any time whatsoever going through information about the case. He is very vague and never thorough enough so there are questions that needs to be answered which I end up reaching out to him time after time. I always end up calling him to ask questions but then again, he doesn’t do anything to keep me from calling. When I text, which I don’t text much and I wait till he gets back to me, which for more than 24 hours he won’t text me back (won’t text me back 3-4 days), until I text him AGAIN and ask AGAIN. In this case, there is just paper work with motion filing, no court. There was no paperwork done yet. The lawyer keeps asking for money but no work has been done yet and he tells me that he works on the case by talking to me over the phone. Well mind you, the first time when I called him he said I don’t have to call him everyday because he just started on the case, but did he give me any information about it? no. did he go over what routes we can go about it? no. So what happens? I call him. He hasn’t put any labor into the case to move it forward. He also replies with a short answer text or some sort of attitude and I feel like I am a bother so I don’t even text or call if I want to ask something because I feel like I have to restrict myself. Also in the beginning, he has was late on a court appearance and had to change the court date. Now I paid this lawyer, not his fully money but half of it. Should I hire another lawyer or just stick with this one since its just paper work filing? If I should go with another lawyer, how do I get my money back?

    also he didn’t reach out to me to apologize that he was late for the court date, I reached out to him A WEEK LATER.

    • fl_litig8r says:

      I’m not really sure what kind of matter this is, but if you’re paying your lawyer on a retainer basis I assume that you’re getting monthly billing statements which reflect the work he’s claiming to have done. If he’s charging you for work that clearly wasn’t done, then you should find another lawyer and demand repayment for those charges for work which wasn’t performed. If the case is being moved forward, just not as quickly as you would like, it’s up to you whether you think it would move faster with another lawyer. Your current lawyer dragging his heels likely isn’t malpractice unless he misses a filing deadline, and there’s no guarantee that other lawyers in that area don’t operate at a similar speed, so whether you should move on is hard to say. The only way to know would be to take your billing records to another lawyer and see if he thinks that your lawyer isn’t diligently pursuing your case, and that he could do better.

      I can’t tell from what you’ve written whether your lawyer is acting diligently, and is just communicating that fact poorly, or if he has your case on the back burner and isn’t really giving it the attention it deserves. Either way, whether you want to put up with this behavior for the sake of continuity in your case (and not having to pay another lawyer to get up to speed on things your first lawyer already did) depends upon your level of tolerance and how vital the matter you’ve hired him to handle is.

      • Diana says:

        How can I email you so I can tell you a little more detail?

        • fl_litig8r says:

          I don’t answer questions via e-mail. Sorry, but if I make exceptions everyone would prefer to handle it that way, and one of the points of having questions and answers in the comments is to make them available to people with similar problems.

          • Diana says:

            I understand. This is a criminal case by the way, not federal. Yesterday my husbands lawyer told us that he is not representing us anymore. I had called him 7 am because my husband got called for court. The lawyer wasn’t there, he didn’t know. He said that he was brought to the court as an ‘error’. An error?! Well when I called the lawyer, the first thing I said was, “my husband is in court, why is he there?” the first thing he says is, “you are calling too early in the morning, we went through this before (the other time when I called early was because he was supposed to go to court and he didn’t get called to go to court and told me that was also an ‘error’), is this a joke? this is ridiculous, I’m not representing you guys anymore.” This would be malpractice right? Leaving us in the ditch and putting us into a financial hole. After he told me he wasn’t representing us and ditched us, I had to hire another lawyer that same moment. He then later texted me and said to send him the substitution letter and that our relationship is terminated and not to no longer contact him. Can I use this as proof as malpractice? This IS malpractice, right?

            I have another question, hiring a lawyer who has been around a long time and knows the judge, the prosecutor and everyone, would that make a big difference in someone’s case rather than a lawyer who just has good amount of experience but not that familiar with everyone as the old timer lawyer?

          • fl_litig8r says:

            Malpractice claims arising from criminal cases are a different animal from those which arise from civil cases. Many states require that a defendant prove “actual innocence” in order to pursue a malpractice claim against a criminal defense lawyer, the general reasoning being that a criminal should not be able to profit in any way from his criminal behavior. In those states, a conviction will bar a malpractice claim entirely, and even an acquittal is no guarantee that he will be found actually innocent in a malpractice case. A person who is acquitted, but actually guilty of the crime alleged, must go up against the person who knows where all the skeletons are buried — his criminal defense lawyer. Once you sue for malpractice, the attorney-client privilege won’t prevent the lawyer from using that information to defend himself.

            Even in states where actual innocence is not required, proving malpractice in a criminal case is no cakewalk. You not only have to show that the lawyer didn’t meet the standard of care accepted in the legal community, you have to prove that this had a negative impact on the case. If the new lawyer obtains an acquittal or a very favorable plea deal, the only harm you may be able to show is the additional length of his pre-trial detention, and that assumes that he isn’t out on bail. I doubt that most malpractice lawyers would consider the damages from such injury to be worth the cost of bringing such a case unless the additional time was truly significant, relative to the amount of time he would have been detained absent the malpractice.

            Most criminal defendants refrain from suing their lawyers for malpractice because this will cause that lawyer to refute allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel (IAC), which could be essential to an appeal should the case turn out badly. Often, criminal defense lawyers will concede an IAC claim to help out the client (or former client), but that won’t happen if they suspect a malpractice case is in the works. Conceding IAC costs the criminal defense lawyer nothing (but pride), but a malpractice case based on the same conduct could cost a lot.

            At this point, without knowing how this new lawyer resolves your husband’s case, it would be premature to threaten a malpractice claim. On the other hand, if you wish to contest the old lawyer’s billing — if you feel that he charged for time he really didn’t spend on the case — that’s a separate matter. Even that, though, should be discussed with the new lawyer in terms of whether he thinks that would affect a possible IAC claim.

            As to a lawyer’s familiarity with the judge and prosecutor, this is obviously helpful in predicting how they will react to certain tactics or plea offers, but it probably wouldn’t have any impact on the ultimate outcome of the case. This is definitely a case of “what you know” being far more important than “who you know”. I’d much rather have someone who is experienced and diligent representing me over someone who is less diligent but knows the players better.

  37. Jane says:

    Thank you. Last question, if a lawyer has a law firm and has offices in the state where my husbands case is being held and in two other states but the boss of the law firm is licensed in one of the other states but not in the state I’m in and another lawyer that works for him is in the office in the state I’m in and they’re both working as a team on my husbands case, is that a bad thing that the boss is not licensed in the state I’m in but has worked on cases in the state that I’m in? His expertise is criminal cases. Or is it just better that the head boss is licensed in the state I’m in?

    How can I find out how many cases a lawyer has won?

    Thanks so much in advance, I appreciate it.

    • fl_litig8r says:

      If the boss has regularly tried cases in your state, then I wouldn’t be concerned. It’s likely that his local lawyer will do all the heavy lifting on state law matters anyway (so as long as he’s experienced, you should be fine), and the boss will probably participate mostly at trial, using his skill in questioning witnesses and arguing to the jury — which are good in any state.

      There is no way to find out a lawyer’s win/loss record. Even if such records were kept, they would be largely useless without a lot of additional information about each case. A lawyer whose client pleads guilty, but obtains a favorable plea deal, could be viewed as either a win or loss. A lawyer whose client is convicted, but on a lesser charge, could also be viewed either way. Plus, such records would penalize lawyers who take the most difficult cases, and wouldn’t account for times when lawyers advised their clients to accept a plea deal but the client refused and was subsequently convicted. Unfortunately, as with most legal subjects, there are no easy answers.

  38. Deborah says:

    I’m a medical provider. I provided care to a lady involved in a lawsuit back in 2000. They may have gone to trial or settled, I don’t know which. I closed my office back then and I was not paid for my services though I did send the bill to her attorney. I do not remember the attorney’s name and the client will not talk with me. The money was not sent to the State unclaimed funds office either. Can you advise how I can go about locating the attorney or getting payment? Thank you.

    • fl_litig8r says:

      Given the age of the bill, the statute of limitations on it has almost certainly run. If you think it hasn’t for some reason, you could check the docket for the lawsuit she brought to find the name of the lawyer. Most clerks of court have this information online and you can search based on the name of the plaintiff, but you’d need to know what county the lawsuit was filed in or you’d need to check a bunch of clerks’ websites. Their online records may not date back to 2000 (this varies from clerk to clerk), in which case you may need to physically go to the clerk’s office to access this information. Once you find the lawyer’s name, you can search the state bar website to find his current contact information, assuming he’s still alive and practicing.

  39. Dman says:

    I hired my lawyer for a child support case and a divorce and the child support got dropped cause the mother and I got back together but I lived in Indiana when I hired him and move to tn now and I haven’t heard anything in the last two months about my divorce case and every time I call and leave a message he NEVER returns my call and I don’t call everyday I call like every 2 or more weeks but I’m becoming very frustrated and don know what to do

    • fl_litig8r says:

      If you’ve already tried what I recommend in the article (setting a phone appointment, mentioning his ethical duty), then the only thing left is to contact the state bar. I’d really use that only as last resort, though, unless you don’t care if he withdraws as your lawyer.

  40. Krish G says:

    I was rear ended by a SUV last year ,Oct 2012 and hired an attorney to represent me. After almost an year later I was called in last week and told there is a settlement for 20k from the other side to compensate me for my herniated disk from the accident. The junior attorney wants me to take the settlement while I am still undergoing treatment as the herniation is still intact. To add to my misery, since July I am having severe testicle pain which three urologists suspect is due to nerves emanating from the back. Attorney does not seem convinced or is not interested in their suggestions. Is there anything I can do. I do not want to antagonize him but he refuses to consider all facts and is only interested in a settlement.

    • fl_litig8r says:

      The fact that you are still treating isn’t as important as whether you are at maximum medical improvement (MMI). If surgery isn’t something that is planned for your disc, you may be at MMI despite the need for continuing treatment to maintain your current level of health. If surgery is being planned, then settlement seems premature at this point, unless the policy limits are $20,000.00 (which doesn’t seem likely, given that most auto insurers don’t offer that number as a limit). So, with respect to your disc, whether you are in a position to settle really hinges on the MMI issue.

      With respect to the testicular pain, you have a pretty big causation issue if the pain didn’t start until 8-9 months after the accident. Unless your doctors can provide a convincing argument as to why the paid started so long after the accident, I can see why your lawyer is hesitant to make a claim for it. If, after discussing this issue with your doctors, you think they have a convincing argument about why it took so long for the pain to surface, then you should lobby your lawyer to include this injury. Tell your doctors to be straight with you and not just tell you what they think you want to hear. Would they be willing to testify to a reasonable degree of medical certainty that the accident caused the testicular pain? If not, it’s probably not worth pursuing. If they feel strongly that it is related and are willing to testify about it, then you shouldn’t let your lawyer blow this claim off. You do have the final say over whether a settlement is accepted or not, though your lawyer may drop the case if he is adamantly opposed to making the additional claim.

  41. Toni Kerr says:

    My question is about a will in probate. My mother passed away and left her estate to my brother and myself 50/50. She appointed me as executor. Due to the current housing market I wanted to wait to sell the house in order to get get top $$ for it. my brother disagreed and hired an attorney to take me to court and force me to put it on the market. I did put it on the market and it has not sold. My brother did not show up to the last hearing but his lawyer did and asked to replace me as personal representative. The judge did not grant that at that time, but without a hearing and without notice, appointed another lawyer as personal representative removing me. 3 years later it is still in probate. their are bills owed which are unsecured credit cards which I am willing to pay if this will get this new “personal representative” and close the probate. My brother also does not want this person acting on our behalf and did not authorize his lawyer to request the court remove me as personal representative. If I pay these credit cards will it close the probate? Or will I also have to pay my brother’s attorney for the probate to close? My brothers lawyer took the case saying he could be paid when the house sells. My lawyer(the estate lawyer originally hired) was paid up front and it was supposed to cover any matters that should arise. Now they are trying to charge me more even though I was told that. I have not signed anything and don’t intend to pay him anyore when that was outr agreement and he also will not answer my calls. CAn I file an objection to this attorney that was appointed as personal representative on my own? This attorney has also petitioned the court to force me and my brother who are living in the house to move out. I don’t know how this is legal since we are the only heirs and the credit card bills amount to only about $2500. In my opinion this lawyer is only trying to run up bills to line his own pockets. The house is paid for. As I said I am willing to pay those debts if that will close the estate. I left a detailed message on my attorney’s voice mail telling him what I want to do and he will not answer. They have really done nothing to help me and it is also my opinion that they do not want to question the judge.I have never been rude or lost my temper with him and still cannot get any help. Let me know what you think. I appreciate any help you can offer. Thank You, T. Kerr

    • fl_litig8r says:

      I’m sorry, but I haven’t dealt with probate law since law school (over 18 years ago). I wouldn’t want to give you an uninformed answer that might be wrong. If you’d be willing to pay around $30-40 for your answer, one of the lawyers over at JustAnswer can probably help you (the payment is escrowed until after you get your answer and agree that the lawyer answered your question). They’re usually pretty quick to respond to questions, as the first one to respond gets paid. Again, sorry I couldn’t help — probate just isn’t my forte.

  42. Ann D. says:

    Thanks for this informative article. I am going to use your advice to get my lawyer to contact me. My ex and I went to court and all the papers were signed for him to start paying child support – in MAY! Since then (this is October) I have heard nothing from my lawyer. No returned calls. No returned emails. I’ve even told both him and his assistant that I am getting desperate trying to continue to care for 3 teenagers (one in college) with no support from their father and now the holidays are coming. I will start with “ethical” and go from there. Wish me luck and thank you! Ann

  43. Paulette Y. says:

    In April 2008 I was involved in an automobile accident and T-boned in an intersection by a truck running a red light. As my mother was close to death I did not seek regular treatment (big mistake). The other driver’s insurance pressured me to settle for $2K. I knew I had a serious whiplash and shoulder injury but was preoccupied with trying to be with my mother (400 miles distant). I had $35K in PIP coverage but my own insurance company demanded an IME just 3 1/2 months after the accident. Of note, I am employed part-time for a company who performs these IMEs which seemed to greatly concern my claim representative.

    I was sent across the state line for my examination, which amounted to the “2 minute special”, wherein the doctor spent basically no time in examining or questioning me, rather he chided me for ‘probably not adhering to ergonomic suggestions’ in the position of my computer screen. His report indicated there was zero correlation between the accident and my neck issues, (i.e., having a full-sized pickup traveling approximately 45 mph hitting my small sedan’s driver door at an angle and doing over $6000 in damage.) The IME doctor attributed all physical complaints which arose after the accident solely to my age and predictable degenerative changes, despite no previous symptoms.

    As my insurance company had blocked me from utilizing my $35K in PIP coverage weeks prior, I was paying for treatment and imaging (2 MRIs and a bone scan) from my own savings (a total of over $10,000.) At the behest of a doctor, I sought a personal injury attorney (shortly before the IME was called for).

    In late 2011, a settlement of $25K was paid by the other driver’s insurance, with $8500 going to my attorney and me basically being reimbursed for my previous medical outlay. My attorney held back $3600 in a subrogation lien which is what I am writing about now.

    My attorney wanted me to continue regular treatment with a chiropractor (of her choice) as they had apparently been ‘a good team’ in prior cases. I could not afford to treat as regularly as they dictated due to cost. I am technically ‘underemployed’, working three very part-time jobs, and I had to drop my catastrophic insurance coverage long ago. Paying $45-60 per chiropractic visit on the off chance I might recover another settlement on some distant future horizon is not possible in my current circumstance.

    I have attempted to relay this to my attorney via telephone messages left and a written letter sent in July 2013. I am not aware of a paralegal and have not received any communication for close to a year. How do I go about settling the subrogation lien being held in trust to my former insurer? Should I send a registered letter to my attorney? She has practiced in this city for over 30 years and is obviously quite busy. We always had a very cordial relationship whenever speaking (on the rare occasion over the past six years), but I really would like to end this chapter.

    I apologize for the length of this but I am at a loss as to what I ought to do at this point.

    Many thanks,

    • fl_litig8r says:

      I would leave one final voicemail for the attorney (from what you said it sounds like there isn’t a person to answer her phone — if that’s not the case, then use the person who answers to set an appointment for a phone conference) saying that you’ve left many messages that have not been returned over the prior year and if you don’t receive a call within 48 hours to discuss the settling of the lien, you’ll have to contact the state bar. Then, if you don’t get a return call within that time, call the state bar (the number to call to report a complaint should be readily available on their website).

  44. Frank Khad says:

    Greetings! Very Helpful Site!

    I have a question to ask! I hired a lawyer who just recently has dropped my case without any notice! This is when there are just few days left to the hearing date with the defendant’s insurer! And three months to the court date!
    With no doubt the defendant’s insurer will take advantage of this situation as I have left country after my ex-wife left me and I had to join my relatives abroad, those who have been my only help and very supportive!
    What would be the worst scenario here? AND if I can postpone the hearing and the court date until finding someone who represent me?

    • fl_litig8r says:

      I assume by “hearing” you mean mediation and by “court date” you mean trial. Normally, when a court grants a lawyer’s motion to withdraw, it will enter an order giving the plaintiff a certain amount of time to obtain new counsel (often 30 days), after which it will assume that you are proceeding pro se. If the mediation isn’t court ordered, you could just cancel it (or postpone it while you try to retain new counsel). If it is court ordered, you may still be able to postpone it as long as you reschedule it within the deadline set by the court. If you’re already pushing up against that deadline, you may just have to attend on your own.

      The only thing you can do at this point is try to get a new lawyer. If you can’t, and trial is approaching, you can either try to try the case on your own or voluntarily dismiss the case. There’s no easy solution here.

      • Frank Khad says:

        Thanks for your kind answer.
        Yes! It is an ordered mediation. I was informed by phone yesterday that the defendant insurer is also taking advantage of my absence, and my lawyer’s withdrawal from representation, and serving me in my very old address (my rental apartment at 2011) with the motion ground that “I have refused to take their medical exam earlier this year and also failing to appoint new counsel after my lawyer’s withdrawal ! They have asked the court of justice to dismiss the case.
        This is when my lawyer already has NOT answered my calls and by contacting few people I found he has dropped my case without informing me. Most probably he has lied to the court that he has served me at my address when he was informed in several occasions, by fax or email, that I was abroad and had no choice but to leave the country!

        At March 2012 and before my departure I sent another fax asking if he has come to any conclusion with defendant’s insurer. And of course I informed him about my leave and my hard life after my ex-wife asked for divorce and left me by my disabilities and thousands of dollars debt.

        • fl_litig8r says:

          I suspect you are right about your lawyer sending your copy of his motion to withdraw to your old address to give the court the impression that he had informed you. I don’t envy your position, as you really need to obtain counsel and doing so from another country won’t be easy.

          The defendant will absolutely try to take advantage of the time when you don’t have counsel to try to get the case dismissed (or get summary judgment). The only advice I have is to try to find a new lawyer as quickly as possible. I wish I had more to tell you, but it is what it is.

  45. islandgirl says:

    Happy New Year fl litig8r!

    I took you advice and came over here to read this article. I did finally call the attorney’s office yesterday but received a recording instructing me to many different extensions (having no idea which para-legal is working on my file I didn’t know which one to leave a message with, nonetheless I did leave a message and I will assume for now that they are out of the office for the holidays. It’s not that I think my attorney is unethical, quite contrary he has a very solid and respectable reputation. I sense his para-legals are the ones dropping the ball here. But how does one know when I can’t get an answer at all? Since September I have sent precisely three e-mails (not one phone call until the one I made yesterday), which to date have never been answered. I didn’t even send those until after I completed six months of physical therapy and then two ESI procedures. It is going on four months now since the last ESI procedure and I have not heard a word. I am beginning to think that perhaps my next step is to take your advice and just pop in around lunchtime next week and find out something.

    • fl_litig8r says:

      I wouldn’t rely on leaving voice mails or e-mails. Keep calling back until you get a real human. It’s very hard for them to make up an excuse as to why they can’t schedule a 10-15 minute phone conversation with your lawyer once you get them on the phone. Maybe that will save you a trip to his office.

  46. islandgirl says:

    I actually got to talk to a real human in the attorneys office today. It appears that really both the para-legal and the person responsible for all the paperwork in the Dr.’s office were essentially dragging their feet. For four months. But I am happy to finally know something after almost an entire year, which is better than knowing nothing.

  47. islandgirl says:

    After speaking with the attorney’s assistant, she did in fact mail me a copy of the Stowers letter sent on to the other insurance company. While I wasn’t really pushing for settlement negotiations to start, I’m okay with it. I really wanted to know how much my medical bills were because I know they are piling up, which they were. Completely shocked to see just how much. I sure don’t want to be on the hook for them and I shouldn’t, but stranger things have happened.

    • fl_litig8r says:

      For those not up for Googling it, a Stowers letter is shorthand for a “policy limit” demand in Texas, meant to trigger bad faith liability for the insurer if it fails to reasonably tender those limits.

      For your sake, I hope the defendant’s limits are sufficient to cover your medical bills and attorney’s fees, while leaving a fair amount left over for you. Otherwise, you should hope that the insurer drops the ball and doesn’t accept your demand in a timely manner.

      • islandgirl says:

        I think that the insurer might have done just that, dropped the ball. The 30 day deadline has passed and I haven’t heard anything from my attorney, and I assume that’s because he hasn’t heard anything from the insurer.

        • islandgirl says:

          Having not heard anything back from my attorney’s office even though the 30 day deadline had passed, I phoned them today. It seems I am screwed (unless of course the insurance company didn’t tender limits within the time frame, which my attorneys para-legal didn’t disclose but I will certainly ask for proof before I sign anything). But it appears I got the shaft, 28,101.00 in medical bills so far and their policy limit was 30k. Kind of leaves me in a hole. They told me that they went back to my insurance company for my UIM and are waiting to hear back. What I really can’t wrap my head around is someone driving a 60k vehicle with only state limits, something just doesn’t sound right here.

          • fl_litig8r says:

            Well, I can’t speculate as to why someone would drive an expensive car with such low limits, but stranger things have happened. That’s why you get UM/UIM insurance in the first place.

          • islandgirl says:

            I really can’t speculate either. I am curious, I do know that the insured also has another vehicle (only because he showed up at the accident scene after his girlfriend called him), could I not go to that policy for B.I. or his girlfriend’s insurance (if she even has any, she totaled her car exactly four day before she totaled mine so her insurance may have dropped her)? I do carry full coverage on my vehicles even though they are paid for and are ten year old SUV’s, but I really am steamed that undoubtedly my insurance rates will go up because I’m having to go through my UIM to cover my medical expenses.

          • fl_litig8r says:

            BI insurance doesn’t stack, so even if he had coverage on more than one vehicle, it wouldn’t matter. The girlfriend’s insurance, on the other hand, is definitely worth looking into. If she had totaled her own vehicle just 4 days before this accident, there’s a good chance that her coverage was still in effect. Her BI could be added to the owner’s BI, as BI insurance follows you even when you’re driving someone else’s vehicle. It would be interesting to see if her insurer did purportedly cancel her insurance with the destruction of her vehicle, and if so, whether it refunded her premium from any time still left on the policy after her first accident. If it kept her premium money, and her coverage was paid up through the date of your accident, one could argue that it did not really cancel her coverage. You should ask your lawyer if he’s looked into this. Your UIM insurer may also be helpful in this regard, as it would have a vested interest in helping you prove that her coverage was still in effect.

            With respect to your rates, I doubt that they’ll go up much, if at all, from a “not at fault” accident, unless you have a pattern of heavy claims activity in addition to this accident.

          • isandgirl says:

            I’ll have them both look into her insurance. With respect to my claims history ironically my 4-Runner has been hit three times before this last T-bone that totaled it. None of the claims were ever against my insurance. Apparently I drove an invisible car because it kept getting rear-ended while I sat at the traffic light all three times. If you guessed they were all on their cell phones, step up and claim your prize!

        • islandgirl says:

          I called my attorney’s office today to inquire about the young ladies insurance policy. This time they told me a totally different amount of policy limits were paid by her boyfriends insurance than they told me last week, and then told me they were still waiting to hear from my insurance company. When I inquired if they looked into hers she stated, “I’m sure we did, then put me on hold to look in the file. I had to explain it to her three times that they should be looking into her insurance secondly before going to mine for UIM. She said she understood (but I’m not convinced she did) and said that the para-legal handling my case was out but she would ask her about it tomorrow. I don’t understand why they didn’t do this to begin with. They knew she had insurance even if they didn’t know who with or the policy number it wasn’t difficult at all to find out. I paid a whole 8.00 for the CR-3 report of her accident four days before she hit me from TX-DOT and there it was! I’m really beginning to regret my choice in attorney’s and wish I would have found your site before I hired him.

          • fl_litig8r says:

            In fairness, sometimes when a lawyer’s office takes a client’s call cold, they get caught flat-footed when they are asked a question that requires digging through their files — particularly if the paralegal working the case isn’t available. They may have run this insurance issue down and the person you spoke with just couldn’t find it in the file — or not. I guess you’ll see when they call you back. If they tell you that they’ve requested the information from the insurer and haven’t heard back yet, they probably screwed up and just sent the request out upon realizing it. It’s up to you whether you want to cross-examine them on that — though I don’t know if embarrassing them over an admittedly dumb oversight is going to do much to improve your relations and future communications. As long as they are pursuing it now, the harm from their mistake will be avoided.

            It should be more clear after they call you back whether they completely forgot to pursue the driver’s insurance. Maybe they didn’t? (I’m kind of cringing here because I can just imagine how stupid it would feel to make such a mistake — and then to have it caught and corrected by the client, yikes!).

          • islandgirl says:

            I suppose they are cringing somewhat now. They never pursued her insurance policy but are doing backflips today to get it done. They did call the other insurance company today and opened a claim and are trying to get an appointment set up this week for a conference call with my attorney and myself to take a statement from me. So at least I know they are trying to make amends.

          • fl_litig8r says:

            Well, good for them for taking corrective action instead of trying to make excuses. It’s not easy to fess up to such a mistake, but it helps that there was still time to fix it. Pat yourself on the back for seeing the problem in time, too.

          • islandgirl says:

            In all honesty, I can’t pat myself on the back. I learned from your website and expertise. I do work in a courtroom, but it isn’t anything close to these type of cases so I had to research my particular scenario in order to educate myself on how it works. So I give all the kudo’s to you for helping educate everyone in these type of situations and giving them the knowledge to help them understand and proceed through the process. Thank you!

          • islandgirl says:

            Well it’s been a while since I’ve been back here and I’m sorry to say nothing has progressed in my case. I’ve read your entire website and have taken your advice but I’m really stuck now on what to do. First thing I know is to be nice to your paralegal, even though she deserves nothing of the sort. Second don’t fire your lawyer. I’m surmising that these two things are what they count on for not taking my case somewhere else. Here are the essentials to date. After I gave my recorded statement the paralegal stated to me that it would be a week or two before the insurance company would get back to them. Then she stated that the insurance company said they would pay policy limits and possibly above (this I find very hard to believe for the obvious reasons). Two months have passed without hearing anything so I call the paralegal and she states that the insurance company offered 3,000.00. She said she countered back and is waiting to hear from them. I asked her if she sent them a Stower’s Demand and she stated that she did and that the time given had passed. So I asked her to copy my file for me to pickup. She did so and the only communication between their office and the insurance company is the initial letter of representation, nothing else. Then it came to light that somehow on of my doctors wound up getting paid through my own P.I. policy. I don’t understand how that could happen, going around the lawyer on either the part of the doctor or my own insurance. So now this paralegal is telling me that my lawyer has agreed to cut his fees when and if this ever settles. I’m pissed because I believe my lawyer, not his paralegal should have called me and talked to me about how this case has been handled poorly but it looks as though I am going to have to call him and request a sit down to have him explain to me why he chose to let his paralegal consistently botch everything up. I don’t know what else to do?

          • fl_litig8r says:

            Well, it certainly appears that the paralegal has not been telling you the truth about what’s going on with your case. As you surmised, the best way to get to the truth is to schedule a face to face meeting with your lawyer. If a demand hasn’t even been sent out, then there still may be hope to salvage the case and get the insurer to increase its offer. It sounds like your lawyer hasn’t done any negotiating at all yet (unless your copy of the file omitted correspondence). Perhaps a come to Jesus meeting with him will light a fire under him to do what he should have already done. I do question why he would agree to lower his fee without doing any negotiating, so something just doesn’t add up to me about there having been no negotiations. It wouldn’t hurt to contact another lawyer or two to at least feel out whether there are any lawyers who would be willing to take over your case, in case your meeting doesn’t go well. My “don’t fire your lawyer” general advice is based on the fact that it’s usually very difficult to find a lawyer to take over a case from another lawyer — and even a bad lawyer is usually better than no lawyer at all. The less that’s been done on the case by the first lawyer, the better the odds that another lawyer would take it over — because the less the first lawyer did, the less he screwed up.

            With respect to your doctor being paid by your own PI insurance, that doesn’t strike me as unusual or wrong, assuming this was some type of PIP or Med Pay coverage. These types of claims are usually submitted directly by the doctor to your insurer without any attorney involvement (unless the claim gets denied). It doesn’t hurt your liability claim at all for this to have happened.

  48. LA Tony says:

    Thanks for the article, very helpful. I retained an attorney about 1 1/2 years ago for a civil suite. Since then he has told me that he is too busy to see me and I’d be lucky to get a call back. I left a message 4 months ago, brought a letter with my questions 3 months ago and left a message 2 months ago and last month. The assistant always says “he’s going to call you in a few day’s he really wants to talk to you he said your case is great”. Well, nothing, no call backs regarding my calls or my letter. The assistant said I have a deposition in April and the lawyer said he will meet with me 1/2 before it starts. What can I do? How can I prepare? I am always so organized and I feel lost with no communication. If I fire him, do I owe him money?

    • fl_litig8r says:

      You’ve come to the right place. To address your immediate concern about what to expect at your deposition, read this article (written specifically for plaintiffs about to be deposed) and this article (about giving a deposition in general). These articles contain almost everything I tell my own clients at our pre-deposition meetings, leaving out only things that may be specific to a client’s case.

      Your lawyer’s cavalier attitude about not communicating with you indicates two things: (1) he has more cases than he can reasonably handle and (2) your case is not worth so much that he’s afraid of losing you as a client. The problem with #2 is that it will make finding another lawyer willing to take on your case at this point very difficult. Most lawyers don’t want to touch cases that another lawyer has already brought to litigation unless they’re really valuable cases (clearly worth over $100,000). So, aside from the concern that you’ll still have to pay him if you fire him (which in this case, based only on poor communication, you probably would), the greater concern is that you will be left with no lawyer, which 99% of the time is worse than being stuck with a bad lawyer (in this case, I’m saying he’s bad due to the poor communication — he may still be very skilled and achieve a good result).

  49. LA Tony says:

    Thank you so much for your response to me! I will surely read the information on the deposition. I appreciate you sharing it with me. I think my attorney actually has too much on his plate (at least that’s what his assistant and receptionist says). But not getting information and not getting my questions answered is so frustrating. I have spoken to 4 lawyers about the case and 2 said it was a ‘very strong’ case and the other 2 said it’s a ‘great’ case. It’s actually a pretty interesting case. I wish I can tell you about it but don’t think typing it here is a good idea, haha. Let me know if you want to hear about it. Thanks again and have a great night!

    • fl_litig8r says:

      No problem. No need to share any more. You’ve already gotten the opinions of other lawyers in your own state, so there’s no need to get another from an out-of-state lawyer. I have more than enough “interesting lawsuit” stories to last a lifetime.

  50. Jane Doe says:

    What is format of letter for firing attorney who has not replied to telephone or e-mail request for an update in more than 2 years?

    My 1st draft:

    ‘After several attempts, since 2012, to reach you via e-mail (insert her e-mail addresses) and phone (insert phone), and receiving no replies, I consider our agreement for your services in exchange for a percentage of any funds achieved in case of X v. Y, null and void.

    You are not entitled to any payments for legal costs, nor any portion of any settlement achieved via your replacement.

    Though there is some question from other legal professionals as to the intention of the work that you did and how you did/didn’t do it, at the moment, I have no intention of filing a complaint with ABA and State Bar Association.

    Sincerely,
    Jane Doe

    does that work or should I include more information/less information?

    • fl_litig8r says:

      Well, there really is no form for this, but I do have 2 suggested changes:

      1. I would change the part of the sentence reading “I consider. . . null and void” to “I consider you to have abandoned and constructively withdrawn from my case”.

      2. Remove the mention of the ABA. They are merely a trade group and have no power over lawyers. Many lawyers aren’t even members.

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