My lawyer doesn't seem to care about my case (long)
My lawyer doesn't seem to care about my case (long)
In February of 2004, I was rear-ended by a 16-wheel semi truck while I was stopped waiting to take a left hand turn onto a side street. My car was totaled and because of the severity of the impact, the strength in the muscles of my neck was very little to non-existant. I had to be carried out of my vehicle by the ambulance crew because I could not support my own head, and was forced to wear a neck brace for a number of weeks until my physical therapist had instructed me to remove it in order to work on gaining back my strength. I attended physical therapy for approximately 3 months and I saw a chiroprater for approxiamtely 7-8 months. During this time, I slowly gained back the strength in my neck and was treated for severe tension in my shoulders as well. I lost about 2 weeks of work (in which I had to use my vacation time in order to keep a steady flow of income to pay my bills) and then went back to work so that I could continue to pay my bills. My job was as a bank teller, so performing my duties was not difficult, I basically sat at a teller station and typed on the computer.
I did obtain a lawyer directly after the accident with that help of my immediate family and so far, have been VERY dissatisfied with his performance. I had to call his office at least 10 times to tell them to research the truck drivers phone records because I thought he had been on the phone when the accident occured. I told them that he had called 911 from his cell phone immediately after the accident (before he came out of his truck to check on me) and that if they could get the records, they would be able to see the time in betweeen phone calls and determine whether or not he was on the phone. It was only after the arbitration and after the insurance company had denied our request for settlement (which was the exact amount the arbitrators had agreed was a fair price, approximately 22k) AND after it was a real possibility that we would have to go to court that they researched this information. Mind you, I had told them to research this information long before we even had the appointment for our deposition, so there was plenty of time to do this.
Also, it has been like trying to reach the president himself when I try to get a hold of this man. I have to call his office at least 5 times within 2 weeks in order to get an answer to a simple question. I have only seen him once in person (when our contract was signed) although I had requested several times that he appear IN PERSON to our deposition and arbitration. Both of which he sent someone in his leave, without even telling me that was going to do so.
When I do finally get to talk to him over the phone, half the time I get a very unprofessional and very arrogant attitude. Not only that, but important details in my case (such as the fact that I did not have car insurance during the time of the accident) he does not know and I have to remind f\him of these details almost every time I do get to talk to him (the very few times I had been able to anyway). I understand that my case may not yield as much money as some other cases he may be handling and that his time may be pressed, but this treatment towards me, as his client, is completely inexcusable in my opinion. When I talk to my lawyer, I expect to feel confident in his abilities, I should feel that he knows my case, and I should feel like it is important to him (regardless if he sincerely feels so or not).
Up until a week ago, I tried to give him the benefit of a doubt and i tried to remind myself that close members of my family had dealt with him before and had nothing but good to say, so I let everything slide with the expectation that when it came down to business and we would be able to close this whole case, he would handle it in the way I expected him to.
Now, the last conversation I had with him was the breaking point. We had a trial date for that upcoming monday (he called friday). He had called me to tell me that the insurance company had submitted an offer for settling my case, which was 10k dollars... for everything. I told him that that amount would not even cover the medical expenses I incurred because of this accident. He told me that they would be able to reduce the amount by 40% and I would be walking away with 4k. When I said that I didnt really think that was fair, he tried persuading me to take the money because "the other side had already spent so much money on my case" by hiring a neurosurgeon to review my treatment, by hiring a personal investigator to follow me and document my behavior, along with other things. He also said that the other side would not cover one of my bills to a fibromylagia treatment center (to determine whether or not I had fibromyalgia; my chiroprator convinced me to go) because he said that it wasn't "valid" and that i had no symptoms. When, in fact, they had said I was borderline because I did have all of the symptoms but they thought I would get better with treatment... so I was told that I had dispersed ligamental strain. He also said that they had some evidence on video and photographs of me doing things that I said I could not do. When I asked what exactly he was talking about, he couldn't provide any real information. The video he was referring to was the same video they had shown to the panel of judges at the arbitration and all I saw was video of me getting in and out of my car. When I told him that I saw this video and that all that was on it was of me getting in and out of my car, he seemed surprised. He didn't even know they had shown this video during the arbitration or that I had seen it already. But nevertheless, he still tried to convince me to accept the amount they offered. When he realized that I wasn't happy with the amount and I was not going to accept it, he told me that he would have to rescheduale our court date to get depositions for the physical therapist and the chiropracter. He had MONTHS to do this. I expected to get a settlement offer from them before the date of trial and I'm sure he expected it too.. but it seems as if he was basing the amount of work he wanted to do on my case on whether or not he could convince me to take this settlement.
I am now in the final stages of my case and I expect to be going to trial within the next month if a settlement has not been reached. Although I do understand that every case is different and that I cannot expect to receive an exorbitant amount of money for pain and suffering, I do feel that $4,000 is not a fair amount. I feel that my lawyer is only interested in closing my case as soon as possible and that he has no interest whatsoever in actually helping me to reach a fair settlement. I have reviewed our contract and the only thing it outlines is terms of payment.
So, here are my questions:
--Am I able to switch lawyers at this point? And if so, would it be a good decision?
--What would I be able to say to him (in a professional manner) in order to get him to understand that I am not satisfied with his performance?
--Are his comments on how I should settle for the 10,000 because "the other side has spent so much money already" somehow a breach of his obligation to zealously represent me?
--What are his obligations to me, as his client and based on what I have written, what exactly hasn't he done?
--Am I able to (or should I) report him to the bar association he is a member of? If so, what do I say?
--Should i be as upset as I am?
Please HELP! I'm so lost and upset with this whole situation.
--Rachel D. in Illinois
Rachel - your post is very long however from what I could gather, you need to switch lawyers as soon as possible to have your case back on track; once you have the case steering into the right direction, consult with your new lawyer on what you should do regarding how your case was previously handled. Good luck!
Last edited by presutin; 04-20-2008 at 06:43 PM.
Do not consider postings legal advice. Always consult with an attorney.
Switching lawyers at this point would be pretty hard. I don't know many lawyers that will take over a case at the stage yours is in. It may not be worth it to them. Your current attorney can put a lien on your case for all of the work he's done. So, not only would you have to pay for the NEW attorney and his fees, plus trial costs, there will also be a fee going back to your current attorney. The best thing for you to do is to be honest with him about your concerns. Most personal injury firms have a ton of employees, hundreds...sometimes thousands of cases and a couple lawyers (who don't really like to read notes & facts surrounding the cases)
"There is no great genius without a mixture of madness" -Aristotle
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