When You and Your Attorney Disagree


In the end, the victim of an injury is the only party that can determine whether or not to accept a settlement offer because it is the victim’s claim. An attorney exists to help best accomplish the reasonable objectives of the client. The client retains the right to fire the attorney, or to tell the attorney what to do, as long those things are reasonable and ethical. The attorney, in turn, also retains the ability to withdraw from a case at any time that will not severely damage the clients ability to gain relief (like on the eve of trial). Those are the basic parameters of the attorney client relationship; however, a client should also be aware that if the claim is regarding a motor vehicle crash or other personal injury, the attorney’s interests are likely aligned with that of the client. Because most experience auto accident attorneys work on what is called a contingency fee, they get paid a direct percentage of what the client gets paid. That aligns their interests. This means that you have every reason to trust the attorney, and almost no reason to question them because they want the same thing that you do. That objective is to get you the most money that they reasonably can for your claim. The other reason that a client should likely trust the opinion of the attorney is that the client has no idea what he or she is doing. An attorney would not attempt to instruct a heart surgeon how to perform open-heart surgery. You should probably not attempt to instruct your attorney on how to be an attorney. The legal field is full of decisions. Lawyers train for years and years in order to prepare them to make those decisions as accurately as possible.

The lawyer might want to settle your case for a variety of reasons. One reason might be that your case is weak. If your claim is not legally sound, your attorney may feel lucky to get an offer at all. Another reason is that you may not be a sympathetic victim. If the attorney feels that a jury will not sympathize with you, he or she will have no desire whatsoever to gamble everything by putting you in front of a jury. Another issue that may encourage settlement is if the attorney simply believes that your offer is higher than those that he or she is accustomed to receiving for other similar claims. If you are already at the high end of the spectrum, you will probably want to take the deal. A forth reason that could push a settlement is that you may want the money quickly. Sometimes, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. If you are anxious to get the money, settlement may be the best option. A lawyer should not, however, settle your case simply because they are too busy and do not have the time for drawn out litigation. It should be about you, not them.

The lawyer might want to go to trial if the settlement offer is just nowhere near what the attorney feels your case is worth, if the lawyer is confident enough to risk his or her fee on taking your case to a jury, you probably should be too. Trusting your attorney is important. If you feel that you cannot do that, you may wish to consider telling your attorney that you would like to seek a second opinion by hiring another attorney. Do not be vindictive. Your old attorney will eventually be paid for their share of your work anyway. Instead, explain wishes thoroughly, and listen carefully to make sure that the disagreement is not over a simple misunderstanding.
This article is offered only for general information and educational purposes.  It is not offered as and does not constitute legal advice or legal opinion.  You should not act or rely on any information contained in this article without first seeking the advice of an attorney.

Photo Credits: Jonathan Mueller