Can I Fire My Personal Injury Lawyer?

Golden Lady Justice, Bruges, Belgium

The short answer is yes. You can switch personal injury lawyers anytime you want.

There are a number of reasons why a client might wish to change lawyers. Perhaps you consistently have trouble reaching your lawyer. Perhaps your lawyer treats you in a hostile and rude manner. Perhaps your lawyer has made mistakes and you’ve lost confidence in his or her ability.

These could all be good reasons to fire your lawyer. But be careful. You could hurt your chances of a successful settlement.

Remember that your lawyer has likely put a lot of time and thought into your case. A new lawyer will have to start fresh. And there’s no guarantee that the new lawyer will be any better.

Try to first solve the problem. For example, if your lawyer has been hard to reach, talk to him or her about it. If necessary, write an e-mail outlining your concerns. Make it clear that you’re considering changing lawyers. Lawyers have an ethical obligation to communicate regularly with their clients.

Consider that your lawyer might be hard to reach because he or she is temporarily short-staffed or is dealing with a spike in workload. Perhaps they aren’t responding because there is nothing they can do at the moment (for example, if they’re waiting for a response from the defendant’s lawyer or the insurance adjuster). This isn’t a good reason for them to not respond to your messages, but discovering the cause could help alleviate your concerns.

If your lawyer seems rude and abrasive with you, consider whether it’s really worth changing lawyers over it. You have a right to be treated with respect. At the same time, some very effective lawyers have less than endearing personality traits. Drawing the lawyer’s attention to this issue might be enough to improve the situation.

If your lawyer has made mistakes, consider whether they’re serious ones (you might wish to get the opinion of another lawyer regarding this). Serious or ongoing mistakes are a very good reason to change lawyers. Sloppiness or ignorance of the law can have devastating consequences for clients. A missed deadline, for example, can bar a client from pursuing their claim.

This is why all lawyers are required to have liability insurance. This insurance ensures that clients have recourse if their lawyer makes a costly mistake.

Be very careful about changing lawyers shortly before a deadline. It takes time for lawyers to transfer a file and for your new lawyer to get up to speed. The new lawyer may be able to get a deadline extension, but you can’t count on this.

What if your lawyer wants to fire you? This can happen when there is a serious personality conflict or if the client refuses to take the lawyer’s advice, for example. At the same time, your lawyer has an ethical obligation to protect your interests. They cannot simply leave you high and dry shortly before trial or an important deadline.