Legal Question in Personal Injury in California

I didn't sign the retainer, the case investigator brought it over in a language I'm not completely fluent in, so I said no to signing it. I have a copy of it however because he emailed it for me to sign (in English). I was about to hire the lawyer to represent me for the auto accident I was in but now I no longer feel at ease. I did however sign the below:

a) authorization to obtain documents

b) a designee authorization,

c) uniform statutory form power of attorney which includes:

1. real property transaction 2. tangible personal property transactions 3. commodity and option transactions 4. banking and other financial institution transactions 5. personal and family maintenance 5. tax matters (and a few others)

d) Medical release form (I think)

e) A form requesting any other lawyers (there are none) to stop working on my case

My question is. Some of the above documents state that a photo copy of the authorizations will serve as the originals another authorization states the document is valid unless revoked, and then the POA states a revocation of POA is not effective to a third party until the third party has actual knowledge of the revocation and I will indemnify the 3rd party for any claims that arise against them due to reliance of the POA. My question is. This firm seems a sneaky.... If never signed the retainer, only the forms above, will I be held accountable for anything? What precaution should I take? I signed yesterday but will tell them "no thanks" today.

Asked on 5/31/18, 5:19 am

3 Answers from Attorneys

Armen Tashjian Law Offices of Armen M. Tashjian

If you don't like or trust the firm you hired you should be able to cancel by sending them something in writing letting them know of your decision.

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Answered on 5/31/18, 6:14 am
Robert Worth Robert J. Worth , Professional Law Corporation

If you did not sign the retainer agreement that attorney does not represent you and cannot use the forms that you did sign. You could email that attorney that you do not wish to be represented and not to use the forms (copies of them) that you signed and request that they be promptly sent to you. Or retain an attorney that you do trust and retain that lawyer who can request the signed documents be returned to your new attorney. I hope this helps.

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Answered on 5/31/18, 7:34 am
Edward Hoffman Law Offices of Edward A. Hoffman

The term "power of attorney" can be confusing, especially for someone whose first language isn't English. That's because, in this context, the word "attorney" refers to a type of agent and not specifically to a lawyer. To use somewhat old-fashioned language, a lawyer is an "attorney-at-law." Only a licensed attorney-at-law can represent the legal interests of other people. Someone who has your power of is instead called your "attorney-in-fact."

These two concepts are not the same. One key difference between them is that any competent adult can be an attorney-in-fact. They don't have to be licensed or have special training. Power of attorney can be given to lawyers or to non-lawyers. Indeed, it's given to non-lawyers more often than to lawyers.

Giving someone power of attorney authorizes her to do certain things on your behalf which you would otherwise be expected to do personally. For example, you can give someone power of attorney to make health-care decisions for you if you become disabled. The document granting this authority should spell out what the other person may do on your behalf. It sounds like the one you signed was pretty broad.

Note that giving this authority to someone else doesn't take it away from you. (It's possible to give up this authority, but that ordinarily doesn't happen.) As long as you remain competent, you can still do all of the things you authorized your attorney-in-fact to do for you. Where the two of you disagree, your decision is the one that matters -- as long as she and the people she is dealing with know about it.

If you aren't going to hire this law firm, you should immediately tell them so in writing. You should also tell them that you are revoking the power of attorney and other authorizations you gave them. They won't legally be able to act in your name once you have told them they no longer have authority to do so.

Very few people -- and even fewer lawyers -- would try to use authority which they know has been revoked. But revoking their authority won't retroactively negate anything they had already done while they had it. If you just signed the documents yesterday, then it seems unlikely the law firm has tried to use any of the authority you gave it. The fact that you haven't signed a retainer agreement makes it even less likely that the firm has already started acting as if you're a client. The firm probably won't start acting on your behalf until you have signed all of the documents it gave you, including the retainer. So don't be surprised if the firm tells you they haven't done anything yet.

You should also ask the firm to tell you whether they have taken any actions pursuant to the documents you signed and, if so, to tell you what they did and who else was involved. The people who were involved are the "third parties" referred to in the clause that you mention. You should then ask the firm to contact each of those third parties and let them know that the firm is no longer working with you -- and ask them to send you copies of this correspondence. You can also contact the third parties yourself, but that might make the lawyers look bad. I don't see any valid reason to do that unless the lawyers refuse to cooperate with you.

A final point: I assumed while writing the previous paragraphs that the matter you discussed with the lawyers isn't an emergency. If it is -- perhaps because you have to meet a looming deadline -- then it is more plausible that the lawyers have already started using some of the authority you gave them.

Good luck.

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Answered on 5/31/18, 12:52 pm

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