Background to my questions: I have been working with an attorney for the last 3+ years on a personal injury suit (car accident) that the person had 100% (uncontested) fault by hitting my wife head on in her lane. My wife had to retire early from her job early (38 years on the job, 64 years old at the time, with an expectation of being able to continue to work for 2 to 5 more years) due to continuous pain from the injuries, and we had a loss of about $100K without any damages on top of the bills and loss of wages. Our attorney was only able to get a settlement offer of $50K, so we said to go to suit to get more. This increased our contingent agreement to 40% from 30% as they then claimed they filed for suit. They then took one deposition and electronically filled a complaint and interogatories with our local court but no court date of any kind. They got an imediate offer of $60K from the insurance Co. and told us if we didn't take that offer that they would not only drop us as clients but collect any fees (40%) from any other attorney settlement as well. We insisted they file and go to court and they refused and told the insurance Co. we would accept the $60K WITHOUT our written permission. They then called us in for a meeting to settle the case with us. Thinking we would get 30% fee from the $60K settlement since they refused to go to suit, we were astounded to be told we were getting the 40% fee from our settlement instead of the 30% one of the lawyers said they would charge. We will loose more than half with expenses of that meager $60K settlement. After the 10% increase in contingent fee, the attorney only made themselves another $10K (after THEY settled without our permission on $60K) with the 40% fee structure, and less for us even if we had settled for the $50 K originally. Now they are telling us we will be charged even more by the insurance Co.'s attorneys for their fees if we don't take the settlement as well. This is my questions. 1. is an attorney obligated by law to represent the clients directive concerning the direction of the case or is the attorney able to settle for their own financial gain with out concern for the clients needs or directive? 2. If the law firm REFUSED (in writing) to take the case to suit, should they get the 40% contingent fee or be obligated to take the 30% since THEY accepted the $60K settlement after we expressly told them we wanted them to go to court? 3. If I have to get another attorney to deal with this, do they get ANY fee since they refused to do what they agreed to do (in writing) in the first place? And last 4. What State agency or National Association should I contact to make complaint against this firm for their actions without regard to their clients needs that will give them pause to consider their position?
1 Answer from Attorneys
I'm sorry to hear that you had a breakdown in the relationship with your attorney. The client makes th decision to settle or not. The attorney decides trial strategy. The Kansas Bar assn has a program for resolving fee disputes between clients and their attorneys. The Office if Chief disciplinary counsel handles situations where attorneys settle cases without their client's cinsentbir direction.
The attorney will be able to claim the fee they earned, based upon thebwirk they've done. If you haven't agreed to settle the cas, no fees seem to iwed yet. You can find the KS bar fee dispute program, and the office of the chief disciplinary counsel on the internet.