Legal Question in Personal Injury in Virginia

Contract cancelation

I have been dealing with a personal injury attorney. I have actually been dealing with the paralegal, and the service and communication to me has been very disappointing. Not to mention his handling of my case. I am very upset at the amount he has gotten me, for a lifelong back injury (disk protrusion), i feel like i could have settled w/out him for 10k with $4000 worth of doctors bills. With the statue of limitations running out nov 1, he advises taking that and run, because a trial most likely will be costly and i'll get the same amount. Can i back out this contract, with minimum damage or costs?

Asked on 10/26/04, 10:26 pm

3 Answers from Attorneys

Michael Stone Law Offices of Michael B. Stone Toll Free 1-855-USE-MIKE

Re: Contract cancelation

Tell your attorney you want to see a copy of the complaint he is ready to file on November 1st, and insist that he file it. There is no urgency in having to settle at this point. Usually, the best time to settle a case is after your lawyer has fully prepared it for trial and discovery is completed. Presumably your attorney does not leave things until the last minute, and he has, in all probability, prepared a complaint so that it can be filed well in advance of the filing deadline. If not (or if your present attorney misses the deadline), you may wish to get another attorney right away.

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Answered on 10/27/04, 5:17 pm
Michael End End, Hierseman & Crain, LLC

Re: Contract cancelation

Your question is a difficult one to answer. As a general proposition, a contract is binding unless you can prove that the lawyer breached the contract because his representation of you was deficient. I think that it is usually difficult to prove that the representation has been so poor that the contract should be considered breached. Without being able to prove that the lawyer breached the contract because of his deficient representation of you, you are bound to the terms of the contract. A lawyer is not always able to obtain a good settlement offer from an insurance company. In the absence of a reasonable offer from the insurance company, the only alternative is to file a lawsuit. That could certainly be done within the next few days. The question is whether it would be to your benefit to do so. It is really impossible for me to answer that question without knowing all of the facts. If you are convinced that you would do better if you took the case to trial, then you should instruct your lawyer to file the lawsuit for you before the statute of limitations runs. I would advise you to consult with another lawyer, but you hardly have any time to do so. You could call me to discuss this in more detail, although I am extremely busy right now and do not have much time available (hence my replying to your inquiry at 9:45 p.m.).

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Answered on 10/26/04, 10:41 pm
JAY Nixon nixon law offices

Re: Contract cancelation

The answer to your question is probably contained in your fee agreement. While you always have the right to discharge your attorney, you may still have to pay him because some fee agreements protect the lawyer's percentage fee interest in the best offer via a lien against settlement proceeds. If the opposing insurer fails to recognize such a lien when disbursing settlement proceeds, they will remain liable to the attorney for the amount he would have received and therefore will not settle the case without the attorney’s name being on the check. As for the appropriateness of the offer, regardless of the severity of your injury, your recovery will always be reduced by your percentage of fault in the accident. Protruding disks can also occur for a variety of reasons, many of which do not involve traumatic injury. Older age or previous spinal problems make such conditions more likely to occur naturally. On the other hand, if you have a favorable written medical opinion clearly stating that the accident caused the problem, were zero percent at fault in the accident, are young, and suffered a permanent loss of future earning capacity due to the injury, the offer sounds low. I would therefore urge you to get a second legal opinion.

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Answered on 10/28/04, 7:21 am

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