Can You Switch Personal Injury Lawyers in San Diego?

In many personal injury cases, it is essential that you seek the services of an experienced lawyer to represent you. Nevertheless, your lawyer might prove inadequate for various reasons. So, do you have the right to fire your lawyer and hire a new one in the middle of your case? The answer is often yes, although with several caveats.

Reasons Why You Might Want to Switch Lawyers

Below is a list of reasons why you might want to switch personal injury lawyers:

  • Consistently missing deadlines or court dates.
  • Inability to handle the demands of a case that became more complex than originally anticipated.
  • A conflict of interest (the attorney is representing the opposing party on another matter, for example).
  • Unethical billing practices.
  • Relocation to another state or locality.
  • Health issues prevent your lawyer from representing you effectively.
  • Inadequate resources at the firm.
  • Inadequate knowledge of the relevant law (you hire an estate lawyer to handle a personal injury claim, for example).
  • Misunderstandings about case expectations. 
  • Inadequate negotiation skills.
  • Your lawyer keeps pressuring you to accept a settlement offer that you know is inadequate.
  • You don’t trust your lawyer to keep your case information confidential.
  • You discover that your lawyer has a substance abuse problem.
  • You find out that your lawyer has a bad local reputation.
  • Lack of concern for your priorities or lack of empathy for your circumstances.
  • Your lawyer seems unwilling to take your case to trial.
  • They are too busy to devote sufficient time to your case.
  • You don’t trust your lawyer for reasons you can’t explain–it’s just a gut feeling.

There are numerous and often valid reasons why you might want to switch lawyers. 

Steps to Take

Every case is different, and the steps you need to take will also vary.

Complete the following steps and any other steps dictated by common sense to ensure a smooth transition:  

  • Consider timing: Changing lawyers at critical points in your case can be dangerous. You might want to wait a while.
  • Review your fee agreement: This agreement probably outlines the process for ending the relationship with your lawyer.
  • Notify your lawyer: Give your lawyer written notice that you’re terminating your relationship.
  • Have a discussion: Determine how you will compensate your previous lawyer for the work they have already completed.
  • Find a new lawyer: Before dropping your current lawyer, find a new one, especially if you have already filed a lawsuit.
  • Obtain your case files: Your current lawyer must promptly provide you or your new lawyer with your case files.
  • Get court approval: If you have already filed a lawsuit, you might need court approval. This usually involves filing a Substitution of Attorney notification.
  • Remain patient: Give your new lawyer time to become familiar with your case before they need to make any critical decisions on your case.

Remember that even after you switch lawyers, your former lawyer has an ethical duty to keep your information confidential. This includes any confidential communication about your case, even if it was verbal.

How to Pay Your Old and New Lawyer: Your Options

If you are pursuing a personal injury claim, it’s probable that both your old lawyer and your new lawyer normally work on a contingency fee basis. So how do you divide legal fees between them? 

Here are the options:

  • Split of your contingency fee: If you agreed to a 35% contingency fee, your total fee you pay should not exceed 35%. It will be up to your former lawyer and your new lawyer to agree on how to split the 35% among themselves. This division will probably depend on the amount of work your former lawyer has already completed.
  • Quantum meruit: If the two lawyers cannot agree, a court might decide how much each lawyer should receive based on the work they performed. This principle is called “quantum meruit,” The court will assess the contribution of each lawyer and distribute the fees on this basis.

You Must Approve Any Fee Split

You must approve any arrangement between your former lawyer and your new lawyer concerning the division of fees, unless the court intervenes with a quantum meruit solution. You can refuse to grant your consent to your lawyers’ arrangement, but then again, your new lawyer can also refuse to represent you on the terms you seek. It’s something for you two to work out with each other.

Case Expenses 

Your lawyer might have already incurred out-of-pocket expenses relating to your case. You must reimburse your former lawyer for these amounts, which would otherwise probably come out of your ultimate recovery. Under certain circumstances, this could add up to a lot of money.

Ethical Considerations

The fee division between your old lawyer and your new lawyer cannot affect your interests or the ultimate outcome of your claim. The new arrangement cannot increase your total legal fees or reduce your compensation. You are the client, and your interests are paramount.

If your previous lawyer committed a serious breach of your trust, you might consider seeking compensation for legal malpractice. Legal malpractice works a lot like medical malpractice. It occurs when your lawyer harms your interests by failing to provide you with competent and professional services. Legal malpractice can involve negligence, breach of contract, or breach of fiduciary duty. 

Negligence in legal malpractice typically means that your lawyer did not exercise reasonable care, skill, or diligence in handling your case. “Reasonable” means in accordance with the standards observed by other competent lawyers in similar cases. Examples of legal malpractice can include missing filing deadlines, failing to conduct proper pretrial discovery, inadequately preparing for trial, or falling asleep during a trial.

Seek a Second Opinion Immediately

Don’t let the glue of circumstance harden under your feet. If you have doubts about your choice of attorney, especially doubts that you don’t feel comfortable expressing to your current attorney, seek a second opinion. Take care in choosing your new attorney so you don’t have to switch lawyers again. Ultimately, however, only you can decide whether to fire your lawyer and hire a new one. Nobody can make this decision for you.

Contact the San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm of Mission Personal Injury Lawyers Today To Get More Information

If you’ve been injured in San Diego or Chula Vista, please call Mission Personal Injury Lawyers for a free case evaluation with a personal injury lawyer or contact us online.

We proudly serve San Diego County and throughout California.

Mission Personal Injury Lawyers
2515 Camino del Rio S Suite 350, San Diego, CA 92108

(619) 777-5555

Mission Personal Injury Lawyers – Chula Vista Office
690 Otay Lakes Rd #130, Chula Vista, CA 91910
(619) 722-3032

We also serve the state of Texas. Contact our personal injury law office in El Paso for legal assistance today.

Mission Personal Injury Lawyers – El Paso Office
201 E Main Suite 106, El Paso, Texas 79901
(915) 591-1000