Originally published March 1, 2021.
There’s no shortage of personal injury lawyers in America. Whether on TV, billboards, radio, or in the newspaper, you’ve probably seen countless ads for law firms promising you a big check after your injury. The abundance of firms means it’s easy to find one that will take your case, but not all firms are created equal—and you may not realize that until you’ve already hired one.
Many injury victims have never needed a lawyer before, so they don’t always know what to look for when hiring a firm. But once their claims are underway, they may realize that they don’t feel comfortable with their attorney, or they may feel like their needs aren’t being met or even heard. If that happens to you, you may want to change law firms—but is it that possible mid-case?
Yes—in most cases, you can change lawyers at any point before your case has settled or been decided in court (provided the trial isn’t too far along). But when doing so, it’s important to take the right steps!
5 Reasons to Change Your Lawyer
First, it’s important to clarify why some people want to change their lawyers. Hiring a personal injury lawyer is a deeply personal decision, and because getting compensation can be a life-changing outcome for many injury victims, it’s extremely important to ensure your lawyer is the right choice for your family. If any of these red flags come up, it may be time to switch to another firm:
- Lack of communication—Is your lawyer not answering your phone calls or emails? Are you in the dark about the status of your claim, or unsure if it’s even being worked on? These are grounds for getting a new lawyer.
- Lack of comfort—Your lawyer needs to know all the details about your injury and how it has affected your life. If you feel uncomfortable sharing those details with your lawyer for any reason, it may be time to look for a new one that you do feel comfortable with.
- Lack of experience—Many law firms will take on almost any case that comes their way, even if they have no experience with it. But experience is everything in personal injury law, so be sure to look for a law firm with a track record of success.
- Lack of professionalism—Do you feel confident in your lawyer’s ability to win your claim? Remember that insurance companies don’t like paying settlements, and if you don’t have confidence in your lawyer, the insurance company likely won’t take them seriously either.
- Lack of compassion—Your lawyer should want to win your claim as badly as you, and not just for a quick payday, but to ensure your family gets the compensation you deserve. If your lawyer treats you like a case number and not a person, get someone else.
Before changing lawyers, bring up any concerns you have with your current lawyer. Your lawyer may not realize that you aren’t happy with their level of client service, and once they are, they may quickly address all the issues you had to better serve you and your family.
If the issues still stand, they may be able to refer you to another law firm that will better assist you.
4 Questions to Ask a Potential New Lawyer to Handle Your Case
Just as it may have been difficult to choose your original lawyer, choosing a new lawyer can be stressful, too. The last thing you want is to hire a lawyer who you also don’t trust or connect with!
Many personal injury law firms allow free consultations for new potential clients. Take advantage of these to get a feel for potential new lawyers and ask them the following questions:
- “Have you ever taken on a case from a client who is changing lawyers?” It’s important for your lawyer to know how to pick up a case that’s already in progress.
- “Have you ever handled my type of case before?” Experience matters in law.
- “Will you keep me updated on the progress you’re making?” It’s vital that you trust your new lawyer, and getting regular updates can help build it.
- “Do you have courtroom experience?” Some personal injury lawyers try to settle cases early in order to avoid going to trial. However, this can cost their clients money.
Do Judges Ever Forbid Injured Victims from Changing Lawyers?
You can change a lawyer at any point when your injury claim is just that—a claim. But when your claim turns into a lawsuit that ends up in court, changing lawyers isn’t always allowed.
Although judges typically allow injured victims to change lawyers in the early stages of trials, they’re more reluctant to do so as trials progress. When judges believe that cases have progressed too far and that changing lawyers would be too time-consuming, they may forbid it.
How You Should Go About Changing Lawyers
If you decide to change law firms, it’s important to do so as soon as you feel the need. That will give your new lawyer more time to review the facts of your claim and begin working on it according to their own processes.
First, find a new law firm that is willing to take your claim. Ensure that they are on board to assist you with it before you take any further steps. Once you’ve gotten a commitment from the new firm, tell your current lawyer about your plans. Let them know why you’re looking to change law firms and thank them for their service up to this point. From this point forward, proceeding with your new law firm will be like proceeding with your previous law firm.
However, things can be different if your lawsuit has already been filed. Because your claim is already in the legal system, you’ll need a copy of all documents you provided your lawyer, as well as your entire case file. Your new attorney can advise you on the paperwork and information they’ll need to move forward with your case.
Will My First Lawyer Charge Me if I Change to a New Lawyer?
Because many personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, their clients never see a single invoice or bill until after their claims are finalized. Then, they pay their lawyers a percentage of their settlement money or jury verdict. In other words, lawyers who work on a contingency fee do so with the expectation they will be paid when their clients get paid.
If you change lawyers before your claim finalizes, your lawyer will want to be paid for all the work they’ve already completed. According to the Oklahoma Bar Association, “if you discharge a lawyer, you may still be liable for some fees and costs. For example, you may have to pay a reasonable amount for the work already done on your case, as well as for costs that have already been incurred.”
It’s important to review any contracts you signed with your lawyer before officially changing lawyers. Your original lawyer may be entitled to a percentage of your settlement as payment for the work they did on your case. Your new lawyer can help you determine how much money you might owe your previous lawyer and arrange for them to receive a percentage of your settlement when your case finalizes rather than as an upfront payment for the work they did.
Your New Lawyer Will Make the Transition Process as Easy as Possible
The idea of switching lawyers mid-case can seem intimidating and like a big hassle. Thankfully, there’s very little that you need to do personally. Your new lawyer understands that you’re injured and don’t have the time, energy, or legal knowledge to transfer your case to their firm. Instead, they will handle almost all of the process for you.
While the process involves plenty of paperwork and signatures between them and your original lawyer, it will likely happen with very little or even no involvement from you at all! Your only job is to stay in contact with your new lawyer when they reach out to you, continue to see your doctor, and focus on getting better.
Switching Lawyers May Change the Timeline of Your Case
If you switch lawyers mid-case, there’s a good chance it may slightly delay how long it takes to finalize. That’s because your new lawyer will first need to complete the process of transitioning your case to their firm. Then, they will need to review your original lawyer’s work to determine if it’s acceptable to move forward with when building the rest of your case.
If your original lawyer’s work isn’t up to your new lawyer’s standards, they may need to revise some of it or even start over. While this may push back when you get your check, it’s almost always worth it, as better-quality work typically means a bigger settlement.
Free Consultations Make It Easier to Find the Right Lawyer
At Parrish DeVaughn Injury Lawyers, we know that hiring a lawyer can be an intimidating process, especially if you’ve never needed one before. You may be tempted to hire the first lawyer who answers your call, and that may be the first lawyer you see on a billboard! But fit, comfort, and care are important, and it’s not easy to discern those from a phone call. That’s why it’s important to request an initial consultation with any firm you are thinking of hiring.
Our Oklahoma City personal injury lawyers offer free consultations in which we will discuss your injury with you, learn about your needs, and advise you on your next steps. This meeting can help you become comfortable with us so that you feel more confident moving forward. Contact us today—we’re ready to help.