More often than not, an personal injury lawyer will try to settle out of court for this type of case. The goal here is to avoid court fees as much as possible. However, this situation does not mean your lawyer should fall out of contact with you during the process. You should have access to the most up-to-date information on your case at any time. If your personal injury lawyer tries to settle your case without your consent, then you have cause to do more than raising an eyebrow.
An personal injury attorney cannot settle a case without your consent. True, all of the costs incurred from the personal injury need to be paid off. That factor alone should not stop your personal injury lawyer and their office from keeping the case’s details from you. In the end, you are the one who has the final say in what happens with the settlement. If you are not happy with the money being offered, then you have a right to request changes.
If an personal injury attorney does not sit down and discuss the proposed settlement closure with you, then he or she has failed you greatly. In other words, he or she has violated a fiduciary duty. To violate this duty means a person of superior knowledge makes a final decision on a case without first providing adequate counsel to the person being represented. In some cases of settling without your consent, a lawyer might be looking out for him or herself rather than what is best for you.
There is another problem at play here, too. To settle a personal injury case without your consent is also an ethical violation. When a lawyer violates ethics in his or her practice, then you have the right to contact the State Bar and make a complaint. While going to the local bar might sound easier, the State Bar ultimately has more say over disciplining your lawyer.
On the other hand, another troublesome situation arises whenever a case settles without your knowledge. Any insurance companies involved with the case might be lead to believe the case is done and over. Therefore, they might not be willing to renegotiate on any payments due on your behalf after the settlement pays up. Much the same can be said about paying off doctors and hospitals, regardless of whether or not insurance policies are included.
This negotiation process can become rather problematic as you might also want more money due to pain and suffering. This statement can be doubly true for situations where the case lasts over a long period of time. Furthermore, you might also need to consider ongoing treatment that might be left over after the settlement case ends. These numbers need to be calculated into the final numbers on the proposal. Your attorney might not be aware of such things if he or she does not consult you first.
Additionally, the insurance company and doctors or hospital billing offices might not wish to hear from your attorney in the future. In most scenarios, they consider the case to be a done deal to the point that your attorney is not seen as working on your behalf any longer. Therefore, if a situation such as the one previously mentioned arises where bills remain unpaid, you could be left to negotiate by yourself.
In order for the case to be released, you do need to sign documentation prior to settling. If your attorney has not obtained these signatures before closing the case, then it has not been truly settled. Instead of trying to contact your personal injury attorney’s office through e-mail or phone calls, it might be wise for you to stop by in person and ask to see such documentation. Otherwise, you have even more cause to take your attorney to the bar.