Changing Your Personal Injury Attorney

Beyond major life events, like buying or selling a house and creating estate documents like Wills and Power of Attorney, most people do not deal with lawyers.  That changes in the event of a major accident (vehicle, slip and fall, etc.), when an attorney becomes part of one’s life for months or sometimes years. Lawyers are meant to help clients navigate all the issues involved with resolving an accident, and clients are dependent upon the lawyer’s experience and expertise.  Sometimes, the lawyer involved does not appear to be doing all he should in the case or with communicating properly about important issues of events with the case.  It is at these times the client may need to switch attorneys, and it’s important to know how to do it right.

       The first thing to understand is that a potential substitute attorney cannot take over as lead counsel and advise about the case until the first attorney is discharged as counsel by the client.  Therefore, don’t be surprised when “shopping around” for a new personal injury lawyer if the potential new lawyer is limited in what they can advise.  They can do a consultation about the laws involved with the case, but cannot direct the client while that client is still represented by other counsel.  Normally, the “new” lawyer will ask the client to provide notice to the “old” attorney of being terminated and retrieve the file.  At that point, the “new” lawyer can become the lead counsel, file a notice of appearance (or “substitution of counsel” to switch out with the court), and start advising.

       A potential issue can arise when switching lawyers in a personal injury case in South Carolina, and this issue can sometimes deter “new” lawyers from taking over the case.  Personal injury cases are generally done on a “contingency” fee basis.  This means that the lawyer working the case is paid with a third (sometimes 40%) of the settlement or award at the resolution of the case.  If the “old” lawyer has put work in the case, he can attempt to put a “lien” on that contingency and take some percentage to cover his work before switching lawyers. If the lawyers are switched at the end of the case, this can sometimes cause the “old” attorney to assert a lien most or even all of the contingency.  This becomes a deterrent from other lawyers taking the case and earning little for their work. It is just something to discuss with the incoming attorney and understand that dynamic between lawyers.

        Regardless of the issues involved, do not stay with an attorney if you have multiple indicators that the lawyers are not properly representing you.  It’s your right to have the best representation possible.

If you are in need of an attorney in Orangeburg SC contact the Bill Connor Law Firm to see if we can help.