Can I Fire My Personal Injury Attorney in the State of Florida?
A client can elect to terminate the attorney/client relationship with a Florida personal injury lawyer if the client lacks confidence in the attorney’s abilities, understanding of the case, or does not receive sufficient communication and case updates.
A common problem associated with “firing” an attorney is that the retainer and fees may have already been paid. The Attorney Consumer Assistance Program (ACAP), operated by the Florida bar, encourages clients facing this dilemma to first arrange a face to face meeting with the attorney. Voice your complaints and concerns in this meeting and try to reach a consensus. Your attorney may even choose to withdraw from the case voluntarily if he/she does not feel confident in winning your case.
3 Important Things to Address if you Fire your Attorney
Always review your Statement of Client’s Rights or Written Agreement dictating any terms regarding how the attorney-client relationship must be terminated. Then move forward and note the following:
- Cause: In order to protect your interests and avoid liability for additional fees, you must determine and cite acceptable cause. Incompetence or conflicts of interest can be cited as causes. For example, if you feel certain that your lawyer simply lacks proper experience following a face-to-face meeting; cite a “lack of case experience” as your cause for termination. Failure to cite a cause or claiming that you don’t like your lawyer’s personality are not suitable reasons and may leave you liable for fees.
- Documentation: Notify your lawyer of your decision in writing. Have the letter delivered via certified mail and clearly state your cause behind terminating the relationship. A written notice should be clear and direct in order to eliminate any doubt about your intentions. Attempt to keep communication objective and professional and abstain from emotionally charged remarks.
- Client File & Invoices: Request that the attorney provide a complete copy of your case file. The attorney has a right to charge reasonable copy and postage fees. Any original materials or documents you provide to the lawyer belong to you and should be returned without charge. Also request an itemized invoice to reflect all fees, inclusive of amounts already charged plus any amounts the lawyer may claim as still owed.
Seek New Representation
After taking these steps, hire a new attorney as soon as reasonably possible. Talk to your new lawyer and address the reasons for dismissing your former counsel. Explain why these factors matter to you so they can be noted from the start and you can feel confident in your decision. Obtaining your case file and getting it to your new lawyer will help the mend the gap.
In some cases, a defendant may perceive a change in counsel as a sign of a weak case and can seek to rush the case to trial in order to reduce the new lawyer’s preparation and research period. Make the switch quickly and do your best to afford your new attorney as much time as possible to research and build your case.