How to Fire Your Personal Injury Attorney

Just tell them they’re fired. That’s it.

It doesn’t have to be those words, exactly. You can tell them you don’t want them to represent you, or you can ask them to withdraw, or whatever. English is a very versatile language and it’s easy to get the meaning across any number of ways.

The bigger question is about the consequences of that decision.

Most personal injury attorneys in North Carolina work on a contingency fee basis, meaning they don’t get paid unless they get you an award (be that by settlement or award at trial), at which point they get a percentage. As long as the case hasn’t been resolved, then you don’t owe them a fee if you fire them, at least on the contingency fee front. An attorney might make what’s called a quantum meruit claim, which is asking for payment of a reasonable hourly rate for the work they did. The vast majority of us won’t raise this unless there are some unusual circumstances, but it’s worth considering. If it’s early in the case, not much is likely to have been done, so you may not be risking much, but if it’s late…

Also, in North Carolina there is no such thing as an attorney lien. Some firms that are from out of state but somehow do business here will assert a lien on NC injury cases that they get fired on and I would not hesitate to let them know that’s a per se ethics violation according to the NC Bar.

This is, of course, not considering costs that the lawyer/firm might ask to be reimbursed. Costs are not fees. Costs are what the firm might have spent in pursuance of the claim, so if they spent money they’ll probably want to get paid back.

All of this, of course, should be covered in your fee agreement, so start there if you have questions. And remember, maybe getting a new attorney is the best thing for your claim, but maybe it’s not. Get some quality advice and do your due diligence before making any rash decisions. Call me at 919-929-2992.

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Jeffrey Allen Howard, Attorney at Law, PLLC
1829 E. Franklin St. - Bldg 600
Chapel Hill, NC 27514

(P) 919-929-2992
(F) 919-636-4779

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