The first thing you need to know is that — in Florida — courts have decided that clients are absolutely allowed to have the lawyer of their choosing represent them in personal injury cases. In other words, you legally have the right to hire and fire your Florida personal injury lawyer at any time. However, there are some practical problems that come into play when hiring and firing personal injury lawyers in Florida.
In Florida, if you fire your personal injury lawyer without good cause (i.e. for no reason, or just because you feel like it) your lawyer can place a charging lien for his attorneys’ fees and costs against your personal injury case. This means that you will not be able to get any money at the end of your case until your initial lawyer gets paid.
This simple fact often makes it difficult for clients to find and hire a new lawyer because the new lawyer may be reluctant to take on a case where he knows that he may only receive a reduced fee. There is also some case law that indicates that the new lawyer can charge a full fee, and that the old lawyer who was fired without cause can take his fee out of the client’s share of any settlement.
On the other hand, if a personal injury lawyer is fired for cause (i.e. because he has a conflict of interest, or because he has somehow negligently handled the case, or because he is not fulfilling is legal or ethical obligations to his client), that fired attorney has no claim for fees, and depending upon the terms of his contract with his client, may only have the right to be reimbursed for his out-of-pocket cost expenditures.
Firing a lawyer is a very serious decision, and can have a significant impact on how and whether a personal injury case can be settled. This decision should not be entered-into lightly. We regularly urge people who contact us about firing their lawyer to make a personal appointment with their lawyer and have a full airing of all issues to see if the relationship can be salvaged before making any final decisions.
If you have any questions about hiring or firing a Florida accident attorney, call us at 407-644-4444.