Don't Allow Your Attorney to Force a Settlement - It Could Be Legal Malpractice
Law Offices of David Drexler
Personal Injury Lawyers, Birth Injury Attorney, Dog Bite Injury Attorney
If you agree to a settlement you may lose the right to sue your attorney for malpractice. If you believe your attorney has committed malpractice, speak to a legal malpractice lawyer before agreeing to a settlement.
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Quite often, a client will follow the advice of a lawyer to the letter. But lawyers sometimes make mistakes, acting out of negligence or conflicting self-interest. In such cases as with divorce or personal injury, that can lead to unsatisfactory results that can cost a client hundreds of thousands of dollars. When that happens, it could be deemed legal malpractice.
Attorney negligence can happen in many such cases for a variety of reasons:
• Impatience. When a personal injury lawyer is paid on a contingency basis, as it happens in personal injury cases, he or she may not wish to prolong the lawsuit and might bias his advice toward settling. This can also be attractive to the plaintiff from a timing standpoint. But if that settlement leaves a physically injured party with an inadequate amount of money for long-term healthcare, it would have been prudent for the attorney to have advised the client of that risk. To not have advised the client may have been a breach of the attorney's fiduciary duty.
• Fatigue. It is legal malpractice if an attorney simply decides he or she is tired of the case, or the client or the process, such that they press for an inadequate settlement. This might happen before enough is known about the defendant's available assets, as it happens in some divorce cases. And it is a tool of insurance companies and their clients to wear down a plaintiff with delays, then offer insubstantial settlements.
• Error. It is possible the attorney or an expert witness hired by the attorney could make a mathematical mistake, such as undervaluing shared marital assets in a divorce settlement, or the projected future cost of living in a debilitating personal injury or medical malpractice case.
If you believe that any of these factors are present - particularly if your lawyer is putting pressure on you to settle while you feel that the settlement being offered is insubstantial - do not agree to a settlement and do not sign any settlement documents.
When to contact a legal malpractice attorney
A poor settlement decision is almost always irreversible. If you believe that your lawyer is putting undue pressure on you to settle a case prematurely, you have very right to refuse to sign settlement documents. The law states that a client may not sue for legal malpractice after agreeing to a settlement. If you sign a settlement document, it can preclude you from suing later for legal malpractice.
If you believe that your attorney is forcing you to settle a case against your interests, consult with a legal malpractice attorney - before you agree to the settlement in question.
Asking a second attorney to independently examine the case and offered settlement is similar to getting a second medical opinion. It's ethical, it's fair - and it helps you achieve your best possible outcome.
R. Klettke is a freelance writer. He writes about personal injury and medical malpractice law and other matters of jurisprudence.
Important Advisory: This article is not intended to provide legal advice upon which you or anyone else should rely in making any decisions regarding the instituting or prosecuting of a legal claim. Laws and rules relating to the bringing of a claim vary widely from state to state. You should always contact a personal injury attorney to obtain information as to the rules and the laws pertaining to any claim you might have.
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