Car Accidents: Attorneys Need Your Permission To Accept A Settlement
One of the biggest concerns that you may have when hiring a personal injury attorney is whether he or she can accept a settlement without your consent. First of all, a good lawyer would never accept a car accident settlement without consulting with his or her client first.
Second, an attorney is legally obligated to present a settlement to you and give you the option to reject or accept – it is against the professional code of ethics to accept a settlement without consulting you first. If an attorney did so, he or she could face disciplinary action.
There are instances when your attorney could accept a settlement without your consent, but that would depend on the contractual agreement that you have with your attorney, and the circumstances of your case.
Consulting the Client
A personal injury attorney can never accept a settlement without the client’s consent – even if the proposed settlement is the amount that you were hoping for, the attorney must advise you of all facts, including:
- The gross settlement amount
- The prospective attorney’s fees
- Hard costs
- Medical costs (which will reimburse your insurer)
- This information must be presented to you first so that you can see your net settlement amount and make an informed decision as to how much you really want to accept.
When Your Attorney Does Not Consult You
If your attorney accepts a settlement without discussing those terms with you, he or she has violated the fiduciary duty that was owed to you. Attorneys are meant to be trustworthy, and the state bar association holds attorneys to that level of trust with their clients. If an attorney takes advantage of the trust given to him or her by the client, the attorney is in breach of this duty. It is also an ethical violation, which can result in a report to the state bar association for disciplinary action.
When a settlement is accepted, the insurance company that offered the settlement will assume that the deal is done – and they may have already issued checks. This is when you will need to intervene and let them know that you did not consent to the settlement, and that it was accepted without your authorization. You will also need to find new representation – since the attorney whom you currently have is obviously not working in your best interest.
Exceptions to the Rule
There are instances where an attorney can accept a settlement without consent, such as:
- You have given him or her written or verbal permission to accept or reject offers on your behalf.
- You are unable to review the settlement agreement due to medical issues, and you have appointed your attorney as power of attorney.
Start with an Attorney You Can Trust
Attorneys are meant to be trustworthy. They are there to work as your advocate and ensure that you receive compensation for your injuries. If you have been injured in a crash, make sure that you hire an attorney with a reputation for honesty and integrity.
Most importantly, meet with that attorney and get to know him or her over a free consultation. This gives you a better idea of whether or not this attorney can represent your needs.