In 99% of cases you’ll get more money for settling your case with a lawyer than without. Sadly I learned about the 1% recently where you won’t.
A caller to my office was upset because his Chicago workers’ compensation attorney did a settlement without talking to him first. He mailed the client contracts, but sent it to the wrong address and someone else forged his signature to the contract and sent it back. My guess is that they were hoping to later steal a check. I believe this allegation because the firm that was representing him is the worst one in Chicago and we get more calls from their unhappy clients than any other firm.
For you, the question is what should your lawyer do before settling your case. The first thing to do is call you. I thought this couldn’t be handled any other way, but apparently this crappy firm thinks if you mail the contracts to a client, maybe they’ll sign and you won’t have to explain why you are getting so little for them.
Every other attorney I’ve ever met would handle it like this:
- Call you to tell you a settlement offer has been made.
- Tell you what they think of the offer and make a recommendation as to whether or not you should accept it or not.
- Ask what questions you have about the offer.
- Tell you what will happen if you accept or reject it.
- Assuming it’s the first offer and they think they can get you more money, discuss with you what the counter demand should be.
- Give you a timeline of when you can expect to hear next and when the case should get resolved.
Before they make a recommendation or settlement demand, they should get all of your medical records and make sure that all of your bills have been paid too.
The bottom line is that it’s unethical for an attorney to not tell you about an offer or attempt to settle a case without your permission. If they do that they can and should lose their license to practice law.
In the bigger picture, this is about communication from your lawyer in general. They don’t need to call or e-mail every week, but if they don’t respond to you within 24 hours it’s a bad sign and if you don’t hear from them by phone or e-mail on a regular basis it’s a bad sign too.