People who have been through a personal injury or other event requiring a legal settlement put a great deal of trust in their lawyer. An experienced and honest lawyer will always put their client’s needs first and involve them in every step of the legal process. However, there are people who overstep the rules of professional behavior in every profession.
When a settlement is offered to a person via their lawyer, the lawyer has a responsibility to tell the victim immediately. The lawyer should tell the client not just the dollar amount being offered, but also the rough amount that the person will receive once legal fees, medical bills, and other costs are taken out. They should also advise the client about whether the settlement seems reasonable. In addition, the client needs to understand if and how the offered settlement is different from what they initially requested.
A lawyer is paid to act as a representative and advocate, to help a person get the settlement to which they are legally entitled. However a lawyer should never accept a settlement without first going over it and discussing it with their client. The client is the one who receives the settlement and must live with the amount, so they are the person who must give permission to accept it.
In many cases, people do not receive the amount that they asked for. The client may refuse the settlement even against legal advice. Sometimes a lawyer knows that the settlement is the most that the client will get most likely and the client still refuses to accept it. However, this is the client’s right.
A lawyer who accepts a settlement for a case without their client’s permission has violated several major principles of law. First, they have violated the basic idea of a lawyer as an advisor and advocate. A lawyer is supposed to offer good advice from an educated legal perspective. Second, they have violated the trust of a client who has every right to assume they can trust their own attorney.
In addition, a lawyer who accepts a settlement without their client’s consent has made a serious ethical violation. Lawyers are held to a high standard of ethics due to the privileged and confidential nature of their work. A lawyer who falls short of the high ethical standards should be reported to both the local bar association and the state bar association. Most state associations have a form on their website that can be used to easily report a lawyer who settles your case without consent.
If this has happened to you, it is important to immediately get a different lawyer. You should also call the person who offered the settlement and advise them that you have not accepted their settlement even if your former attorney told them otherwise. Tell them that the former attorney is no longer working for you and that they will need to deal either with your new attorney or with you directly. Do not cash any checks that the insurance agency sends you, as this could be seen as accepting the settlement.
If a lawyer has accepted a settlement without your consent, there may be financial losses. It may delay getting your settlement even further. You may be able to sue them to cover these losses as well as punitive damages. Your new lawyer will advise you about whether this is a good idea in your specific case.
When a person has had a personal injury or other legal injury, they are in a vulnerable position. They need and deserve for the lawyer acting on their behalf to hold themselves to high legal and ethical standards. If your lawyer has accepted a settlement without your consent, the settlement does not stand. You have many options for recourse.