Can My Lawyer Settle My Case Without Me?

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Can My Lawyer Settle My Case Without Me?

Close-up of a hand holding a pen over a contract about to sign.

If you’ve found yourself wondering “Can my lawyer settle my case without me?” then chances are you’re unhappy with the results of your settlement, your lawyer, or both. Your attorney is meant to be your last line of defense during a difficult time, unwaveringly looking out for your best interests no matter the circumstances. So when an attorney settles your case without your consent or knowledge, it’s not only a major violation of trust, but the Model Rules of Professional Conduct that all attorneys must abide by.

If your attorney settled your case without your consent or otherwise caused you harm, they might have committed legal malpractice.

The lawyers who sue lawyers at Sears Crawford are here to talk about the key aspects of your lawyer settling your case, including defining legal malpractice and discussing how to deal with a lawyer who you think is cheating or misrepresenting you. If you or a loved one have been harmed by your previous attorney, call Ross Sears at Sears Crawford today at (713) 223-3333 and find out if you have a case.

What do I do if my lawyer is not communicating with me?

Effective communication is the backbone of the attorney-client relationship, so when your attorney isn’t communicating, any trust that they’ve built can go out the window pretty quickly. Although a lack of effective communication from your attorney can be a nerve-wracking experience, there are a few things you can try before you assume the worst.

  1. Try to have a frank discussion about their communication. A good attorney will not like to hear that they’ve been causing undue stress to their client, and there is a chance that they are not aware of the position that you’ve been put in. Before going any further, the first step should always be to attempt to talk it out with your lawyer. A good lawyer will fix the problem immediately.
  2. Document your attempts at communication. Keep a record of your attempts to contact your lawyer, noting dates, times, and methods of communication. This evidence may be helpful for your case, if the attorney fails or refuses to fix the problem.
  3. Review your agreement to see what it says about communication. Many lawyers will include language in their contracts that allow them to make certain decisions about your case, without any further approval or input from you. On some issues, this can be an acceptable practice. However, on the issue of settlement, your attorney should never be able to settle your case without your approval, and before you approve any settlement, you MUST know not only the “gross” or total settlement amount, but also your “net” recovery, which means the amount of money you will put in your pocket after paying legal fees, case expenses, medical bills and any other reasonable and related expenses. Some lawyers will get their client to approve the total settlement number, because it sounds big and sounds reasonable, but until you know exactly what that settlement amount will mean to your wallet, you do not have the full picture and this can create a serious problem for you and ultimately your attorney. Do NOT approve any settlement without knowing exactly how much money will go into your pocket.
  4. File a complaint with the State Bar of Texas. If your attempts at resolution fall on deaf ears, you can always file a complaint with the Texas Grievance Committee. Before filing a complaint, you should ensure that you have enough documentation to support your claim as well as a contingency plan for your representation going forward. You will need to hire a new attorney if you file a grievance against your former attorney.

If your attorney’s poor communication hurts you or your case, you can always sue your lawyer with the help of a trusted attorney malpractice lawyer, like those at Sears Crawford.

Continue reading: The importance of communication in the attorney-client relationship

Can a lawyer accept a settlement without my consent in Texas?

NO. Your lawyer should not, under normal circumstances, be able to accept a settlement offer without your approval — nor should they ever try to.

Although there may be language built into your agreement with your attorney that gives them the power to settle your case, your attorney should always honor your wishes when it comes to a settlement — and when they don’t, it may constitute legal malpractice.

What is legal malpractice? Legal malpractice occurs when an attorney either acts or fails to act in the way that a reasonable and prudent attorney would under the same or similar circumstances, and by reason of that action or omission they harm their client. Some common legal malpractice examples include:

  • Missing important deadlines
  • Failing to know or apply the law
  • Having undisclosed conflicts of interest
  • Lying or misrepresenting facts for material gain
  • Any form of deception or fraud
  • Overbilling or unconscionable fees (Continue reading: How to prove attorney overbilling)
  • Settling a case without their client’s consent

If your lawyer accepted a settlement without your consent in Texas, call Ross Sears at Sears Crawford and ask him to review your case and determine whether your attorney committed legal malpractice before it’s too late.

How to ask your lawyer about your settlement amount

If you’re wondering how to tell if your lawyer is cheating you on a settlement, the most important thing that you can do is talk to them. Your settlement structure as well as your attorney’s fee structure should be transparent, easy to understand, and readily available to be discussed and analyzed.

  1. Schedule a meeting with the explicit purpose of discussing your settlement amount.
  2. Come prepared with specific questions and expect specific answers.
  3. Come prepared with your issues regarding the numbers, including attorney’s fees, case expenses and any other deductions that affect your final settlement number that you get to put in your pocket.
  4. Review the settlement agreement as well as your agreement with your attorney.

Just because you give a lawyer the opportunity to own up to their mistakes doesn’t mean they will — and it also will not right the wrong done by settling your case without your consent. Because settlements, once agreed to, are permanent or binding, if you want to recover what you deserve you will likely have to sue your lawyer.

Why is my lawyer taking so long to settle my case?

There are perfectly legitimate reasons why a settlement agreement would be significantly delayed, or why expectations of settlement might change. Some common reasons for delays in settlement timelines include the following:

  1. Your lawyer may be waiting for you to reach maximum medical improvement (MMI). Many personal injury lawyers prefer to reach a settlement after their client has made as much physical recovery as possible to more accurately assess the damages they are owed.
  2. The defense may be stalling your case. Delaying compensation is a common tactic that large corporate attorneys and defense lawyers use during negotiations, in the hopes that the longer you have to wait for your settlement, the more desperate you will become.
  3. Your case may have material issues. The complexity of a case can often impact how long it takes to settle. If you have a difficult or complex case it will take the courts and attorneys much longer to resolve the legal issues and damage claims.

Open communication with your lawyer is absolutely essential. If you’re concerned about the pace, progress of your case, or prospective settlement amounts, they should be there to help you through these questions, guiding you through the legal process and hopefully arriving at some peace of mind. If your lawyer does not do this for you, chances are you have the wrong lawyer.

Call Ross Sears at Sears Crawford today if your lawyer settled your case without your consent

So, can my lawyer settle my case without me? Not usually, and if they did, it probably means they committed legal malpractice. Your relationship with your attorney is built on trust and open communication — if these things aren’t present, the attorney-client relationship falls apart.

If you or a loved one had your case settled without your consent, or obtained money (in your pocket) that was far less than you expected or were told, you need to talk to an experienced Houston legal malpractice attorney as soon as possible. The statute of limitations on legal malpractice in Texas is generally two years from the date of discovery of malpractice, so don’t wait to make your claim.

If your last lawyer screwed up your case, you’re going to want to talk to Ross Sears, who has been suing negligent lawyers in Texas for over 33 years. Call Ross at Sears Crawford today at (713) 223-3333 or contact us online to begin the process of getting what you deserve.

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