How To Tell if Your Lawyer Is Cheating You on a Settlement

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How To Tell if Your Lawyer Is Cheating You on a Settlement

Lawyer handing a check to their client.

You probably know that settlements for personal injury and other civil matters can be incredibly complex processes that require the services of specialized attorneys, but do you know how to tell if your lawyer is cheating you on a settlement?

If you believe that your attorney isn’t acting in your best interests, they may just be communicating poorly — but they also may have committed legal malpractice. If their negligent actions caused you damages, you need to talk to a trusted malpractice lawyer before it’s too late to get what you deserve.

Ross Sears, the lawyer who sues lawyers at Sears Crawford, has been suing lawyers in Texas for over 30 years. If you or a loved one believes that your lawyer is cheating you on a settlement, call Ross from Sears Crawford today at (713) 223-3333 and ask him to sue your lawyer.

How to find out settlement amounts

Finding out settlement amounts from your attorneys should be as easy as asking them for the settlement agreement and/or the client settlement statement, showing the settlement breakdown. If you’re wondering how to ask your lawyer about your settlement, these are the steps that we recommend you take:

  1. Ask your attorney for the settlement agreement. This should outline the terms and conditions of the settlement, as well as the total agreed-upon settlement amount.
  2. Review your agreement with your attorney. Carefully go through your contract with your lawyer. It should contain your agreed-upon contingency fee. Also, if it is a contingency fee arrangement, ask your attorney for the “client settlement statement” that shows the breakdown of the settlement, which should include the Gross/total settlement, the deduction of all case fees and expenses and the Net/final recovery to YOU, the client.
  3. Ask for clarification about discrepancies between the two. If the settlement terms are unclear, or if the two don’t add up, don’t hesitate to ask your lawyer for clarification. They should be willing to explain the details and answer any questions you may have.
  4. Consult with experts, like those at Sears Crawford. If you have doubts about the fairness of the settlement, seek a second opinion from a legal malpractice attorney. They can help you discover whether the settlement is fair or whether your lawyer has cheated you.

If your lawyer settles your case without your consent, you may have another problem entirely. Settling a case without client consent is often legal malpractice, for which you will need to sue your lawyer if you plan on getting what you really deserve.

Signs that your lawyer lied about a settlement amount

Of the many examples of unethical attorney behavior, not all of them mean that your attorney is cheating you on a settlement. Returning phone calls late and ignoring text messages and emails are unfortunately common behaviors that don’t always amount to malpractice, but they might signify that something more serious is going on with your attorney.

Here are several signs you can watch for that may indicate dishonesty:

1. Lack of communication

Effective communication is the cornerstone of any healthy attorney-client relationship. Lack of communication from your lawyer can often be a sign that they have something to hide.

  • Unanswered phone calls or emails piling up can be a significant red flag and may indicate that your attorney isn’t as committed as they should be to you.
  • Delayed responses to important inquiries about your settlement might be a sign that your attorney isn’t prioritizing your case.

While neither of these things means that your attorney cheated you on your settlement, and lack of communication alone does not constitute legal malpractice, your attorney not communicating with you is always a problem and is a clear red flag.

2. Refusal to show settlement statement

It is not uncommon for an attorney to be paid a percentage of a settlement check; contingency agreements almost always see the attorney taking a fee from the final payday as their payment for all their work on the case. You generally agree on this amount beforehand, and will hopefully not be surprised when the check comes and they take their fee.

What is NOT common is an attorney refusing to show you the full settlement check or settlement statement. If your attorney refuses a written or in-person request for a copy of the settlement agreement and client settlement statement, it may be a sign that something is wrong.

3. Lack of transparent billing

Transparent billing is essential for attorneys, and a lack of transparency might mean that your attorney is fudging some of the numbers. Things to look for that might indicate unethical billing practices include:

  • Double billing
  • Vague descriptions of services rendered, like “work on file” or “review documents”
  • Excessive hours
  • Exorbitant fees
  • Billing for expenditures unrelated to the case

If you suspect that your attorney has overbilled you, you’ll need to work with a trusted and experienced legal malpractice attorney in Houston to prove it. Ross Sears will be able to tell if your lawyer lied about a settlement amount and knows how to prove attorney overbilling. If you or a loved one believe that your lawyer is cheating you on a settlement or on hourly billings, call Ross at Sears Crawford today.

What happens if a lawyer lies?

If your lawyer lies about your settlement, what happens to them might depend on what you do next. If your attorney’s unethical behavior harmed you in any way, it might have been legal malpractice and possibly breach of Fiduciary Duty.

Legal malpractice occurs when a lawyer acts or fails to act in the way that a reasonable and prudent attorney would under the same or similar circumstances, and this action or inaction harms their client. If you believe that your attorney has committed malpractice, you should do the following:

  1. Seek new representation. Find a legal malpractice attorney with whom you can discuss your case, and make sure that your legal bases are covered.
  2. File a complaint with the State Bar of Texas. Regardless of whether or not you hire a new attorney, you may choose to file the necessary complaints with the State Bar.
  3. Sue your lawyer to attempt to recover what you are owed.

If your attorney screwed up your case and caused you harm, it might not be too late; with a legal malpractice attorney at your side, you may be able to make things right. But hurry, the statute of limitations on legal malpractice in Texas is generally two years from the date of discovery of malpractice.

Continue reading: When is it too late to fire your attorney?

Think your lawyer is cheating you on a settlement? Call Ross Sears at Sears Crawford today!

Now that you know how to tell if your lawyer is cheating you on a settlement, it’s time to do something about it. Ask your lawyer for a copy of the settlement agreement and client settlement statement, collect all evidence of your communication, and contact an experienced legal malpractice attorney who can help you sue your lawyer.

We understand that hiring another lawyer after your previous one cheated you may be the last thing you want to do, but Ross Sears of Sears Crawford has made his name on transparency, trust, and finding justice for his clients who have been wronged.

If you or a loved one believe your attorney cheated you, call Ross today at (713) 223-3333 or contact us online for a free consultation.

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