Yes, it is possible to change car accident lawyers in South Carolina once your claim or a lawsuit has been filed. If you’re having minor disagreements with your attorney, you should first see if perhaps a meeting or phone call will resolve the issue. If you remain dissatisfied with the handling of your case, however, there are steps you can take to find different legal representation.
Possible Reasons for Changing Car Accident Attorneys
Some reasons for changing car accident attorneys in the middle of a case are:
- Your lawyer does not communicate with you regularly or return calls in a timely manner.
- Your attorney’s behavior seems unprofessional or disorganized, especially in regard to documents and/or funds.
- Your attorney doesn’t seem to understand or remember your case when you do communicate.
- Your lawyer recommends accepting a settlement you feel is too low.
- You’re communicating with a case manager or paralegal rather than with your lawyer.
- Your attorney has not explained to you the strategy for your claim or suit.
- You haven’t been told the value of your case or what demand your lawyer will make from the defendant.
Steps in the Process of Changing Lawyers
The Rules of Professional Conduct require your old lawyer to honor the attorney-client relationship and turn all materials related to your case over to your new lawyer. Here are the steps involved in the transition:
- Check your contract with the current attorney to see if there are provisions regarding termination; follow those provisions to the letter.
- Find a new attorney to take over your case before you fire your current one. You want a smooth transition that doesn’t require you to address legal matters until your new attorney gets up to speed.
- Send a formal letter (not an email message) to your current lawyer by certified mail. Explain briefly why you want to terminate the relationship and ask that all your files and other documents/information be sent to your new lawyer. (Include contact info.)
- Depending on your financial arrangements, you might be able to request a refund of any payments you’ve made toward attorney fees.
- If you’ve filed a lawsuit in a South Carolina court, notify that court of your plan to change lawyers. Your old attorney should submit to the court a Motion to Withdraw, and your new one can file a Motion for Substitute Counsel.
- If you owe any money for expenses your lawyer has incurred on your behalf, it’s best to pay them at this time if you can. Otherwise, finances could get messy.
How Payment Is Handled When You Change Lawyers
Most car accident attorneys take cases on a contingency fee basis and deduct a percentage of your award as payment when your case is won. If you’re in negotiations with an insurance company, it’s best to change attorneys before you have a settlement offer on the table. Once an offer is made, you could owe your first attorney a contingency fee based on that offer. Some lawyers also absorb filing fees and other costs that will be deducted from your settlement, so you could owe your first attorney for such costs.
Depending on the details of your case, it’s possible that your new lawyer will have to pay your old lawyer something either from the contingency fee or from your remaining settlement. If the first attorney is demanding a fee you feel is too high, your new lawyer might be able to negotiate a reduced fee.
Consequences of Changing Attorneys
Changing lawyers could delay the resolution of your case since your new lawyer has to get up to speed with what your first lawyer has done so far in terms of:
- Gathering evidence
If you’re in the middle of negotiations with an insurance company or approaching a hearing, appearance, or motion deadline in court, changing attorneys could cause your case to drag out longer than you anticipated. If you change attorneys more than once, the court might look unfavorably on you for causing more delays and wasting its time.
Have You Been Injured In A Charleston South Carolina Area Car Accident?
If you've been injured in a car accident you should speak with a car accident lawyer as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Charleston, South Carolina office directly at 843.488.2359 to schedule your consultation. We are also able to meet clients at our Conway, Myrtle Beach, Murrells Inlet, Mt. Pleasant, North Myrtle Beach or North Charleston office locations.