Atticus offers free, high-quality workers' compensation advice to those injured at work. Our team of Stanford and Harvard trained lawyers has a combined 15+ years of legal experience, and help thousands of Americans get the benefits they deserve each year.
Yes, you can absolutely fire your workers’ comp lawyer and replace them with a different one if you want. But before you part ways with your current legal representation, you should know that finding a new lawyer isn’t always easy. In fact, there’s a specific issue working against you here. So before you fire your workers’ comp lawyer, make sure you understand what you’re getting yourself into.
What you should know before you fire your lawyer
If you’re considering firing your current workers’ comp lawyer, it’s important to know that you might have a hard time finding a new one. A lot of workers’ comp lawyers hesitate to take on clients who have already had other representation because of the way attorney fees are calculated.
The fee you pay to a workers’ comp lawyer is a percentage of the final settlement or weekly benefits they win you. In other words, the higher your workers’ comp payments are, the higher your lawyer’s payment is too.
When you fire one attorney and hire another, the fee gets divided between them. And the lawyer who ends up winning you the settlement may not get the bigger chunk. Instead, that fee gets prorated based on how long each person was on your case. So let’s say you’ve been with your current lawyer for a year and you hire a new lawyer who only needs three months to finalize your settlement. The second lawyer will only get three months’ worth of your fee, while the first lawyer will get twelve month’s worth.
Another reason it might be hard to find a new lawyer is that in many states, the workers’ comp bars are pretty small. In other words, the group of practicing lawyers isn’t very big and in some states, the workers’ comp lawyers may all know each other. As a result, they might not take clients who have already worked with one of the lawyers they know because they don’t want to look like someone who would poach work from a peer.
When you should fire your workers’ comp lawyer
All of this is not to say that you should stick with your current lawyer if you’re not working well with them. Just make sure your decision is based on a concrete issue that could actually be fixed with a new lawyer.
Firing your workers’ comp lawyer makes sense if:
They don’t communicate or treat you respectfully.
They regularly seem disorganized, uninformed, or otherwise incompetent.
They don’t tailor your case to your desired outcome when possible.
They’re rarely in touch and don’t return your calls or emails.
They don’t seem willing to fight for you.
Switching lawyers won’t cost you more
Here’s the good news: If you decide it’s time to fire your lawyer, getting a new one on board won’t cost you more. While you’ll likely have to invest time and energy into finding new legal representation, the fee you pay in the end is the same. As we mentioned earlier, bringing a new lawyer into the mix simply means the legal fee gets split between the two parties.
When you should reconsider firing your lawyer
Workers’ comp often isn’t a clear process, and that can lead to blaming a lawyer for things that are out of their control. For example, it’s fairly common for people to blame their lawyers for long workers’ comp cases. It’s easy to think things are taking so long because your legal team isn’t doing the work they should. In reality, though, workers’ comp cases often take months to resolve — and any kind of appeal can easily take your case longer than a year. Certain parts of the process may also go faster. So maybe you hire your lawyer and things seem to move quickly for a time, only to grind to a halt. Unfortunately, that’s relatively normal and the pace is usually out of the lawyer’s hands.
Ultimately, it’s important to understand when something that you think is an issue is due to your lawyer or the legal system. We suggest that before firing any lawyer, share your concerns with them. You can also explain your expectations for them and your claim. Then your lawyer can work to fix the issue. Sometimes lawyer issues come down to a simple miscommunication that is fixed after a conversation. On the other hand, sometimes this clear talk can make it obvious when the lawyer is the issue and it’s time to move on.
Advice on finding a new lawyer
Two things can work in your favor when changing lawyers: time and money.
If your case is going to result in a big settlement — maybe you need a pricey surgery or will likely never be able to work again — a second lawyer will be more open to taking on your case. Although they’ll only get a piece of the pie, if said pie is sizable, they can generally earn enough to cover their time and effort.
The second thing that might help you out is the remaining length of your case. Let’s say you’ve only been with your current lawyer for a few months but you likely have a year left before your case gets settled. In this instance, there’s plenty of time for a new attorney to earn a sufficient percentage of the fee to justify taking you on. And while it’s hard to know exactly how long a case will last, you can generally expect a case to take months if not over a year.
Atticus can also help by quickly connecting you with an experienced lawyer who will treat you with the respect you deserve. We work hard to vet all lawyers and only work with people whom we would feel comfortable referring to our own family. All of our lawyers also offer a free consultation and you won’t pay anything until after your claim is settled.
To get help finding the right lawyer for your case, take a few minutes to fill out our workers’ comp quiz. Then one of our team members will reach out to learn more and talk you through the next steps.
How to fire a workers’ comp lawyer
If you think you’re getting poor legal representation working with your current lawyer, you’ll need to follow state guidelines to fire them and find another attorney. That generally means notifying your lawyer and filing any necessary forms to formally dismiss them.
Your Complete Guide to Navigating Workers' Compensation
By Victoria Muñoz
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Victoria Muñoz is an attorney on Atticus’s Workers' Compensation team. She’s a licensed attorney, a graduate of Stanford Law School, and has counseled hundreds of people seeking workers' compensation. In her free time, she enjoys hiking and spending time with her pup.
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