If you’ve suffered an injury in an accident due to someone else’s negligence, you put your trust in a personal injury attorney to handle your case and get you the compensation you deserve. But what happens if your lawyer makes mistakes or fails to properly represent your interests, jeopardizing your case? What are your rights, and what can you do in this difficult situation?

Read on to learn the steps you should take if you believe your personal injury lawyer mishandled your case.

The Importance of Quality Legal Representation

When you’ve suffered an injury in an accident, you rely on your lawyer to advocate and fight for your rights. Personal injury cases can be complex, involving complicated laws, multiple parties, insurance companies, and potentially large financial stakes. An experienced personal injury attorney will know how to gather evidence, interview witnesses, hire expert witnesses, calculate your damages, negotiate with the other side, and argue your case persuasively in court if needed.

You need a lawyer with the skills, resources, and commitment to build the strongest case possible and obtain a fair settlement or verdict on your behalf. Even if liability seems clear, insurance companies will look for any opportunity to deny, delay, or lowball your claim. Your attorney needs to anticipate their tactics and counteract them at every turn.

Unfortunately, not all lawyers provide the high-caliber representation that injury victims need and deserve. Some personal injury attorneys fail their clients and harm their cases, whether due to inexperience, incompetence, unethical practices, poor communication, or simply neglect and lack of effort.

Common attorney errors that can ruin a personal injury case include:

  • Missing key deadlines, such as the statute of limitations to file a lawsuit
  • Failing to gather important evidence before it is lost or destroyed
  • Not consulting qualified expert witnesses about the extent of your injuries
  • Undervaluing your economic and non-economic damages
  • Making mistakes in court filings or during trial
  • Pressuring you to accept an inadequate settlement offer
  • Poor communication and lack of responsiveness to client questions/concerns
  • Fee disputes or mishandling of client funds

If you suspect your lawyer’s mistakes or misconduct have damaged your case, what can you do to protect your rights? Here are some steps to consider.

Seek a Second Opinion from Another Reputable Personal Injury Attorney

If you believe your case was mishandled, you should first consult a different, experienced personal injury lawyer for an objective assessment. Choose an attorney with a strong track record of success in cases like yours. Most reputable lawyers offer free initial consultations.

Be prepared to discuss the details of your case, including the accident, your injuries, and your interactions with your current attorney. Bring any relevant documents, such as your case file, medical records, and correspondence with your lawyer and insurance companies.

The new attorney can review your case and give you an honest opinion on whether your prior counsel made errors that hurt your claim. They can explain your options for moving forward, which may include:

  • Reporting your attorney’s unethical conduct to the state bar association
  • Filing a legal malpractice lawsuit against your lawyer
  • Firing your current lawyer and hiring new representation
  • Attempting to negotiate a settlement with the defendant on your own
  • Dropping your case if too much damage was done to proceed

Getting input from a knowledgeable personal injury attorney can explain the impact of your lawyer’s mistakes and decide on the best path forward for your situation. If the second lawyer believes your case is still viable, they may be willing to take over representation and work to get your claim back on track.

File a Complaint with Your State’s Bar Association

If you believe your personal injury attorney acted unethically or incompetently in handling your case, you can report their misconduct to your state’s bar association. The bar regulates the professional conduct of lawyers licensed in that state.

Examples of unethical attorney behavior that warrants a bar complaint may include:

  • Incompetence and gross negligence in representing your interests
  • Lack of communication/not keeping you reasonably informed about your case
  • Misuse of your funds or stealing from client trust accounts
  • Lying or acting dishonestly towards you or the court
  • Representing parties with conflicting interests
  • Improper withdrawal from your case without protecting your interests

The Bar Association has a process for receiving, investigating, and adjudicating complaints against attorneys. If they find clear evidence that your lawyer violated the rules of professional conduct, that attorney may face disciplinary action such as:

  • Reprimand
  • Suspension of their law license
  • Disbarment in cases of serious misconduct
  • Mandatory fee arbitration
  • Orders to pay restitution to wronged clients
  • Referral to the state attorney general for criminal prosecution if warranted

While a bar complaint can’t undo the damage to your case, it can provide some accountability for unscrupulous attorney conduct and perhaps result in fee recovery or restitution. It also helps protect other clients from falling victim to bad lawyers in the future.

Explore a Legal Malpractice Lawsuit

Person signing a document at a desk with a gavel and laptop nearby.

Depending on the seriousness of your attorney’s errors and the harm done to your case, you may have grounds for a legal malpractice lawsuit. Malpractice occurs when an attorney handles a case negligently, in a way that no reasonable lawyer would, causing damage to their client.

To prove legal malpractice, you must show:

  • Your attorney owed you a duty to represent you competently and ethically
  • The attorney breached that duty by acting negligently or making serious errors
  • The lawyer’s breach of duty caused you to lose money/benefits you otherwise would have recovered in your case

Some common examples of attorney negligence that can support a malpractice case include:

  • Allowing the statute of limitations to expire on your claim without filing suit
  • Missing other key deadlines like expert disclosure or trial dates
  • Failing to interview important witnesses or gather key evidence
  • Not doing basic legal research or hiring expert witnesses
  • Making serious errors in court filings or arguments
  • Pressuring you to accept an unreasonably low settlement
  • Misusing client funds

Essentially, you must prove that your lawyer’s incompetent handling of your case cost you money that you should have gotten if they had provided skillful representation. This usually requires showing that you would have won your original personal injury case or obtained a much better outcome if not for your attorney’s mistakes.

Legal malpractice cases can be challenging to win. You may need to hire another personal injury lawyer with experience in legal malpractice claims to prove your case. Unfortunately, even if you win a judgment against your negligent lawyer, they may not have insurance or assets available to pay you what you’re owed.

However, in cases of clear and egregious attorney misconduct, a malpractice suit may be the best way to hold your lawyer accountable and recover the compensation you deserve. An experienced malpractice attorney can assess the viability of your claim.

Fire Your Current Attorney and Seek New Representation

If you’ve lost faith in your personal injury lawyer’s ability to represent you effectively, it may be time to terminate their services and seek new counsel. You have the right to fire your attorney at any time, for any reason.

Before taking this step, it’s wise to first consult another personal injury attorney for a case evaluation. That way, you can get an informed opinion on whether your case is still winnable and worth pursuing with better representation. You don’t want to fire your current lawyer if it will leave you unable to find another one to take your case.

When terminating your lawyer’s services, be sure to send written notice in a way that provides proof of receipt, such as certified mail. Keep a copy for your records. The letter should be professional and simply state that you are terminating the representation effective immediately and requesting that your file be promptly forwarded to you or your new counsel.

Depending on your fee agreement, your former lawyer may be entitled to some portion of the contingency fee for the work performed up to that point. Your new attorney can help ensure that any division of fees upon settlement is fair and equitable.

If you hire a new personal injury lawyer, they must quickly get up to speed on your case. Provide them with your complete file and be available to fill in any details. Your new attorney will assess what needs to be done to get your case back on track, work diligently to meet any approaching deadlines, and move your claim forward.

Attempt to Negotiate a Settlement On Your Own

If you’ve fired your attorney and are having difficulty finding a new lawyer to take over your case, you may need to consider negotiating a settlement of your personal injury claim on your own. This is only advisable if your case is fairly straightforward and you feel confident in your ability to advocate for yourself. It’s still best to have an attorney fighting for you if at all possible.

Before entering into settlement negotiations, make sure you have a clear understanding of your case’s strengths and weaknesses. Gather all relevant evidence, including medical records, bills, accident reports, witness statements, and lost income documentation. Know how much your case is likely worth, and be prepared to justify your damages.

When discussing settlement with the insurance adjuster, remain calm and professional. Clearly explain your injuries and losses. If they make a lowball offer, don’t be afraid to counter with a higher number and explain why you believe your case is worth that amount. Have a bottom line in mind and be willing to walk away if they won’t meet it.

If you reach an agreement, you should always get the settlement in writing before signing any releases. It’s always advisable to have an attorney review the settlement paperwork before you sign. Once you accept an offer and sign a release, your case is over, and you can’t go back for more money later if you discover additional damages.

Negotiating a good settlement on your own is risky and challenging, especially when you’re up against experienced insurance adjusters. They may try to take advantage of the fact that you don’t have a lawyer. That’s why it’s always best to have skilled legal counsel in your corner to level the playing field and fight for the full compensation you deserve.

Dropping Your Case if It’s Too Damaged to Proceed

In some unfortunate situations, your prior attorney’s errors may have harmed your case beyond repair. If they missed key deadlines or lost crucial evidence, proceeding with your claim and winning may be impossible.

Gavel and stethoscope placed together on a wooden surface, symbolizing medical law.

In this case, you may have no choice but to drop the matter and walk away. This can be a very difficult decision, especially if you’ve suffered significant injuries and losses. However, sinking more time and expense into a case that can’t be salvaged will ultimately leave you worse off.

Before deciding to abandon your case, you should consult an experienced personal injury attorney for their opinion. There may be some last-ditch effort that can revive your claim. If multiple lawyers advise you that your case is no longer viable, then dropping it may be the wisest choice.

You can still file a bar complaint against your former attorney detailing how their misconduct destroyed your case. While this won’t get you a financial recovery, it can provide some accountability. You may also want to consider a legal malpractice lawsuit if your lawyer’s negligence was particularly egregious.

Contacting a Different Personal Injury Attorney

Putting your trust in a personal injury attorney after an accident only to have them mishandle your case is a devastating experience. If you believe your lawyer’s errors or ethical violations have jeopardized your claim, it’s crucial to act quickly to protect your rights.

Consulting a knowledgeable personal injury attorney can assess the damage done to your case and understand your options for moving forward. Those may include reporting your lawyer’s misconduct to the bar association, filing a legal malpractice lawsuit, seeking new representation, or attempting to negotiate a settlement on your own.

If you’re looking for a personal injury lawyer you can count on to handle your case with skill, integrity, and dedication, reach out today for a free consultation.