In the Atlanta and Athens market, lawyers have started unfairly charging clients 35 percent and 40 percent fees for their injury cases for the pre-suit period. That means if the case gets settled for a few letters and some background work, you pay that much to the lawyer. This is ridiculous. The industry standard is 33% for pre-suit and 40% after suit is filed and that’s plenty. We know that Ken Nugent and John Foy are doing this and we are seeing it more and more from smaller law firms. They are even asking for 45% fees after the case is put into suit. This represents nothing more than unabashed greed on the part of the lawyers.
That depends on where you are in the process. If your case does not have an offer from the insurance company yet, then the fee percentage does not attach at all and you are free to switch lawyers at any time. Your new lawyer will owe the old lawyer for the amount of time they put in, but for most basic car accident cases, that is a minimal amount and it comes from your new lawyer, not your settlement portion.
That is a much more difficult situation. If there is already an offer, then the attorney’s fee percentage attaches and you basically have an anchor on the case. You can still change attorneys but understand that the new lawyer is looking at making 40% in the suit at best and having to pay 40% of the old offer amount to the old lawyer. That means the offer needs to have been substantially lower than the true value to merit taking the case on.
If the case is not in suit, an email to the lawyer indicating that you no longer want them to represent you is sufficient. We suggest that you also contact the at-fault insurance company and advise them that you are no longer represented by that firm and will have a new lawyer contact them soon. That way the old lawyer cannot call up and quickly settle the case out from under you without your permission.