How Do I Know if I am Being Scammed by An Attorney?

Most personal injury lawyers are good, hardworking people who dedicate their work to achieving justice for accident victims. As with any profession, however, there are inevitably a few who may not be as truthful or ethical as the rest of us.

If you have been injured in an accident and are considering hiring a lawyer to handle your personal injury case, it is extremely important to diligently research any attorney you plan on meeting with. This can help you better understand the attorney's history of success and whether their clients were satisfied with the experience.

As you prepare to meet with an attorney to discuss your case, considering the following issues may help you better understand whether or not that lawyer is right for you.

How Much is your Case Worth?

You're being scammed if your attorney tells you how much your case is worth when you first meet. Many clients want to know immediately how much their case is worth.

However, it would be unprofessional and inappropriate to guess how much your case is worth because at the first meeting all the necessary information necessary to determine the value of a case is generally not available. 

If an attorney gives you an amount, you should consider the caliber of reliability and ethical behavior of the attorney.

Contingent Costs

Your being scammed if your attorney will make costs contingent on the outcome. There are attorney’s fee and costs (expenses for ordering police reports, medical reports, employment records, etc.) in personal injury cases. It is illegal in Washington State for costs to be on a contingent basis.

If an attorney promises to make costs contingent on the outcome of your case, such a promise violates the Rules of Professional Conduct.  If an attorney is willing to break the ethics code on costs, you should consider for your self what other ethics he or she is willing to compromise. 

Out Negotiating a Negotiator

You're likely being scammed if the attorney compromises on their fee. Do you want an attorney that you can out negotiate? 

Lack of Communication

Your being scammed if your attorney or their office will not communicate with you. Is your attorney being straight forward and direct with you? Are they giving you a politician’s answer or being direct?

Your attorney is not earning their fee if they are not holding up their part of the deal by spending the time to communicate with you. Is your attorney telling you exactly what you want to hear?

It is very easy to tell a client what they want to hear. It is your attorney’s job to give you straightforward, direct advice, which may not always be what you want to hear. 

A True “Trial Lawyer”

Does your attorney call him or herself a trial lawyer? You should ask them how many of their cases have gone to trial with a jury verdict. Many attorneys call themselves  trial lawyers, without ever having gone to trial. 

The insurance companies know which attorneys will settle on the cheap because they are afraid of juries, and which attorneys are willing to fight for their clients all the way to a jury trial. 

Guarantee an Outcome

Does your attorney guarantee an outcome?  Attorneys cannot promise or guarantee an outcome.  To do so violates the ethics rules and common sense.  Most of life comes without a guarantee.  The only guarantee an attorney can make to his clients is the guarantee to always act in their best interests. 

Chris Davis
Top-rated, award-winning, attorney practicing wrongful death & serious injury law in Seattle.
2 Comments
I have received a settlement from l&i amd my lawyers are collecting a fee which in the past seemed lower than what is now even though they say it is 33.1% my case is closed with l&i and my checks are coming through the lawyers are they allowed to continue to take their fee out of my reward money?
by Shane Bash March 8, 2015 at 04:24 AM
How about when the the lawyer changes the fees AFTER the final settlement papers are signed that do not have these extra fees added !? Telling the client they should 'eat part of the settlement ' ?! Where is the transparency ?? Then refuses to process the payment until there is agreement of these fees, .... " either charge an account on the accident benefits or I close the file and you arrange the settlement with them directly or through a new lawyer. Those are the only two options. If you want to talk to the insurer to arrange settlement yourself I will send you their information. I cannot process the accident benefit settlement without an account." So should the client refuse to pay these surprise fees ??? Get a new lawyer ? Place a complaint to the Bar Association ?
by Mary September 8, 2014 at 12:30 PM
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