Burdine & Brown
What to Do Once Your Personal Injury Case Settles
A recent Fulton County Daily Report article reported that a personal injury lawyer stole over one million dollars of money of many of his clients. How can someone do such a thing for so long before getting caught? Know this: when your personal injury case finally settles, you should be quickly asking for the money your lawyer got for you.
When your lawyer begins his/her representation of you, you should be receiving copies of the auto insurance coverage of the defendant. When I interview a potential client who has fired their previous personal injury attorney, I find that the prior lawyer never sends his clients information about the progress of the case. Why is this so hard to do?
A lawyer should, as a general practice, always send documents to his client about the progress of the case. Medical documents, claim information, communication with the insurance company and their responses, all are forms of communication the personal injury and workers’ compensation client needs to know about. You are the consumer of legal services. I work for you.
In my law practice in Suwanee, Georgia, I always send my clients copies of any letter I write, any correspondence I receive and copies of all checks I write to doctor’s offices for records. This is called transparency. Clients appreciate knowing what is happening in their case.
So how could a lawyer steal over a million dollars from clients in their automobile accident or workers’ compensation cases?
This lawyer kept the settlement money from the insurance settlement when the case settled. The client must keep track of what is going on in their case. Some insurance companies now will send a letter to the client of the lawyer when the final settlement check is issued which goves the client a “head-up” that the client should be looking for the settlement money very soon. This is a great idea! It does not happen often enough.
The lawyer in the Fulton County Daily Report article was “drinking too much” according to the lawyer who defended him before the Federal Judge. Did any of his clients ever suspect their lawyer was “drinking too much” when he met his attorney? Part of the problem could have been that the client never met with the lawyer, only with the paralegal or office staff.
Clients are consumers. The lawyer they hired should not be inaccessible. I want my clients to come to my office in Suwanee about every 3 to 4 months to just talk about how they are doing with their medical treatment. I always learn a lot about their case. Communication is key.
The lawyer’s punishment for “drinking too much” and stealing client’s money: 51 months in federal prison and $1.65 million dollars in pay back money for the multiple stealing of client’s money.
The moral of the story:
- Check-in with your lawyer periodically.
- Don’t just meet with the office staff.
- Demand you receive copies of all documents in your case file as your case progresses.
- Determine when your lawyer will be making a settlement demand with your APPROVAL.
- Follow the settlement negotiations closely.
- Know when our case has been settled by agreement.
- Look for the settlement money shortly afterward.
An informed client is a smart client, and a smart client is an informed client.