My Lawyer Settled Without My Consent—Is It Legal Malpractice?
The vast majority of civil cases—especially personal injury cases—end in a pre-trial settlement.
Ultimately, it is up to you, the client, to accept or reject the defendant’s settlement offer.
Your lawyer’s role should be to advise you of the pros and cons of the offer and help you come to a reasoned decision.
Unfortunately, some lawyers apply high-pressure tactics to get their clients to settle cases and, in some cases, may even accept a settlement on behalf of a client. This is considered legal malpractice.
At StangerLaw LLC, our Connecticut legal malpractice attorney has decades of experience helping right other lawyers’ wrongs.
My Attorney Is Pressuring Me to Settle
If you are in this position, you may wonder, Why does my lawyer want me to settle?
A lawyer may have multiple reasons why they want a client to settle. Some of those reasons are legitimate and in the best interests of the client, while others are not. Sometimes, if your case is potentially weak, a settlement might be your best option because a trial can be risky.
However, many times a lawyer wants to settle a case because it is easier and is a guaranteed payday. If you reject all offers, your case will have to go to trial. Not only does taking a case to trial involve exponentially more work than settling, but most lawyers’ fee agreements provide that they only get paid if they recover compensation for you.
Thus, lawyers interested in a quicker, more certain payout may pressure their clients to settle a case.
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Can a Lawyer Sign a Settlement Agreement?
Technically speaking, yes, a lawyer is able to accept a settlement agreement on a client’s behalf. This is because the attorney-client relationship gives the lawyer the legal ability to act as their client’s agent.
However, lawyers cannot and should not accept settlement offers on behalf of their clients without the client’s consent. Lawyers are ethically bound to serve as advisers who always have their client’s best interests at heart.
This is referred to as a fiduciary duty.
Can I Sue My Attorney After Settlement?
Yes. Suppose your lawyer breached their fiduciary duty by accepting a settlement offer without your consent. If they breached their fiduciary duty in this or any other way, you could sue the lawyer in a legal malpractice action.
To successfully bring a legal malpractice case against an attorney, the client must prove the following:
- The existence of a lawyer-client relationship,
- The lawyer breached their fiduciary duty to the client by failing to act in their best interests, and
- The client suffered damages as a result of the lawyer’s breach.
Of course, these cases are usually quite complex, and lawyers typically contest any allegation that they violated their ethical duties. Thus, anyone who believes their previous attorney committed malpractice should reach out to an experienced legal malpractice lawyer for assistance.
My Lawyer Settled Without My Consent—Now What?
If you filed a personal injury claim and your attorney settled your case without your permission, your attorney’s negligence may have cost you a tremendous amount of money.
At StangerLaw LLC, we will fight for your right to be compensated for your attorney’s failures. To learn more and to schedule a consultation to discuss your case with a Connecticut legal malpractice lawyer, call (860) 561-0651 today. You can also reach us through our secure online contact form.