Can My Attorney Accept a Settlement Without My Consent?

Categories: Personal Injury

settlement money

Washington Attorneys Serving Personal Injury Victims

During a personal injury case, your attorney handles numerous tasks – from filing necessary documents, to negotiating with the other party to drafting affidavits. One question that you may have is whether your attorney can accept a settlement without your consent – especially when he or she has so much leeway to conduct tasks within the case on his or her own. The answer is not as simple as yes or no. Instead, it will come down to several factors.

Review Your Retainer Agreement First

There are instances where your attorney could accept a settlement offer without consulting with you first. If the retainer agreement which you signed with your attorney allows him or her to settle cases without your consent – and you have signed the agreement, as well as a release – then he or she can act on your behalf.

If, however, your attorney settles the case and you have not yet executed the release and settlement agreement, and you are unsatisfied with the amount that your attorney accepted, then you can speak with your attorney. Even if a check was issued, your attorney can return it to the insurer and let them know that you have rejected the offer.

Code of Ethics

If you do not have a release or agreement with your attorney allowing him or her to accept settlements on your behalf, then you are the only individual with the authority to accept or reject a settlement from the defense. Your attorney must present to you the settlement, and then discuss it with you. It is part of your attorney’s professional code of ethics to present the settlement and receive your consent before forwarding the acceptance on to the insurer. In most cases, insurance companies require that you, the client, sign for the settlement check, as well.

When an attorney does not present the settlement offer to you, and there is no agreement in place that allows him or her to act without your consent, that attorney have breached the code of ethics. This becomes a disciplinary offense that you would report to the state bar association. While the bar association cannot reverse the settlement or help you re-file your claim with the insurer, it will take disciplinary action against the attorney.

How Should Settlement Offers Be Presented?

A good attorney will not just tell you the gross settlement; instead, he or she will discuss the net settlement so that you fully understand how much you will receive. You can then make an informed decision. Your attorney should first present you with the gross amount, and then show all applicable deductions, including:

  • Attorney’s fees
  • Court costs and case fees
  • Medical liens and bills outstanding
  • Other claims/liens outstanding

Then, your attorney should present you with your net amount – the actual amount that you will receive. Your attorney can help you assess if the net amount is adequate enough for future medical costs and losses. If you feel that the settlement is too low, you can reject and your attorney will go back to negotiations with the defense.

Start by Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney Whom You Can Trust

You should never worry that your attorney will act on your behalf without your permission. Instead, contact a personal injury attorney in Washington who you can trust to have your best interests at the forefront of the operations. The team at Brett McCandlis Brown, PLLC can help you with your personal injury or wrongful death claim. Schedule a free consultation now at 800-925-1875, or fill out our online contact form with your legal questions.