Can My D.C. Attorney Agree to A Settlement Without Me?

Personal injury lawsuits can be expensive and take a long time to go to trial. For this reason, the vast majority of personal injury cases settle out of court before a jury gets the chance to determine the outcome. Nationwide, more than 80% of tort cases settle prior to reaching the trial stage. A fair settlement can save both sides time and money, and save the plaintiff from the uncertainty of a jury's final decision.

Settling a Personal Injury Case in Washington D.C.

It is important for clients to know what the settlement process is like. In many cases, the settlement may come at the very last minute, just before or even on the day of trial. At this point, both sides understand the evidence, legal claims, and strength of the plaintiff's case that will be presented at trial. Based on this information, the parties are more likely to settle because they have most of the information available, and each side may prefer a predictable outcome to the uncertainty of a jury award.

When the parties involved are in settlement discussions, your attorney will be advocating on your behalf and emphasizing the strengths of your legal claim. When the other party conveys a settlement offer, your lawyer will make you aware of that offer, and discuss the pros and cons of the offer, leaving the decision whether to accept the terms up to you.

Every attorney licensed to practice law in the District of Columbia must abide by the ethical rules as provided by the Rules of Professional Conduct. This also applies to settlement negotiations.

Under the Rules of Professional Conduct 1.8, Conflicts of Interest: Specific Rules (g):

A lawyer shall not:

  1. Make an agreement prospectively limiting the lawyer's liability to a client for malpractice; or
  2. Settle a claim or potential claim for malpractice arising out of the lawyer's past conduct with an unrepresented client or former client unless that person is advised in writing of the desirability of seeking the advice of independent legal counsel and is given a reasonable opportunity to do so in connection therewith.

This means that a D.C. lawyer cannot authorize any settlement without the consent of their client. This will help you to ensure that the lawyer representing your interests really has your goals at heart. Your personal injury lawyer will provide you with advice, guidance, and a legal evaluation throughout your case. Even if your lawyer recommends a settlement and you are not happy with the settlement, it is up to you whether to accept the terms of the settlement or not.

In most cases this is not an issue because your attorney should be keeping you involved in the discussions throughout the legal process. They will have already given you a good idea of what settlement terms may be like, what terms may fall below what is expected, and what settlement terms are in your favor.

There have been situations in which a plaintiff has a strong case, strong evidence, and serious injuries, only to have the jury decide in favor of the defendant. However, it will be up to the client to decide whether to take the offer, renegotiate, or decide to continue on with a jury trial.

If you believe that your attorney is not fighting for you and does not have your best interests at heart, you may want to seek new legal representation. Don't let your attorney force you into a settlement offer that you are not happy with. Make sure you have the professionalism and experience on your side with Washington D.C.'s personal injury attorneys who understand that the client's satisfaction is the most important part of any attorney-client relationship.

Washington D.C. Personal Injury Attorneys

At Gilman and Bedigian, we believe in taking a collaborative approach to each case. Our clients get the individualized attention of our entire team and we believe in taking the time to thoroughly discuss any and every matter which may be important to the clients we represent. If you or someone you love has been injured in an accident, let us work for you to get you the compensation you deserve. Contact our experienced team today for a free consultation.

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If someone you are close to has been seriously injured or worse, you are naturally devastated not only by what has happened, but by the effect that the injury or loss has had on you and your family. At a time when you're vulnerable, traumatized and emotionally exhausted, you need a team that will support you through the often complex process that lies ahead.

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