How to Fire Your Lawyer, Part II

In the year 2010, I wrote the blog titled “How To Fire Your Attorney or 50 Ways to Leave Your Lawyer.” Over the years, this blog has been read hundreds of times by people whom I presume are fed up with their lawyer. After all, why would they want to read it if all was well with them and their legal counsel?

Since I wrote it, I have been contacted by people across the United States (and even from Europe) who were wanting to fire their lawyer. And even though we focus only on personal injury law here at the Kramer Law Group, it seems like only a minority of the people who reached out actually had a personal injury case. One thing I learned was that being unhappy with your lawyer is not confined to just one practice area. Indeed, disgruntled clients can be found in almost all practice areas out there.

Sadly, over the last six years, the problems behind people wanting to fire their lawyer remain, and in fact, seems to be escalating. Clients continue to be upset by lawyers who don’t do what they promised, who are not returning phone calls, who are taking money for work they didn’t do, who are rude to their clients, who are “messing up” their clients’ cases, etc. As I expressed in my original blog, while a client is generally free to fire their attorney, doing this in many cases is not always the best call. I’m sure that in many cases, if the lawyer and client were able to sit down together that most of the problems could be resolved. Many, however, don’t have the stomach to do this and are simply “done” with their lawyer, and no amount talking is going to ever fix that.

The Next Step: Get a Second Opinion!  Even if you hate your lawyer, keep your head and make sure you can make a change without damaging your case. Although telling off and firing your lawyer in the moment may feel good and “feed the flesh,” the aftermath might be a bitter pill to swallow. So first, Do Your Homework! What I mean is, you want to get a second opinion before you get rid of your lawyer.

If you are unhappy with your lawyer and sitting down with them to discuss your concerns is not an option, I recommend that you first get a “second opinion” with an attorney that practices in the same practice area as your current attorney. These meetings don’t have to cost a lot of money and often might be totally free. For example, a personal injury attorney that works on a contingency fee may agree to meet with you for free, no charge. Even an attorney that charges something for the meeting might well be worth it in the end. But be aware that not every attorney will want to meet with you if you are currently with someone else. They might see you as “damaged goods” or a “red flag” that they instinctively will want to shy away from you.

Under most state’s ethics rules, including Utah’s, however, an attorney can meet with a client who is currently being represented if they are seeing that person to offer a “second opinion” on the facts and applicable law involved in that case. Click here for opinion. You seeing another attorney for a second opinion is not much different than getting a second medical opinion where you want to make sure that the diagnosis or recommended treatment plan for the first doctor is legitimate and reasonable.

One things the Rule (Rules of Professional Conduct 4.2) on this says is that the second opinion of the lawyer should not be used as a way for the lawyer to solicit the case away from the first lawyer. In fact, the opinion says that “the lawyer should make every effort neither to impair the first attorney-client relationship nor to use the consultation as a means of soliciting the represented party.” You are there for information – and the attorney’s opinion – on how they would handle your case if it was in their office.

When I have met with clients, I have told them, in effect, what I would do if this were my case. And this is something you’ll want to ask the attorney you meet with. If it’s a communication problem, ask them how often they stay in touch with their clients how they respond to client phone calls, emails, etc. In other words, ask the attorney about those things you are most concerned with that are happening in your case.

Once you have the benefit of having met with an attorney that practices in the same subject area, then you are in a position to know whether you may have possibly prejudged the attorney or whether they are in fact not doing the job they should be doing in your case. Then you know and you won’t have to second-guess your decision to let your attorney go.

Having been asked to come in as the second (or sometimes third) attorney over the years, I can tell you that the idea of firing an attorney gives most people anxiety. They are not sure it’s going to go well or are worried they won’t “do it right.”  I can tell you from experience that the attorney-firing option that clients like the best is when the second attorney handles all those details. This removes much of the anxiety that the client has. When I’ve told the client that I can take care of the “dirty work,” most of them will breathe a sigh of relief.

Now, some timid attorneys might suggest that the client needs to do “the deed” so as to avoid the second attorney getting hit with an attorney lien from the first attorney. (See the discussion about attorney liens here.) To this I would say that the substitute attorney needs to “own up” to the case and be bold about coming in as the replacement attorney. After all, they’ll need to collect all bills, records, reports, statements, photos, etc., that may have been collected by the first attorney. They may even want to have a phone call with that attorney.

And yes, there may be an attorney lien on the case that the first attorney will send to the replacement attorney. This is especially true and applicable in contingency fee, personal injury cases. But this lien amount – whatever it is – will be absorbed by the second attorney. In your personal injury case, it should not increase the total attorney fee that comes out at the end. If the lawyer says that it will increase the amount deducted, then you need to find an attorney that won’t penalize you for your decision to change attorneys.

Finally, I wrote this blog to provide general information to people that might be unhappy with their lawyer. I cannot come into a case like Donald Trump and tell your attorney “You’re fired!” That’s the job of your replacement attorney, as discussed above. You’ll want to get that second opinion mentioned above and ask the attorney the best way to go about replacing your attorney for your state and for your specific legal practice area.

Ron Kramer is the managing attorney at the Kramer Law Group, a Utah personal injury law firm licensed to practice in the state of Utah, Idaho and California.

Lake Powell Drowning Takes Man’s Life

A man from Lewiston Montana, lost his life on May 5, 2016, when he was thrown out of his kayak and drowned in Lake Powell. According to KSL News, the man was paddling his kayak in the Wahweap Bay area of Lake Powell when high winds knocked him out of the kayak and into the water.

Wahweap Bay

Unfortunately, the man was not wearing a life jacket and drowned. Search and rescue were able to find his body the next day using sonar. The Kane County Sheriff’s Office issued a statement to all boaters to be vigilant of changing weather conditions and to always wear a life jacket.

I echo the need to wear a life jacket. I’m sure the paddler thought he would be fine when he started out, probably when the weather was much calmer. Perhaps he was a good swimmer and didn’t think there would be a problem. But none of us know what might happen once we get out in the middle of the lake. I know that boaters have lost their lives on Utah Lake because of high wind conditions. This is why every vessel – even a kayak – should have a life jacket in it. And I would say that if you are in a kayak, you should be wearing it at all times for unexpected emergencies that can come up. A life jacket combined with another safety item, a whistle, could have helped to preserve this man’s life.

As we head into the warmer months, boaters need to make sure that they have life jackets for every person who is on board their boat. They need also to make sure those children 14 and under are actually wearing their life jacket when they are on the water. (Kids will often take them off when adults are not looking!) Emergencies can happen quickly, such as a boat on boat crash, and the most vulnerable members of our society need that special protection.

Utah Man Critically Injured in Lake Powell Explosion

An unidentified 63-year-old man filling up his 30 foot, 1974 Tolly Craft cabin cruiser at Antelope Point, near Page, AZ, became the unfortunate victim of a fuel explosion today, July 26, 2012. According to AZ, the man had just put fuel in his boat and was trying to start it when the explosion happened. The explosion caused the man’s boat to completely engulf in flames. The gentleman was able to crawl out of the boat where he received medical attention from witnesses and public-safety responders. He was later flown to the University of Utah Burn Unit in Salt Lake City.

I send my best wishes for this man’s recovery. His burns, however, sound pretty extreme and it’s likely he has a long road of recovery ahead of him.

Having owned a boat, I know that before you start the engine that you need to activate the blower to help evacuate gas fumes out of the engine compartment, thereby reducing the incidence of explosions. If there is still a strong smell of gasoline after venting the engine space, this is a warning sign not to start the boat.

Ron Kramer is a Utah personal injury and accident lawyer practicing throughout the state. Call the Kramer Law Group today at 801-601-1229 for a free consultation if you are in need of a Utah accident attorney.

Govenor Signs Bill to Make TRAX Safer to Public

Governor Gary Herbert signed a bill that is intended to increase pedestrian and motor vehicle safety around railroad crossings on Monday, April 16, 2012. The Deseret News reported that a bill, SB-195 was constructed in order to help increase safety measures around Utah railways. The bill was established in lieu of multiple accidents and deaths caused on the railways. Several restrictions mentioned in the bill include limiting when a vehicle may turn around near railroad tracks or railroad grade crossings, prohibiting vehicles from driving through, around or under a crossing gate or barrier and limits on what pedestrians can do around railroad crossings or bridges.

Because of the several accidents involving TRAX, and UTA buses, the new law will specifically state when it is alright to proceed and when to stand clear of the vehicles. This new law will also state in simple terms what can and cannot be done around and along railways and railroad crossings. It will also strengthen the ability of law enforcement to issue citations for infractions when tampering or vandalism is done to transit equipment. Under the new law, it may become a felony when such obstructions are done. The law is expected to be put into place on May 8, 2012.

We have seen far too many accidents involving trains and pedestrians, and trains and other vehicles. While UTA usually attempts to blame the victim in these accidents, it’s also clear that UTA is free of fault from many of them that happen. Along with this law, though, I would like to see enhanced penalties for UTA TRAX operators who, through their negligence, contribute to another person being injured. Because of inherent conflicts of interest involved when the UTA investigates an accident involving one of its trains or buses, I think an independent review board needs to make a decision on whether these accidents are preventable or not. Only when there is independent oversight can we be assured (or at least more so) that unsafe operators employed by UTA are being weeded out in favor of those whose primary goal is the safety of the passengers they transport.

The above opinions belong to those of Ron Kramer, a Utah personal injury and accident lawyer practicing throughout the state. Call the Kramer Law Group today at 801-601-1229 for a free consultation if you are in need of a Utah car accident attorney.

Six Year Old Passes Away After a Severe Head Injury

Ambrosia Amalatitoda, a six year old girl succumbed to her injuries Thursday, March 15, 2012 after an accident that occurred on Wednesday. According to KSL News, little Ambrosia was severely injured when she was in a crosswalk with her mother Natalie Randall. Ambrosia and her mother were heading home from Whittier Elementary School to celebrate her great improvements in reading. As they entered the crosswalk, two cars had stopped to wait for them to pass when a third vehicle swerved to the left and hit right into them. The accident sent both the mother and daughter to the hospital in critical condition. Family members who attended the hospital knew that the little girl would not be able to pull through the injuries she had. The daughter was kept on life support until her mother was in a more stable condition and could say goodbye. Sadly, that was not able to take place, the girl passed away before it could happen. Meanwhile, the mother underwent surgery and is expected to recover. She still remains in critical condition though.

Others are now wondering why nothing had taken place to improve the safety of that crosswalk. It is reported to be a very dangerous crosswalk with many close calls for some people. The Utah Department of Transportation is now telling the concerned people that they have plans to place a light at that intersection this coming summer.

I offer my sincere condolences to this family for the loss of their daughter and wishes for a speedy recovery to the mother.

What a horrible accident to hear about. It is very heart-wrenching to hear about a sad story like this. An accident such as this could easily be avoided if drivers would take time to observe their surroundings, especially when they come to a crosswalk. As a wrongful death attorney, I would recommend that the family of Ambrosia should consult with an attorney in order to receive the full benefits to help aid in this terrible crisis.

Ron Kramer is a Utah personal injury and accident lawyer practicing throughout the state. Call the Kramer Law Group today at 801-601-1229 for a free consultation.

A Family of Four is Injured in West Jordan Accident

In West Jordan, Utah, four people received injuries due to an accident on Sunday, March 18, 2012. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the Family was traveling through the intersection of 9000 South and 3200 West in West Jordan, Utah. Three people, including a 9 and 6-year old and their mother, were reported to be in critical condition. The father, who was also the driver, was in stable condition. The young children were taken to Primary Children’s Medical Center, the mother was taken to Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, and the father was taken to a local hospital. The cause of the accident remains under investigation.

My concern and hopes for a speedy recovery goes out to this family.

As a Utah personal injury attorney, I have a lot of questions about what exactly caused this accident. It is vital that the family get the treatment they need to get back to where they were.

Ron Kramer is a Utah personal injury and accident lawyer practicing throughout the state. Call the Kramer Law Group today at 801-601-1229 for a free consultation.

UTA Bus Accident Seriously Injures West Valley Woman

A woman, 24 years old, now has two severely broken legs thanks to the UTA bus driver who negligently turned in front of her on December 12, 2011. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the pedestrian, whose name was not mentioned in the article, was lawfully crossing the street in a marked cross walk at 3650 South and 3200 West in West Valley City around 10:35 a.m. when a UTA bus driver failed to yield the right-of-way to her and hit her as the driver was making a left-hand turn. According to the story, the bus actually drove over the woman’s legs, severely crushing them. There is no mention of other injuries, such as head injuries that may have happened. The bus driver was cited for failing to yield to a pedestrian and is on administrative leave.

I send my best wishes to this woman who has a long road ahead of her as she recovers from what sounds like permanent, life-changing injuries.

UTA, sadly, is no stranger when it comes to its bus drivers hurting others. I have blogged on this in the past, click HERE and most recently HERE. This case sounds a lot like an accident that I blogged on a couple years ago. Unfortunately, UTA’s drivers continue to hurt others through their negligent driving. Even the Salt Lake Tribune recognizes that “UTA has had a high rate of pedestrian accidents this year, with TRAX striking eight people and FrontRunner trains striking two. Seven of those accidents resulted in deaths.”

I think a big cause of a lot of these accidents is the lack of training provided to UTA’s drivers and operators. I also don’t think they value safety as much as they should. From my own personal experience litigating cases against UTA, I know that they can downplay the seriousness of the driving infraction and where they can, blame the incident for happening on the victim.

This woman of course has a claim against UTA for her injuries, lost wages, loss of enjoyment of life, for permanent disability, emotional and mental anguish. Unfortunately, however, her total recovery is capped by statute at around $620,000, give or take. This statute has been twice challenged and has been upheld each time. Pursuant to the Utah Governmental Immunity Act, a document titled “Notice of Claim” needs to be filed within one year’s time to preserve her claim against UTA, which is considered a Utah governmental agency. I would recommend that she consult with a Utah attorney to make sure she properly preserves her claim.

The opinions expressed above belong to ,Ron Kramer, a Utah personal injury and accident lawyer practicing throughout the state. Call the Kramer Law Group today at 801-601-1229 for a free consultation.

Utah Accident Attorneys Need to Consider Medicare Interests During Settlement

Settlements following a Utah accident can sometimes be complicated and involved. This is especially true if Medicare has paid any of the bills in the case. If they have paid bills related to treatment, the attorney must be very careful to make sure that Medicare’s interests are adequately protected. This involves not only reaching resolution on amounts that Medicare has paid in the past but also determining if Medicare is likely to pay for medical expenses in the future. If future payments by Medicare is likely, then the attorney needs to consider setting up a Medicare set aside fund to protect Medicare’s interests moving forward.

Ron Kramer is a Utah personal injury and accident lawyer practicing throughout the state. Call the Kramer Law Group today at 801-601-1229 for a free consultation.

NY Woman Steals $43,300 in Workers’ Compenation Benefits Sentenced

According to the Times Union, a paper in New York, a woman who faked a serious neck injury to steal $43,300 in workers compensation benefits was sentenced on Thursday, June 23rd. Kelly Woods claimed she suffered a neck injury in a workplace accident at a construction company in Colonie. She claimed she had permanent fixed torticollis, which is described as permanent flexion of the head at a 90-degree angle.

Ms. Woods was caught in the scam after being video taped moving her head and neck freely the article stated. When she learned of the charges against her, she fled to Utah. Once she was extradited from Utah, she plead guilty to third-degree insurance fraud. According to the article which cited District Attorney David Soares’s release, Ms. Woods was sentenced to one to three years for faking her injury as well as waiving future claims to benefits.

I’m glad that Ms. Woods was brought to justice in this matter. It was unjust of her to lie about her condition and defraud not only the company she claimed to work for, but Workers Compensation and the labor board out of money. Her actions may make it more difficult for those who are actually injured on the job to receive Workers Compensation benefits. I believe that the sentence she was given was just and fair. Since she can no longer claim benefits, it has freed up money for others.

Ron Kramer is a Utah personal injury and accident lawyer practicing throughout the state. Call the Kramer Law Group today at 801-601-1229 for a free consultation.