A common complaint about workers’ comp lawyers, and lawyers in general, is that they don’t communicate enough with their clients. If your workers’ comp lawyer isn’t responding to your emails and phone calls, you are probably frustrated and wondering what you can do. Here, we explain how to resolve communication issues with your lawyer and how to know when it’s time to move on.
Why Isn’t My Lawyer Responding?
Before you march down to your lawyer’s office to demand an explanation, consider whether there are any legitimate reasons for the delay in response. If this is your first time working with a lawyer, for example, you may not know what to expect. In general, lawyers are pretty busy and have several cases going on at a time. Unless you’re at a crucial stage in your workers’ compensation case (for example, right before your workers’ compensation hearing), you probably shouldn’t expect daily, or even weekly, check ins.
The workers’ compensation system can also be a notoriously slow process. Every stage in the process takes time, most of which your lawyer has no control over. For example, it may take several months to get a workers’ compensation hearing on schedule due to backlog at the state workers’ compensation agency. Or, it may take several weeks for the insurance company to schedule your deposition or an independent medical examination. If you haven’t heard from your lawyer in a few weeks, it’s possible that he or she simply has no news to report.
That being said, you shouldn’t be left in the dark about what is going on with your case. If your case is in a holding pattern, your lawyer should let you know and explain why. If you’ve made multiple efforts to contact your lawyer and have received no response, you may have a real problem on your hands.
What Can I Do to Get My Lawyer to Respond?
Most lawyers have administrative assistants or paralegals who help them manage their cases. Often times, they can answer simple questions about the status of your case. However, if you have substantive questions about strategy or you need legal advice, you’ll need to talk to your lawyer.
If you’re getting radio silence from your lawyer, call his or her assistant (or paralegal) and try to set up a meeting. Give the assistant a few dates and times that you’re available to meet with your lawyer, in person or over the phone, and call back to follow up. If this is unsuccessful, you can also ask the assistant when your lawyer is usually in the office and then show up at the office in person.
However, you shouldn’t need to hunt your lawyer down to be informed about your case. Your lawyer has an ethical duty to keep you reasonably informed about important matters in your case. If multiple phone calls and emails have gone unreturned, it may be time to start thinking about hiring a new lawyer.
Can I Fire My Lawyer?
Finding a new workers’ comp lawyer presents challenges of its own, however. A lawyer may be less inclined to take your case for a couple of reasons. First, the lawyer will have to share his or her fees with your current lawyer (the fees are usually split in proportion to how much work each lawyer did). Second, your lawyer will have to spend some time getting up to speed on your case. If you have a workers’ compensation hearing looming in the near future, the lawyer may decide not to step in at the last moment.
Because of these issues, it’s often better to try to resolve issues with your current lawyer than to find a new one. However, if this is not possible, you can (and should) find a new lawyer. But, before firing your current lawyer, be sure to find a new lawyer who is willing to take on your case. For more information, see Can I Switch Workers' Comp Lawyers?