Can You Change Your Workers’ Comp Lawyer Mid-Case?

Gavel and law books

When you sign a contract with a workers’ compensation attorney, you will hopefully feel confident that they will be able to represent your best interests and put all your worries at ease. Except, this isn’t always the case. Not all attorneys are the right fit for all clients and their cases. Sometimes, a workers’ comp case can even become too complicated for an inexperienced or busy attorney to manage anymore.

If you want to take your claim to another workers’ comp attorney after your case has already begun, can you? Yes, you should have the option to change attorneys. However, there could be some nuances to what happens based on your case and where you live because every state has different rules about changing attorneys mid-case.

7 things to consider about changing your workers’ comp lawyer in most states are:

  • Motion to substitution: Before you can switch workers’ compensation attorneys for any reason, most states require your attorney to file a motion of substitution with the Workers’ Compensation Commission (WCC). The commission will review the motion and determine if there is any reason why it would be unlawful to change attorneys, which is rare.
  • Split fees: Attorney fee caps do not increase when you hire additional attorneys to help with your case. For example, in Illinois, workers’ compensation fees are capped at 20% of the total recovery. If your case is handled by two law firms, then the fee will be split among them, rather than doubled. You do not need to negotiate the fee division, either. It is up to your legal representatives to decide who gets paid what amount if your case ends in success.
  • No payment until the end: Workers’ compensation cases being handled with a contingency fee agreement – most of them will be – do not change that agreement when new attorneys are hired and introduced to the case. In other words, the original attorney who is replaced does not get paid anything just because they are removed. The case still needs to end in a successful award or settlement for them to be able to be owed payment for their legal services.
  • Appeals: Changing attorneys after a workers’ compensation case ended in favor of the defendant or insurance company is difficult. You probably have the chance to appeal, but that process will not be easy for a new lawyer. The appeal has to be based on the information your first lawyer used to build your case, which means a new lawyer would have to depend entirely on someone else’s work to manage your appeal. Due to this hindrance, most attorneys won’t accept an appeal case that was managed by another law firm originally.
  • Case sharing: Whenever a new attorney takes over a case, the casework from the prior attorney must be shared with them fully. Original attorneys cannot legally deny passing their casework to the new lawyer.
  • Illegal job “protection”: It is unlawful for a workers’ compensation attorney to write a clause into their contract that says they cannot be terminated or replaced via a motion of substitution. If you are trying to replace your current attorney and they are saying you can’t because of their attorney contract, then you will need to the state bar as well as another attorney who can tell you how to navigate the situation.
  • Big settlements: Getting a big settlement offer for your workers’ comp claim is great, but it will impact things if you want to try to change attorneys later. This is because the original attorney is the only one who will have a claim to the original settlement offer. A new attorney will only be able to get a portion of any amount that exceeds that offer. For example, if you hire a new attorney who convinces the insurance company to pay $35,000 more than the previous offer, then that attorney will only get paid a percentage of that $35,000 and nothing else.

If you are looking for another law firm to handle your workers’ compensation claim in Chicago, then please call (312) 487-2513 and connect with Leonard Law Group. We can assist with new and preexisting cases.

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