What are my rights if my lawyer negotiated a settlement without consulting me?

UPDATED: Jun 17, 2011

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What are my rights if my lawyer negotiated a settlement without consulting me?

At the time of my last meeting with my lawyer, he instructed me to follow my doctor’s instructions and that he would keep in touch. Earlier this week, he called with the insurance adjuster’s “final offer” and indicated that I had to get back to him by today with a decision about this offer. I did not participate in the process and my lawyer never requested current information from me. Is it a common practice to negotiate without all of the information and to pressure people into a settlement?

Asked on June 17, 2011 under Personal Injury, New Jersey


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

It is common for an attorney to negotiate with constant input from his or her client--in fact, it's essentially necessary in many cases, since having to keep the client fully in the loop may make the process unworkable. Also, in a situation where the facts (e.g. injuries, damages, etc.) are not changing quickly, there is less need for consultation during negotiation. However, the lawyer may not *agree* to the settlement without his or her client's input, unless the client had previously authorized the attorney to do so on his or her behalf. That means that before everything is finalized, the client has a chance to review it and see if  he or she is happy with the settlement, wants to push for more, etc.  Note that the above is predicated on the lawyer and the client having had some discussions to lay out generally what might be acceptable; the attorney is the client's agent, and needs to at least know approximately what the client might agree to or want.

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