No, a lawyer should never settle your case without your consent.
Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Cases
If you file a lawsuit regarding the abuse or neglect of your loved one due to a nursing home’s negligence, you may attempt to receive compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and even funeral expenses if there was a wrongful death. During this time, as your lawyer is building your case, there may be additional investigations or expert witness interviews. The process to establish a strong nursing home neglect or abuse case can be lengthy and time-consuming. Once filed, both parties have an opportunity to argue their case and come to an agreement, also called a settlement.
A settlement is where a party (in this case the nursing home) offers a specific amount of money as a specific part of an agreement in order to resolve the legal dispute regarding the nursing home abuse or neglect case.
How Settlements Work
When a lawyer negotiates a case with the opposing party, it is oftentimes done with the other party’s attorney. The other attorney will propose a settlement offer, which may or may not be the amount requested by you and your lawyer. Even if the amount is exactly what you and your lawyer requested, your lawyer must notify you of the settlement offer.
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What a Lawyer Must Tell You
When offered a settlement, your lawyer must tell you the following:
- The amount of the settlement proposed
- Discuss all fees related to the case under the agreed-upon contingency payment
- Any additional costs
Additionally, a lawyer must keep you informed of the settlement negotiations as they occur, along with any communications or material facts regarding the lawsuit. As a client, you have the right to be informed, and make the final decision regarding a settlement offer.
Settlement Agreement Without Client Approval is a Violation
The only way a client can make an informed decision regarding a settlement offer is to have all of the facts. Anything less than full disclosure is a violation of fiduciary duty towards you. This specific type of violation means someone who you trusted had more knowledge and experience regarding legal matters, took advantage of that position to their benefit, and breached their fiduciary duty towards you.
Additionally, this is an ethical violation of a lawyer’s duty towards their client. If an attorney were to take a settlement in your nursing home abuse case without your consent, as a client you would have the right to report them to their state’s bar association for discipline.
If your lawyer settled your case without your knowledge or approval, and you receive a settlement check in the mail, you should contact the insurance company immediately and advise them that you never agreed to the settlement offer and that your lawyer accepted it without your approval or authorization. Never cash the check that an insurance company sends you if you do not intend to accept the settlement offer.
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Appropriate Handling of Cases with Settlement Offers
A reputable, ethical, and professional lawyer will ensure that their client receives all information and is presented with any settlement offers for review. In the case of nursing home abuse and neglect, the settlement offer may include compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and if your loved one died, funeral expenses and loss of consortium.
If a settlement offer occurs, the lawyer should request that the client review the settlement offer and listen to any advice the lawyer may have with respect to the offer. The lawyer should provide the client with a breakdown of any and all fees the lawyer will take as part of the contingency agreed upon at the beginning of the lawsuit. The lawyer should inform the client of all additional medical fees, or other fees that relate to their elderly loved one’s injury. These amounts may reduce the total settlement amount the client receives. Ultimately, the client should receive a complete copy of all related documents in order to make a decision.
Most importantly, a lawyer should speak with the client to explain why they should or should not, in their expert opinion, take the settlement offer. Again, to answer the question, “can my lawyer settle my case without me?”, absolutely no settlement offer should ever be accepted without a client’s consent. Once a client agrees in writing to accept the settlement offer, a lawyer may sign the settlement documents on their behalf, if necessary.
Contact a Nursing Home Lawyer
If you believe your elderly loved one suffered nursing home neglect or abuse, contact Pintas & Mullins Law Firm at (800) 842-6336 to help you determine your legal rights. We will never accept a settlement offer without your consent.