Question – I am presently represented by an attorney who doesn’t seem to understand my injury. When I retained him, he told me that he had handled cases for people with head injuries in the past. However, after two years of being represented by him, he doesn’t seem to understand the problems that I am experiencing. I would like to change lawyers. Is that still possible?
AnswerA client is always free to discharge his/her present attorney and retain new counsel. Obviously, the longer one waits the more difficult this becomes. Prior to filing a lawsuit, a plaintiff’s attorney has the ability to obtain past and present medical records, do a thorough investigation and have the client evaluated by independent medical specialists. In most states, a plaintiff has two years in which to file the lawsuit, thus stopping the running of the statute of limitations. Since each state has its own statute of limitations, one must check that state’s specific statute of limitations.
Within that two-year time frame, the attorney should be conducting the investigation and doing the necessary work outlined above. Once the lawsuit is started, each state as well as the federal district courts, have specific time frames in which certain work must be completed. This period of time is known as “discovery”. During that time, the defense has the opportunity to obtain medical records and have the plaintiff examined and evaluated by medical specialists. Also during this discovery period, both sides have the right to take depositions of independent witnesses and each party’s experts. Once discovery is concluded, it is very difficult to reopen in order to submit new expert’s reports or new evidence.
For the injured person deciding to seek new counsel, it is therefore imperative that new counsel be retained as early in the process as is possible. Once discovery is ended, the new attorney should he or she decide to accept the case, is pretty much handcuffed and is limited by the current state of that client’s file.