Can a lawyer settle without my consent?
Personal Injury - July 16, 2022
A lawyer is never meant to settle a client’s case without their consent, which can only be given when the client is made fully aware of the options available in the case. Being made “fully aware” of those options can be complicated, as we’ll discuss below.
You’re protected by fiduciary duty and Illinois law
Your attorney is bound to you by fiduciary duty, which means that the decisions that they make must be in your best interests, which naturally means with your consent. A key part of the fiduciary duty is transparency, which requires that your attorney share information with you about your case.
If you’re offered a settlement, your attorney must disclose the following to you:
- The amount of the settlement that was proposed for your claim.
- The amount of any and all fees related to the case under an agreed-upon contingency payment.
- Any additional costs linked to the process of filing a claim and/or lawsuit.
Your attorney cannot withhold information about settlement negotiations and must keep you informed of the progress of negotiations as they occur.
Breach of fiduciary duty
Should an attorney accept a settlement agreement without your approval, it is a violation of their fiduciary duty to you. In fact, any time an attorney provides anything other than a full and complete disclosure is a violation of this duty.
Lawyers also have an ethical obligation to provide you with legal guidance that meets the general standard of quality in the legal industry.
If your attorney has violated their ethical duty to you by taking a settlement offer without your consent, not only may you be entitled to compensation for the associated damages, but you may also wish to report them to the state bar association for discipline. (In Illinois, you must file a complaint with the Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission.)
An attorney can’t compel you to accept or reject a settlement
When you’re offered a settlement, you’re being presented with the opportunity to take a certain amount of compensation that represents a certain portion of what you might have won at trial. Taking a case to trial can take years in the current court environment given ongoing delays and ever-changing restrictions due to the pandemic.
Settlements can be beneficial, but the decision to accept them or deny them resides exclusively in your hands as the client. Your attorney is there to provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision about the settlement offer, given the unique facts and circumstances of your injury and the incident that caused it.
Horwitz, Horwitz & Associates: protecting your legal rights and best interests
The Illinois personal injury lawyers from Horwitz, Horwitz & Associates are client-focused and will provide you with the legal expertise to make the best decision possible after we work towards beneficial settlement offers or, ultimately, to a win in court.