What are an attorney's duties concerning damages awarded?

When a person retains the services of an attorney to handle a civil matter, like a personal injury case, one of the primary objectives is to secure damages for any injuries endured as a result of the defendant's negligence. For example, people who hire an attorney following a motor vehicle accident do so in the hopes that he or she can help secure damages to cover things like medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, etc.

While every case is different, many times the zealous advocacy that the attorney is otherwise obligated to provide will indeed result in damages being awarded via a settlement or by a jury. While this will understandably come as a relief to the accident victim, questions can sometimes arise concerning this compensation.  

What if my medical bills have yet to be paid?

In the event you are receiving medical bills relating to the accident after it's been settled, you may wonder why your attorney has not paid them.

According to the Florida Bar's Attorney Consumer Assistance Program, a person in this situation should consult the closing statement they received upon resolution of their case, meaning the document listing the financial details, such as the creditors that were slated to be paid, to see if the medical provider that sent the bill is listed.

If they are, then the next step would be to determine whether an agreement existed between you and your attorney that he or she would withhold some of the money received to pay off debts. In the absence of such an express agreement, your attorney is under no legal obligation and the sole responsibility for paying medical bills using the damages awarded rests with you.

What happens if the attorney's trust account check bounced?

In general, when an attorney receives funds that belong to clients, they must be placed into trust accounts that are kept separate from the attorney's own funds. If a check from this trust account written to a client bounces, this is highly problematic and grounds for legal action.

Indeed, if the matter is reported to the ACAP, it will send you a compliant form and, regardless of whether you choose to file it, will likely initiate an audit of the trust account in question. Furthermore, it will also strongly encourage you to seek legal counsel about what you can do to retrieve the funds that are rightfully yours.

We'll continue to examine this topic in future posts. In the meantime, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional if you have questions or concerns relating to the money and billing practices of your attorney.

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