Can a Lawyer Settle Without My Consent?

Can a Lawyer Settle Without My Consent?

When you hire a lawyer, you put your case in their hands. You trust they’ll protect your rights and do everything with your best interests in mind. Obtaining a fair settlement is usually the primary goal of filing a compensation claim, but can your lawyer settle on your behalf?

During your initial consultation, discussing these details with your proficient Philadelphia car accident attorney is important. Knowing what to expect can give you immense peace of mind throughout your case.

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What Does “Settling” Mean?

Torn paper scrap with the word 'Settlement' placed on a background of hundred dollar bills.

Settling a case means both parties have reached a mutual agreement to end the dispute. A successful agreement involves a fair settlement amount, usually agreed upon after negotiations.

A settlement can occur at any point during the claim process. Usually, settling before your case goes to trial is the goal, but even if your case goes to court, you can still settle during court proceedings.

About 95 percent of personal injury cases settle before going to trial. Settling a case can save extra time and money.

Your lawyer works for you. You’ve given them the authority to take action on your behalf. So, in theory, your lawyer should be able to settle your case without your explicit consent. However, ethically, no, your lawyer should not accept a settlement without first discussing it with you.

States address this topic under their rules. For example, under Florida’s Bar rules, there is a requirement that attorneys get full understanding and consent from their client before settling a case.

To avoid any confusion, discussing settlement with your attorney before your case gets there is helpful. Your lawyer can explain the rules and how they handle settlements, and you can discuss your goals for a settlement. Communication is key between attorneys and their clients.

Understanding the Relationship Between Attorney and Client

The attorney-client relationship relies on trust. Once the client establishes the relationship between themselves and their attorney, the attorney acts as their client’s agent.

While attorneys have some say in how their client’s case proceeds, the client has the final word on many matters, including settlement.

Your attorney is your legal advisor. As an advisor, your lawyer can provide qualified advice based on their education, experience, and skills.

While you and your attorney may not always agree, listen to their advice, as they know more concerning legal matters.

Your lawyer is your legal advocate. You can trust that your attorney will advocate for your best interests throughout your case. A win for you is a win for them. Therefore, they’ll do everything necessary to achieve the best possible outcome on your behalf.

Your attorney has a fiduciary duty to you. As your lawyer, they are bound to act in a way that will benefit you, particularly in a financial respect.

The relationship between attorney and client is both professional and personal. Your attorney will fight aggressively to reach the most favorable case result while also guiding you and supporting you through a challenging time.

Your Lawyer Can Provide Guidance Regarding Your Settlement

As your advisor, your attorney can give you guidance concerning your settlement. They can figure out how much your case is worth and, based on that information, determine whether a settlement is fair and adequately covers your losses.

Your lawyer can negotiate for a better settlement on your behalf and try to get you a beneficial outcome.

Your attorney should not, however, take it upon themselves to settle your case without your knowledge. Although they are your legal counselor, they shouldn’t make a major decision without consulting you and getting your permission to proceed.

Regardless of whether or not your attorney agrees with you, they have a duty to do as you wish. At the end of the day, it’s your case, and your opinions and decisions matter.

The Process of Getting to a Fair Settlement Depends on Your Case and Circumstances

No two cases are alike. Therefore, it’s hard to say exactly how and when you’ll settle your case. In reality, it depends on your type of case, the complexity of your situation, and the other party’s willingness to settle.

In general, getting to a settlement can involve any of the following steps.

Filing a Claim

Hand retrieves a claim document from a file for a client, symbolizing the insurance process.

Filing an insurance claim after an accident is the first step in many cases, including truck and car accident cases. When you file a claim, you’re asking the insurance company to provide compensation for the injuries and losses you sustained caused by their insured’s wrongdoing.

Sometimes, filing a claim is all you have to do to resolve your claim. Once the insurance company investigates your situation and evaluates your losses, they may approve your claim and provide a fair settlement offer. If this happens, you can accept their offer and end your claim without further action.

However, other times, it’s not that easy. The insurance company may approve your claim but provide a lowball settlement offer. Your attorney may engage in back-and-forth negotiations, but the insurance company may not be willing to raise their offer. Alternatively, they may deny your claim altogether.

If your insurance claim isn’t successful, your lawyer can proceed and take further action.

The Demand Letter

Your attorney can send the insurance company a demand letter to motivate them to settle.

Demand letters include specific information regarding your claim, including:

  • Details concerning the incident
  • The injuries and losses you suffered as a result
  • Evidence indicating their insured’s fault

Based on your lawyer’s valuation of your losses, they’ll include a monetary value and ask the insurance company to settle your claim for said amount. Should the insurance company refuse, your attorney won’t hesitate to take additional legal action and file a injury lawsuit.

Upon receipt of the letter, the insurance company may either accept your lawyer’s request or engage in negotiations. If they are still unwilling to settle, your attorney can proceed with filing a lawsuit.

Filing a Lawsuit

When you file your claim in court, you ask the court to intervene and resolve your issue. In your petition, your attorney includes information concerning your incident and losses and requests proper relief.

Your attorney must then provide copies of court documents to the opposing party. The defendant must then file their response with the court within a specific time.

Once formalities are complete, your case can officially begin.

The Discovery Process

The discovery phase of a lawsuit is one of the most important. During this time, both parties can request and obtain evidence they can use to build their cases and strengthen their claims. The discovery process may be short but can also take several months to complete, depending on the complexity of your case.

Once discovery has concluded, both sides are better equipped to revisit settlement negotiations.


Mediation can aid in the settlement process. Not every case utilizes mediation, but it can be an advantageous tool. On the other hand, some courts require parties to participate in mediation before setting a trial date, as a successful mediation agreement can save all parties time and resources.

During mediation, parties and their attorneys meet before a mediator, a neutral third party. The mediator’s job is facilitating communication between both parties to reach a mutually beneficial agreement. Mediation fosters a friendly, collaborative environment for parties to work out their issues and settle the case.

If parties can reach an agreement during mediation, the mediator solidifies the agreement in a document and submits it to the court for approval. Once the judge approves the agreement, your case is over.

Settling the Case

Lawyer having a meeting with a client in an office setting, discussing legal matters and providing professional counsel.

Whether or not your case goes to mediation, your attorney’s goal is to settle your case before going to trial. Once the discovery phase of your lawsuit has concluded and both parties have the evidence they need, the opposing party is often more motivated to settle and be done with the case.

Once both parties mutually reach a fair settlement, you’ll sign documents and wait to receive your money. This signals the end of your case.

Is it Possible to Back out of a Settlement Agreement?

That’s the thing with settlement agreements: once you agree, you can’t change your mind. This is one of the main reasons your lawyer needs to be 100 percent sure you’re on board with the settlement before they commit on your behalf.

Only under very special circumstances can you back out of a settlement. For example, if there is not yet a court order and both parties agree, you might void the agreement. Additionally, you can also seek to get out of an agreement if there is fraud.

What Happens After My Case Settles?

After your case settles, you’ll need to sign some legal documents. Among these documents, you’ll sign a release. Signing the release promises that you will not take additional legal action in this particular case.

The check with settlement funds goes directly to your attorney. If your attorney is working on contingency, which most personal injury attorneys do, they will deposit the check in a special account and take their agreed-upon share before writing out a check to you for the rest.

Factors that Could Affect the Timeline of Your Settlement

The goal is to settle your case as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, that’s not entirely up to your attorney. Certain factors may interfere with the settlement timeline and prevent you from settling as fast as you’d like.

Lack of Cooperation

It takes cooperation from both parties to reach a settlement and resolve a case. It’s not uncommon for insurance companies to stall and make it more difficult to resolve your matter.

Sometimes, insurance companies try to prolong the settlement process as a way to motivate you to settle. They know you want to reach a settlement and move on, and when they delay, it takes much longer. This tactic often works in their favor, getting claimants to accept whatever settlement they offer to close the claim.

When you have an attorney, however, the insurance company’s schemes won’t work. Your lawyer can handle communications with the insurer and get them to move quicker to hopefully proceed with settling.

You Haven’t Reached Maximum Medical Improvement

Maximum medical improvement (MMI) means treatment options have been exhausted, and you’ve recovered as much as possible. Many lawyers like to wait until their clients have reached MMI before settling the case, as this helps ensure they get adequate compensation.

Once you’ve reached MMI, your attorney will have a better idea of the value of your damages, including medical expenses, disabilities, and pain and suffering.

The Complexity of Your Case

More complicated cases can take longer to settle, especially when there are legal or factual issues. There are many components to building your case and reaching a settlement, including establishing cause and liability. The more complex the situation, the longer it may take to handle your claim.

Prolonged Discovery Phase

The discovery phase of a lawsuit is often the longest, especially for complicated cases. The back and forth of requesting and obtaining evidence and scheduling and taking depositions can take a long time.

Settlement is possible, even during the discovery phase, but the opposing party may not consider engaging in settlement negotiations until discovery ends.

Ultimately, The Decision Concerning Settlement is Yours

The decision of whether to accept or deny a settlement offer is a critical one. While your attorney can provide all the guidance, advice, and support you need, the decision ultimately rests in your hands. You should not decide by yourself, but should instead consult your legal representative before taking any action on your behalf.

Don’t Wait to Seek a Free Consultation With a Personal Injury Attorney

After an accident and injuries, things can move quicker than you expect. Insurers might start calling and offering lowball settlements, which you should never accept right away.

Instead, discuss the value of your damages with a Philadelphia personal injury lawyer. Knowing this value means you can make the right decision about accepting a settlement.

Gabriel Levin Author Image

Gabriel Levin - Attorney

Gabriel Levin is a highly experienced and credible attorney with over 10 years of practice in Pennsylvania. Known for his tenacity, he has represented clients in a wide range of civil matters, trying hundreds of cases. He prepares each case as if it will go to trial, ensuring meticulous attention to detail.

Unlike many firms that delegate tasks, Levin personally handles every aspect of a case and maintains open communication with clients throughout. He has secured millions in compensation, making him a reliable choice for those seeking legal representation.

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