No, lawyers do not lie about settlements. Lawyers always must provide clear, accurate, and timely information to their clients about settlements. When speaking with non-clients about settlements, lawyers may have a legal obligation not to disclose certain information, but they may not lie. Learn how Emroch and Kilduff can support your settlement claim below.
A Brief Overview of Settlements
In personal injury law, a settlement is an agreement to resolve a personal injury claim. The typical settlement has two parties—the injured individual and the party with a legal duty to pay for that individual’s injuries and losses (often an at-fault party’s insurance carrier). In most settlements, the injured individual receives an agreed-upon amount of money to release the paying party from future liability.
A large majority of personal injury claims settle out of court. Lawyers for the injured party and the liable party (and/or that party’s insurer) usually negotiate the amount and terms of a settlement. The standard negotiation involves the injured party demanding a certain amount of money as a settlement, the liable party making an offer in response, and the parties going back and forth until they either reach an agreement or a stalemate.
Although their lawyers negotiate settlements, the injured party and the liable party decide when, whether, and how much to settle a personal injury claim. Lawyers advise their clients about the strengths and weaknesses of settlements, and then it is up to their respective clients to determine how to proceed.
A settlement usually brings a complete and final end to a personal injury claim. With rare exceptions, you cannot undo a settlement. Injured individuals need a skilled personal injury lawyer representing them in negotiating and agreeing upon a settlement to ensure their rights stay protected and that they achieve the most favorable settlement reasonably possible.
A Lawyer’s Duties Regarding Settlements
Lawyers must conduct themselves per a set of rules governing their professional conduct adopted by the body regulating lawyers in their state. These rules include specific and general provisions dictating lawyers’ duties surrounding settlements. Violating these duties can subject lawyers to legal discipline and personal financial liability.
Duty of Truthfulness
Lawyers must be truthful in their communications about all matters related to their work as attorneys. They owe a duty of truthfulness to their clients, colleagues, opponents, government, and courts.
Respect for the law and the proper functioning of the legal system depends on lawyers' strict adherence to this rule. Lawyers take their duty of truthfulness very seriously and most abide by it day-in, day-out.
Duties in Communications With Clients About Settlements
Lawyers for injured individuals must inform their clients promptly about all settlement offers made by an opponent in a personal injury case. They also must explain the settlement offer and give their clients the information and advice necessary for them to decide whether to accept or reject it. Lawyers must fulfill these duties even if they think a settlement offer is too low, and the client should reject it.
Duties in Communications With Opposing Parties About Settlements
In addition to the duty of truthfulness to opposing counsel described above, rules also govern when and how lawyers can communicate directly with opposing parties (that is, the parties themselves, not their lawyers) about settlements or anything else. In general, if a lawyer knows an opposing party has a lawyer representing them, that lawyer must only communicate with the opposing attorney and never speak directly with the opposing party.
Suppose the lawyer knows the opposing party does not have an attorney. In that case, the lawyer must ensure the opposing party understands the lawyer's role—most importantly, the lawyer is not neutral. The lawyer cannot give legal advice to an opposing party except to encourage that party to hire a lawyer.
As always, the lawyer must also be truthful with that opposing party. A lawyer cannot lie about a settlement to an unrepresented person any more than a lawyer can to a fellow lawyer, which is to say, the lawyer cannot do it at all.
Duties of Confidentiality About Settlements
Personal injury lawyers owe their clients a strict duty of confidentiality. Lawyers can never voluntarily disclose what they discuss with their clients about a settlement— such as whether to accept or reject it or the amount a client would agree to settle for—unless their clients specifically authorize them to do so. This duty is a cornerstone of the attorney-client relationship. Without it, clients would not be able to speak freely with their attorneys.
When it comes to settlements, personal injury lawyers may also owe duties of confidentiality to others. For instance, it's common for the parties to a settlement to agree that they will not disclose the settlement terms to third parties. Importantly, however, any such duties only exist if an agreement (or in rare cases, a statute) requires it. The rules that govern lawyers' professional conduct do not require it.
You Can Trust a Lawyer to Handle Your Personal Injury Settlement
Lawyers swear an oath as officers of the court to adhere to the highest standards of their profession. The duty of truthfulness lies at the very heart of that solemn commitment. Lawyers must never lie about the settlement—not to their clients, their opposing parties, or other attorneys and not to the courts. The extremely rare lawyers who lie face harsh discipline and other consequences; they do not survive long in the profession, not least because other lawyers will never tolerate that kind of misconduct.
If you suffered personal injuries, trust that a personal injury lawyer will represent you truthfully and diligently. A lawyer must advocate for your interests, carefully guard your secrets, and work hard to get you the money you deserve. Contact us to receive your consultation today.