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Personal Injury Law (Accidents/Slip & Fall)/attorney lied to client about filing lawsuit?


QUESTION: How long after you file a lawsuit will you receive your cause number?

Thank you

ANSWER: Dear Billy,

Since every lawsuit has its cause number assigned at the time it is filed, this is a simple oversight in not copying down the cause number on the copy of the court docs you received.  The cause number will have been copied correctly onto the copy held by your attorney, and the staff simply felt it not necessary to copy it over onto your copy.  So just call your attorney or the court clerk and get the number and simply hand write it on your copies.  It goes on the top page of each pleading, just to the right of the box wherein the parties are identified.

That is really the end of my answer to your question, unless you want me to explain the process at the clerk’s office—this might be of interest to you or to others who may want to see how this could easily happen (just so you do not get too upset with your attorney for failing to put the cause number on your copies).  I am willing to go into the process of how a lawsuit gets filed and what happens with the filing stamp and the cause number stamp.  OK?  

Then here we go Billy—let’s go back to the court clerk's desk, where the transaction takes place: the plaintiff (of course it is usually the plaintiff's attorney who does this) pays his filing fee and gives the clerk the original documents and (hopefully) has with him a copy for his office records.

The plaintiff has two goals here:
#1. get the darn thing officially filed, and
#2. get the cause number and the date filed on at least one copy that he can take back to his office.

How in the world could the attorney fail in goal #2??

Well, if the clerk's office is busy, it is easy to see how he could fail to get the cause # stamped on his copies.  Most mornings there is no problem with the clerk’s office.  But on “motion day” the office can be an absolute ZOO—attorneys in and out and elbowing for room at the counter.  “Motion day” varies by county, but basically it means that (for all but the largest counties) there is one day a week when civil motions are heard or when civil special proceedings are calendared for action (stuff like filing probate and presenting the documents to get the court to sign various orders, adoptions, etc.).  

The “motion day” calendar is also divided into civil and domestic and “ex parte”.  So contested motions in domestic relations and general civil cases will be heard by an assigned judge, and where the attorney is going to present a motion to get some order signed, but there is not (as of yet, anyway) an adverse party, she will go to the “ex parte” calendar.  Examples would be starting a probate where the attorney wants to get an order signed appointing his client as administrator of the estate.  Then cases like this also are brand new filings that day and need a new cause number and must be filed with the clerk

So you can see that the clerk’s office is busy on motion day.  But why no cause number stamped on your documents?  The thing is: there are two or three court filing stamps (these show the name of the court and the date a document has been filed) floating around at the counter of the court clerk, so on a busy day we do not have to wait to grab one.  Attorneys will stamp their copies with the court filing stamp while the assistant clerk might be taking in a new cause number.  

And, unlike there being more than one clerk’s filing stamp, there is ONLY ONE CAUSE NUMBER STAMP.  Hence it is often the case that the clerk will move on to another attorney with documents to file quickly after she has helped the first attorney—and in doing so, she takes with her that one cause number stamp—so the attorneys are left to hand write the cause number on their office copies.  

I trust this makes sense, Billy, and if you agre, I respectfully request that you find the feedback forum on this website and leave some feedback for me.  This is the best way to let future injury victims who need help know just which experts are willing to give them the time required to give an answer that will truly help them.  

Best Wishes,

Dr. Settlement, J.D. (Juris Doctor)

[an error occurred while processing this directive]---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: my lawyer told me he had file the the lawsuit, but he had not yet received the cause number, but I was thinking that you get the cause number at the time you file the lawsuit it has been a month since he claim he file the lawsuit.

ANSWER: Ahhhhh, the plot thickens, Billy!

I would like to come up with some explanation that would clear things up for the attorney—a miscommunication of some kind.  But I am just unable to think of any way his statements to you could be an honest mistake.  Sorry, Billy, but it looks like he deceived you--which of itself is cause for termination.  

I mean maybe you misunderstood--maybe he told you he had STARTED the lawsuit, then that is a different matter since a lawsuit can be COMMENCED by EITHER filing it or serving it on the defendant (check out our insurance claims help website www.SettlementCentral.Com expert help for the way lawsuits are commenced—in the link just below).

If you want to see if you have a statute of limitations problem, go to our Directory of Legal Information on Statute of Limitations Information for Personal Injury Insurance Claims

On that page you can see that your attorney could have commenced a lawsuit by serving the tortfeasor, provided that your attorney must thereafter file the lawsuit with the clerk.

Also on that page is a link where you can check out the statute of limitations for your state.  If your attorney missed it, do NOT contact him again.  Write to me and I will explain how to file a malpractice claim against his legal malpractice insurer.

One last thing you should do is to call the county court clerk and simply ask them about their procedure.  YES, I believe YOU are correct, Billy, in that the clerk will never file a lawsuit until she also gives it a cause number.  So ask also about your name being on their record—does your name appear anywhere on their index of lawsuits filed?

If, as you suspect, and as I now also suspect, there was no lawsuit filed by your attorney, then you do have a problem.  First thing to do is to figure out where you stand vis-à-vis the statute of limitations.  If there still is time left, you must get to a competent attorney and get it filed.  

Second thing to do is to start a search for a new attorney.  Do NOT confront your attorney if you have proof he lied to you.  Just get a new attorney and she will handle the dismissal of your existing attorney and she will arrange for your file to be delivered to her office.  Do NOT go to your attorney’s office for any reason.  Let your new attorney do all of that.

Will you have to pay two attorney’s fees?  Absolutely NOT—you will pay but one contingency fee—if your present attorney did any work that merits a fee, then your new attorney will work it out with him on how they will split that one fee.   OK?

Please let me know what is happening and how you decided to proceed.

Best wishes,

Dr. Settlement, J.D. (Juris Doctor)

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Dr. settlement this is not the first time he lied to me. When he first talk to the insurance company he said they accepted liability after he sent the demand letter he said they denied the claim. I ask him for a copy of my files he would not give it to me said I could get any thing I wanted out of it I ask for the demand letter which the way the accident happen was wrong, then I ask for the insurance denial letter he did not want to give it to me so I fired him, then he gave it to me.,  fine out the insurance company did make an opening offer  he said the offer was so low he took it as a denial, but I though I was to know about every offer I hired him back because no other lawyer would take the case. some said they could not make enough money out of it. others said he have had it to long been over a year so I hired him back and now this. I don't know what to do. I have until march for statute to end. 35,000 in medical, Quadriceps injury with surgery need another surgery

This is REALLY upsetting news to me, Billy.  I will give it some thought, but I might be asking if you want me to take a look at the demand letter to see whether or not you can  attract another attorney to help at this date.  I might have some ideas for you.

You still have enough time to do something.  I might have you contact me directly at our bodily injury insurance claim website -- let me think about it because we are not supposed to get involved like this, but it does hurt me to see you being treated like this.  So I want to help if I can.

Before I go, MANY thanks for your generous high marks on my feedback.  That helps new people find experts who will help them.  Plus it means a lot to me!

I will amend this answer and possibly give you a way to contact me.

Dr. Settlement, J.D. (Juris Doctor)

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Doctor Settlement


27 years of front line plaintiff`s trial lawyer experience in PERSONAL INJURY INSURANCE CLAIMS. Along with other attorneys and insurance adjusters, we have created a website to help injured people settle their own personal injury claims. With the help from feedback from hundreds of satisfied members, has become THE AUTHORITY for Internet personal injury insurance claim settlements. I am humbled and honored if people can benefit from my experience and current volunteer work in helping injured people. I hope I can explain things in a manner that is useful for the questioner. If not, do not hesitate to e-mail me and I will take a second shot at it! Best Wishes for your physical and financial recovery.


Life Experience: 27 years of front line plaintiff's trial lawyer experience

American Trial Lawyers Association (AAJ)
Washington State Trial Lawyers Association

Publications: (Click on Title to Read)
Statute of Limitations
Vehicle Accident
Demand Letters
Policy Limits

Education/Credentials: J.D. (Juris Doctor) 1977

Awards and Honors: I am humbled and honored everytime I am selected to help injured people. And when people give feedback that they have benefited from my experience and current volunteer efforts, then that is a double honor and award for me.

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