Can a lawyer steal your settlement

Can a Lawyer Steal Your Settlement | Explained

A legal firm is similar to any other business in that some succeed while others fail. Some people are excellent lawyers or businessmen, while others are none of these. At the end of the day, a private law agency is functions as a business. Some lawyers steal money from settlements in the same way that a company can.

As shown in the American Bar Association’s “Journal” from July 2011, there were 1,200,942 lawyers in the United States in 2010. According to the “Survey of Lawyers’ Trusts for Clients Security,” a 2008-2010 ABA study, there were about 8,000 filings for reimbursement to state protection funds in 2010. This amounts to less than 1% of the whole. Because not all sufferers seek compensation from official sources, the real percentage is slightly greater.

Your lawyer, unlike other occupations, has authority to and is the sole protector of your assets. Some lawyers, unlike other lawyers who operate without regard for others, steal money from their clients’ settlements. The function of the lawyer, not only as an advocate but also as a court officer, can not fulfill the objective of fairly resolving human conflict and interaction while also strengthening people’s confidence in the judicial process and the credibility of the legal proceedings. 

Lawyers pledge to obey the ethical standards that they promised to maintain at the very beginning of their careers. They pledge to operate to their clients’ greatest advantage. Despite the sheer number of lawyers, the percentage of those who refuse to fulfill their responsibilities is quite minimal. One of the most prevalent reasons lawyers are disbarred is for improper use of client funds. Most people consider their lawyers to have a great experience and proficiency who are there to assist them in resolving their issues rather than creating additional ones that make a troubling situation. However, some dishonest lawyers would take advantage of their clients. They will take a down payment from an escrow account, resolve a personal injury lawsuit underhandedly and grab the payout, or misusing assets from a child’s fund. Subjugated clients can sue their lawyers anytime for compensation, but this can be very costly, and most lawyers are either out of business or have fled.

That is most likely why the New York Ethics code establishes rigorous guidelines for lawyers’ handling of client funds. The Norms of Professional Conduct, which specifically describe how to maintain clients’ funds, clarify these guidelines. The lawyer must operate in a fiduciary capacity, according to the requirements. Client finances must be completely separated from the lawyer’s private or other corporate assets, and lawyers must operate lawfully to their clients’ greatest advantage. Lawyers continue to steal money from their clients’ settlements, notwithstanding the moral code and legal rules.

Lawyer’s stealing money from settlements

Lawyer’s stealing money from settlements

If you were harmed in an accident, the next obvious step is to hire a qualified personal injury lawyer to defend you in trial and pursue the appropriate recompense for your damages, pain, and distress. What you don’t realize is that your terror might be just getting started. And here is an example of a dishonest lawyer who broke his promises to uphold the law and treat his customers fairly.

Prosecutors accuse a disbarred Pennsylvania lawyer of misusing more than $563,000 from a client who was badly wounded in a vehicle accident. In the year 2012, Michael Bradley, a 50-year-old disbarred Warrington lawyer, was charged by Montgomery County District Lawyer Kevin Steele. He is suspected of mixing up insurance settlement monies given to his client Branden Thornton and using them to pay for his own home improvements, trips, plastic surgery, and other potential costs. 

“The plaintiff’s stealing of more than half a million dollars – resources allocated to assisting his client to receive the treatment he required to survive – which he used to pay for lavish products and vacations is not only unlawful but also troubling on a fundamental human aspect,” Steele said during a written statement.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Bradley’s lawyer, William Brennan, has known his client for three decades. “He has been very helpful with this inquiry, and after I’ve had a chance to evaluate the findings in this matter, we’ll figure out how to proceed,” Brennan said. According to Steele’s office, Thornton collected more than $1.1 million after being hit by a car while strolling down a road in Upper Merion, a municipality in southeast Pennsylvania, in September 2012.

Thornton, who was 18 at the time, had a brain hemorrhage that put him in a coma for 3 months, according to the Inquirer. As published in the newspaper, stating an affidavit, once he managed to recover, he required round-the-clock care. According to Steele’s office report, Bradley got $276,250, or 25% of his client’s reward, for his efforts defending Thornton.

Authorities firmly believe Bradley placed money set aside for Thornton’s treatment in his bank and used it to afford college tuition, college loans, and vehicle maintenance, as well as thousands of Amazon orders. One of the Inquirers stated that Bradley spent $10,000 on cosmetic surgery, a new driveway for the lawyer’s house, and trips in Key West. According to Steele’s office, Bradley was suspended or expelled in February 2019 when Thornton’s mom, Tammy Howard, lodged a report with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Office of Supervisory Counsel.

When you Google “lawyers who steal customers’ money,” you will get a lot of results like the above-mentioned case. Clients are frequently unable to retrieve their funds once they have been stolen because the lawyer has been disbarred and is unable to make full reparation. It is for this reason that The Lawyers’ Fund was established.

Seeking reimbursement from 'The Lawyers' Fund'

Seeking reimbursement from ‘The Lawyers’ Fund’

Malpractice insurance probably does not address behavioral intentions. The occupants of a car who perpetrate a drive-by shooting are not covered by car insurance, either. Stealing is a premeditated activity, therefore it is unlikely that the lawyer’s insurance will compensate for it.

You can sue your lawyer if he or she steals your money. However, lawyers who steal because they are needy usually may not have any finances.

You can also lodge a lawsuit with the bar. That might result in the lawyer’s disbarment, as it did for Brett Hartley. It is not certain to keep money in the pockets, just like taking legal action.

There is a silver lining to every cloud. Client security or client safeguard, often known as The Lawyer’s Fund, is available in several states.

The Lawyers’ Fund for Client Security was established to restore people’s faith in the justice system and the legal community by compensating setbacks incurred as a result of professional misconduct by lawyers certified or otherwise given permission to work as a lawyer in the court system of this authority that occurred during the client-lawyer or other contractual relationship between the lawyer and the plaintiff.

The fund compensates those who have lost money or assets as a consequence of a lawyer’s misconduct. These lawyers succeeded in hiding their crimes by trying to make excuses and justifying their delays instead of giving their clients their total settlement amounts.

The fund is funded by a membership fee placed on the 278,000 members of the legal profession in New York State. It is not subsidized by the government. Any plaintiffs who have been unable to receive compensation from their lawyer, the lawyer’s insurance, or any other agency may apply to the program. Over $132 million in compensation awards have been given to eligible clients from 1982. Allegations must always be filed within 2 years of the theft’s detection, and each victim might get up to $400,000 in compensation.

The disciplinary committee receives a likely indication of misconduct if a cheque made on the trust fund is returned unpaid or if a lawyer overdraws on the trust fund. This prompts an inquiry into the lawyer, which begins with their banking practices and client monies management.

Every state does have its own database that is accessible to the general public. The New York court’s webpage, like the US Department of Justice’s, keeps an up-to-date record. All state does have their own set of laws, including monetary limits. If the lawyer fails to offer any “valuable services,” you can recover up to $5,000 in advance costs in Florida State. 

Client infringement is liable to a significantly greater limit, up to $250,000. The fund only gets to pay off once a year and is based on the amount of money in the bank. If there are a lot of accusations in a year, you could only get a fraction of your economic losses.

Contact your local bar or get legal advice if you have queries concerning whether your state has a security management fund. Also, keep it in mind before hiring a lawyer, be sure they are in great academic standing and that their license to work as a lawyer is still active. 

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