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If the lawyer entered into a written agreement with you that he would not take a fee for helping you settle the claim, then he cannot claim a fee now and if he demands a fee, you must remind him that the written agreement you have with him states that he will not charge you a fee.
However, if the lawyer's promise not to charge you a fee for negotiating a settlement for you is not in writing, but was only a verbal promise, it will be difficult for you to prove that he promised not to charge you a fee.
It is also important to keep in mind that if he has been negotiating with the insurance company all of this time, the insurance company will be unwilling to issue a settlement check without his name on it. You can call the insurance company and speak to the representative with whom the lawyer has been dealing and instruct him to issue a check without the lawyer's name on it and see what his response will be. If the insurance company issues a check with only your name on it and the lawyer does not get paid anything, he will probably want to sue you for his fee. I do not want to upset you, but I feel it is my obligation to let you know this so that it does not come as a surprise to you, if he does decide to sue you.
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Best Wishes for a happy, healthy New Year, 2011
ANDREA, JD, LLM
MEMBER, NY & PA BAR
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