This is actually three questions.
The first question is whether the lawyer has the power to reach an agreement to settle the lawsuit – to agree with the other side that the case is over if they pay you a certain sum of money – that will be enforced by the court. This depends heavily on the communications between you, the lawyer, and whoever was negotiating on behalf of the other side.
Normally an attorney does have the authority to speak for his client, and to enter into certain agreements on a client’s behalf; but as a practical matter, judges don’t like to enforce a settlement agreement unless there is substantial evidence – such as a document signed by all affected persons – that both sides agreed to the terms.
The second question is whether a lawyer who has entered into a binding settlement on behalf of his client without permission can be successfully sued by his client. In other words, can his client recover damages from the lawyer in a separate lawsuit for legal malpractice.
The answer is yes, if the client can prove the damages. For instance, if the lawyer settled the lawsuit without the client’s permission for $10,000.00, and it was really worth $25,000, theoretically the client can recover a judgment for up to $15,000 against the lawyer.
The third question is whether the lawyer can be disciplined by the Ohio Supreme Court if he settles a lawsuit without the client’s permission. The answer is yes.
Good attorneys make it a point to discuss the terms of a settlement with a client before advising the other side that there is a deal. In fact, it’s required.
Sometimes the attorney will tell the client that he is trying to settle the case within a certain range, and ask the client for permission to accept any offer that is higher than the low end of the range.
For instance, if I thought that $10,000 was a good settlement, but that the insurance company might pay as much as $15,000, I would share both numbers with the client, and would then ask for permission to accept any offer higher than $10,000. I would then try to get as much as I could get from the insurance company.
I personally like to discuss with my client the net that she will recover after deduction of my fee and other expenses before submitting a demand to the other side.
I have been a lawyer over 30 years. Every time I settle a lawsuit, I make sure my client knows what the terms of the settlement are. If you’re worried you might not receive the full benefit of your lawsuit, speak with an experienced Cincinnati Injury Lawyer – call me, William Strubbe, at 513-621-4775 in Cincinnati.
Because all situations are different, and because there may be other facts pertaining to your case that I don’t know about, you should not rely on this answer for legal advice. I am not your attorney, and no lawyer client relationship has been formed.