Deciding whether to take personal-injury cases are sort of a balancing act for lawyers. If you have a serious injury because of someone else’s fault, and you deserve compensation, an attorney may be very interested in taking your case. But lawyers sometimes refuse to take on cases, and we will discuss five of the most common reasons that they reject them.
First, remember that you should have an attorney review your case as soon as possible for several reasons. A key consideration is the time limit you have for filing a legal claim or lawsuit. If you don’t file a lawsuit within a certain time, which is set by state laws called statutes of limitations, you can lose your right to sue forever.
People have two main questions for a personal injury attorney: “Does my injury qualify as a personal injury?” and “How much is my case worth?”
There are no guaranteed answers to these questions, but there is much to be learned from them.
People who’ve never had to hire a lawyer for a lawsuit or other type of personal-injury proceeding may not realize that it’s not always as routine and easy to hire one as you might think. If you are selective and want to get only the best representation from a great attorney, it can be a more involved process. You should approach selecting a lawyer with the same amount of good judgment as when deciding on a doctor or dentist.
Don’t think that just any lawyer will do. Some will not be right for your personality or your case. You need to hire a lawyer with whom you feel comfortable and have a good, trusting, friendly, professional relationship. It is also paramount in a personal-injury case that your lawyer specialize in personal-injury law.
When you decide to bring a lawsuit and start looking for an attorney, remember that the decision on whether he will take the case is not yours alone. The lawyer also has to decide if you, the potential client, are good for him. A lawyer may have several reasons that he would not take your case. He will have to assess this. The attorney goes through an evaluation process. He will take various factors into account to decide whether he will represent you. His primary concern is whether he has a reasonable expectation that he can prove and win the case.
If a lawyer has a lot of experience in personal-injury law, he has represented many clients in court and in other settings and situations. If the case isn’t a good one, the experienced lawyer will know this. But if you have a lot of factors on your side, it will be easier for the attorney to win the case and get you compensation.
There are five common reasons that an attorney will decide not to take your case. They are:
Reason 1: The accident did not injure your body
A valid personal injury case involves an injury to one’s body, not one’s property. A person who wants to sue needs to have been injured in an accident in which someone else was at fault. The fault could have been through negligence or even intent. Your potential attorney will evaluate the accident, assess your injury and decide whether it occurred under these circumstances.
You could be injured on someone else’s property, in which case you still most prove the defendant was negligent or actually intended to cause you harm. Or, in another type of case, the fault could be with a manufacturer, builder or with some party who failed to prevent the accident if a danger was known or obvious. Your lawyer must be able to prove that the person you are suing was at fault. If it seems too difficult or even impossible to prove fault, the lawyer likely will not take your case.
Reason 2: Your life wasn’t seriously impacted by the injury
If you were in an accident that could have been very harmful or even deadly but you got lucky and weren’t seriously injured, you won’t get compensation. The injury has to be serious enough that it has an emotional and financial impact on your life over the short- or long-term.
But remember, though you may not seem to be injured seriously initially, some injuries can get more serious and complicated over time. You may find that the emotional and financial impacts become greater a while after the initial accident. So it’s a good move to discuss an accident and even minor injuries with a lawyer right away.
A good personal-injury attorney has experience with all of the most common types of injuries from accidents and can give you advice on possible medical treatments and what records to collect to prove your case and win money. But you must act before the statute of limitation expires or no lawyer will take your case. Also, if your injury is obviously not serious, it will appear obviously not serious to both your lawyer and the other side.
Reason 3: You’ve approached several other lawyers
Of course it’s important that you feel comfortable and confident in your attorney. You need not hire the first or even the first few lawyers you approach. But if you seem greedy and you keep rejecting lawyers because you think they won’t try to get more money than you deserve, it may be a red flag. In other words, a good lawyer won’t like it if he knows you’ve spoken to other attorneys with the hope of holding out for a higher cash award than you need to recover and have as good a life as you had before.
Lawyers look at personal-injury lawsuits as opportunities for their clients to get justice and compensation for actual damages. A lawyer will assess your case and your injuries, apply a formula, and seek to win the compensation you need to recover and restore your life as much as possible to how it was before your accident. He will not take your case in an attempt to hit the highest jackpot and make you rich. That said, some injuries are so catastrophic that clients can be awarded very large sums of money.
Remember, your attorney will consider your two most important questions: Do you have a case, and how much compensation can you get? But good lawyers will seek just compensation, not a ticket to mansions, luxury cars and private jets.
Reason 4: A case must be appealing to an attorney financially
Good lawyers spend a lot of time and effort trying to get their injured clients justice and compensation. Of course they want their clients to benefit, but they want to be paid fairly for their time and benefit from the case too. A lawyer evaluates a case and estimates the time it will take and how much out-of-pocket expense there will be to him and his law firm. If it seems likely his and his staff’s time and effort will be worth it, he very well may take your case.
When you bring a lawsuit or negotiation, you are trying to recover money you had to spend because of your injury. Some clients even have to go into debt because of injuries resulting from accidents. Expenses include lost wages, medical treatments and emotional distress. Your lawyer compares these factors in the cost of pursuing your claim vs. the potential cost.
Lawyers who work in the area of personal-injury law usually take cases based on contingency. Whether they get paid to represent you is contingent on if they win the case. If the case is successful, the attorney takes a percentage of your award as compensation. If a lawyer thinks he can’t win, he is not going to take the case because he won’t get paid anything.
When a lawyer declines to take a case because he thinks his pay won’t be sufficient, you the client are unlikely to get a big award either. Candidly ask the attorney if your case is likely to get you worthwhile compensation.
Reason 5: Exposure: if you’ve admitted fault
After you are injured in an accident, there will be a record of some of the things you say and do that could have the potential to hurt your case. Never take the blame at the scene of an auto accident because it will likely be used against you. Do not talk to the insurance adjuster. Insurance adjusters can seem very nice, but they can also be sneaky and dishonest. Let an attorney handle that. If a doctor advises that you need medical treatment, be sure to get it because failure to do so can give your opponent a reason to discredit or minimize the extent or impact of your injuries.
People post so much on social media. They may take photos of the car after an accident and put the photo on Facebook. This creates risk of even more legal exposure than there had been in years before such websites existed.
Attorneys know that almost nothing you put on social media is private. Some people who are injured and want to bring lawsuits tell their followers they aren’t hurt or the accident was minor. Such postings can ruin the chances of winning a personal-injury lawsuit.
Insurance companies will investigate everything they can about the accident. If you post details about it on a social media platform where you may feel a false sense of privacy, the insurance company will surely use it against you if they possibly can.
Experienced personal-injury attorneys are well aware of this. A person may claim to have a serious injury but then go out and play a game of basketball with friends, who then post about how well and hard he played. The attorney he wants to hire will know about such postings and will most likely decline to represent him. They know that the adversarial insurance company would use that type of evidence in a heartbeat.
Just take photos of your injuries and vehicle after the accident. Do not post the photos or make any comments about the case on social media. Even if what you say seems innocuous, something your friends say could damage your case.
Be honest with a lawyer about any exposure. Tell him if you ever admitted fault, negotiated with an insurance company or posted about the injury or accident online. If you aren’t upfront and honest about unwanted exposure and he learns of it later, your lawyer may drop you in mid-case, and you may need a new one.
If you currently have a personal injury case and would like to discuss with one of our experienced attorneys, contact us today for a complimentary consultation.