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Find out what makes an attorney likely to turn down your accident or injury case
You will want to interview a few different personal injury lawyers before you decide which attorney to hire. Don't be discouraged if the first lawyer turns down or refuses your case.
Just as you are evaluating the attorney, he or she is also evaluating your personal injury case's potential, as well as their costs and ability to represent you well. There may be other factors unrelated to your injury or accident, also.
Even years after an accident, some people whose cases were turned down by an attorney may never have fully understood why. It may be any number of these factors at play.
If you're facing a potential personal injury lawsuit, find out ahead of time the factors that are important to lawyers and evaluate your case potential through the eyes of those who may accept or decline to represent you.
Why Might a Personal Injury Lawyer Decline My Case?
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Difficulty establishing liability
The first issue that the prospective lawyer will look at in any given case is the issue of liability.
Just because someone was injured does not mean that someone else is legally required to pay for these injuries. If the victim is responsible for his or her own injuries, there will be no recovery. A lawyer evaluates a case and determines which parties may bear responsibility for the accident.
If another party is not legally responsible for the accident, the case will be denied.
Inadequate amount of damages
The amount of money that a personal injury case can be awarded is based on the damages that the plaintiff (the person injured) suffers.
Damages may include property damage, medical expenses, lost time from work, lost earning capacity, mental anguish and pain and suffering.
An attorney must be able to justify taking the time and expending the necessary resources to handle the claim.
This is especially important in personal injury cases because these are usually handled on a contingency fee basis. This means that the lawyer receives a certain percentage of the total settlement or verdict.
If this number is expected to be low, it may not justify a large amount of time expended on the case.
Limited resources of the defendant
A personal injury lawyer may also reject a case if he or she believes that the defendant (the person to be sued) does not have the proper resources to pay the claim.
In most personal injury cases, insurance coverage is available to help pay for the damages that the victim sustains.
However, in some situations, insurance coverage may be denied or a private party may not have insurance coverage that applies.
In that case, the defendant's resources will need to be tapped into in order to collect on the eventual settlement or judgment.
If a defendant is financially unable to pay for the damages that he or she is responsible for, the lawyer may not receive his or her agreed upon fees.
Likewise, if the lawyer believes that there will be difficulty collecting on the judgment for a reason such as most of the defendant's resources are tied up in legally separate entities or corporations, he or she may be unwilling to take the risk of pursuing the case.
Expense of the case
Because most personal injury cases are taken on a contingency fee basis, this means that the lawyer may invest a significant amount of time in a case with no guarantee that he or she will be paid for his or her time.
The attorney will be paid for his or her time only when he or she collects on the judgment.
A lawyer handling a case with a contingency fee may also pay for some of the expenses associated with the case. If the case goes to trial, this can mean that the lawyer pays to take depositions, to copy documents for discovery, copy documents that will be used as evidence, prepare exhibits, pay medical experts and pay other experts to provide valuable information about the case.
If these expenses are too much, the lawyer may not be able to afford to handle the case and may decide to reject it.
In contrast, a lawyer may accept those cases that he or she feels confident will compensate for the risk and expenses that the lawyer faces.
Too much time required
A personal injury attorney must analyze how long a case may take.
If the case is expected to take a long time, the lawyer may not receive the money that he or she invests in the case for a long time. He or she may not be able to carry this risk.
Additionally, if the case takes too long, this may not allow the lawyer to be available to take advantage of other cases.
Your case involves a novel Issue
If there is a complex and novel issue involved in a case, the lawyer may not feel that he or she has the necessary experience to properly handle the case.
While research may help make the lawyer competent to handle the legal issue, this may involve another investment of time.
Likewise, if the attorney does not handle the particular type of personal injury case, he or she may decline to handle the case.
Similarly, if the case involves governmental immunity, federal court jurisdiction or other jurisdictional matters, the lawyer may want to avoid the complications that these factors may entail.
Conflict of interest
Attorneys must adhere to a strict set of ethical guidelines. If they violate these guidelines, they can risk losing their professional license. An attorney may reject a client if he or she previously represented the defendant.
If he or she is morally or intellectually at odds, he or she may also perceive a conflict and choose to reject the case.
Poor rapport with client
In some instances, a personal injury attorney may not feel that he or she has good rapport with a particular client. If the attorney feels like the client does not trust him or her, the attorney may simply not take the case rather than face client difficulties down the line.
Other attorneys rejected the client
Sometimes a client who has been rejected by previous attorneys may raise red flags that a new attorney may want to avoid.
If the client has fired several attorneys, the new lawyer may perceive that the client has difficulty with lawyers. If other attorneys have rejected the client, they may have perceived some problem with the case and may avoid accepting the client.
Statute of limitations has expired
An important reason why a personal injury attorney may reject a client is when the relevant statute of limitations has expired.
Even if the client had a good case, the expiration of the statute of limitations bars the client from proceeding with the case.
See our guide Choosing a personal injury attorney.