Like any service business, law firms and lawyers need clients that use their services to continue to operate and earn a living. That said, personal injury lawyers do not agree to represent every prospective client who calls or walks through the door.
So why might an attorney turn away a client who believes they have an injury case? One major reason is that the lawyer believes they cannot win your case. However, this is not the only reason. There are various reasons why a law firm might turn down a case.
Remember that a rejection does not mean you have no legal options. Sometimes, one law firm sees potential in a matter that another does not; so, it can be wise to get a second opinion from another injury attorney. Consultations should always be free, so you have nothing to lose by trying again if one law firm decides not to take your case.
Why Lawyers Do Not Accept Cases They Cannot Win
One of the top concerns of injury victims is whether they can afford an attorney. The good news is that personal injury law firms typically take cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning anyone can afford representation.
A contingency arrangement works differently than flat fees or hourly fees you might pay other types of lawyers.
With a contingency arrangement:
- You pay nothing for a case evaluation and consultation.
- You owe no upfront fees or retainers for the lawyer to begin representing you (should they choose to).
- You do not have to cover the ongoing costs during your case as the law firm advances these expenses.
- You pay your legal fees and expenses from your settlement or award – never from your own pocket.
- You owe no fees or costs if your injury lawyer does not obtain compensation for you.
If your lawyer cannot win compensation for your losses, they do not receive legal fees or cost reimbursement in a true contingency arrangement. The lawyer might spend time and resources working on your claim and walk away with nothing if the case is not successful. Therefore, personal injury attorneys working on contingency evaluate cases very carefully to avoid taking cases they believe are unlikely to be successful or will result in insufficient recovery to justify the cost of handling the case.
Always Let the Lawyer Decide
No one likes rejection especially when you are already dealing with injuries and must navigate the complexities of obtaining compensation in a case. However, never assume you do not have a valid case before a lawyer tells you so. If you suffer injuries caused by another’s negligence or intentional act, it is always worth consulting with an attorney about your rights and options even if you are unsure you have a viable claim.
While a consultation is a chance for you to vet a potential lawyer, it is also their opportunity to vet your case. A lawyer has the skills to review the evidence about what happened in your case, determine the likely case value and make informed predictions about the likelihood of success. Your consultation is when they evaluate your legal rights.
If they advise that they are not taking your case, feel free to ask them why. Then, you can present their reasons to another attorney when you have another consultation.
Below are some reasons why an attorney might believe they cannot win your case and might not agree to represent you.
You Don’t Have a Valid Case to Start
To have a valid case, you must prove that someone else did something legally wrong and the wrongdoing caused your damages. If either element is not present, you do not have a valid personal injury claim.
For example, if you live in a fault-based auto insurance state, such as California, the liable party should cover any injury-related losses they caused. You must prove that another party’s negligence or intentional act caused your injuries. Sometimes negligence is clear, but it can be uncertain in many cases. If your attorney does not believe there is sufficient evidence to prove liability for your losses, they might not think your case is likely to be successful.
Even if someone else is legally responsible for your losses, you must prove you suffered injuries and losses to seek compensation for personal injury. If you only had a few scratches and did not require medical treatment, or the injury is unclear or not the kind of condition likely to result from the incident, proving the event which caused your losses can be too challenging for a lawyer to accept you as a client.
Complications with Your Situation
Some people might demonstrate liability and injuries but other complications may make it too difficult to win a case.
Some circumstances that might cause a lawyer to hesitate include:
- You never sought a medical evaluation or seriously delayed getting a diagnosis and treatment.
- You did not comply with all recommendations from your medical providers.
- Your story does not seem credible.
- You are substantially at fault of the injury causing incident such that the remaining percentage of fault on the other party would be make meaningful recovery in your case unlikely.
These issues can make winning an injury case too challenging or impossible. This is one reason you should always seek legal help immediately after an injury-causing incident. Your lawyer can advise on what to do – or not do – so you do not risk compromising your chances of winning your case or obtaining representation in the first place.
Time Has Run out for Your Claim
Each personal injury case is subject to a statute of limitations – a deadline for filing an injury lawsuit in civil court. The specific deadline will vary depending on your state laws, the type of case, and even the responsible party. Most personal injury cases in California must be filed two years from the injury. But one thing is true for all cases – if the statute of limitations expires, it is usually impossible to win compensation.
Many injury cases require litigation to obtain a fair recovery from the responsible party. If you file your lawsuit past the statute of limitations date, the defendant can request that the court dismiss your case. Outside of rare circumstances, the court will dismiss a case filed after the deadline.
There is no timeline for submitting a personal injury claim for review by an insurance company, but the applicable statute of limitations for starting litigation can still impact how your case is evaluated. Insurance companies know that when the statute of limitations has passed or draws too near, your options can be limited. This can create pressure to resolve your case for whatever, if anything, an insurance company might offer which you can expect to be quite low.
Waiting too long to hire a lawyer causes you to lose leverage and bargaining power to resolve your injury case without litgation. This might lead an attorney to turn down the matter.
Other Reasons a Lawyer Might Not Accept a Personal Injury Case
Even if a case can be won, not every lawyer might be willing to take it on. Below are some additional reasons why a personal injury law firm might pass on a potential case.
They Will Not Make Enough Money
Some injury cases involve minor injuries that lead to small recoveries. Other issues require unusually large cost outlays or extensive resources to win. In either situation, if a lawyer believes the case is not worth their time and money–or the client’s–they might choose to decline representation.
For instance, some car crashes happen due to uninsured motorists or motorists with minimal coverage causing the crash. Even if you win a judgment for your losses, the policy limits might be too low to get what you deserve. Even with uninsured or underinsured (UM/UIM) coverage, there might not be enough coverage available.
If an attorney predicts they will spend more resources to pursue a case than the compensation you will win, the return might be too small – or nothing at all. Law firms invest their own money and resources to seek compensation and they will likely refuse a case that will not have a beneficial return on their investment or cause a client to frustration that after all the effort put into a case the recovery was minimal.
They Want Different Kinds of Cases
Each personal injury attorney has preferences for the types of cases to handle. Some injury lawyers focus on vehicle crash claims while others might enjoy product liability claims. Some law firms do not accept medical malpractice or nursing home cases as these are not areas of injury law they wish to practice.
If you consult with a lawyer who does not prefer your type of case, they might turn it down. However, they also might have a recommendation for a local firm that does handle your type of matter so you should not feel discouraged.
The Firm Lacks the Necessary Resources
Some personal injury claims require more firm resources than others. For example, a commercial truck case often requires more complex and technical evidence than a rear-end collision between two small passenger vehicles. Some claims require extensive expert involvement including expert analysis and testimony. If an injury lawyer does not have the right network of experts or resources to successfully pursue the case, they should not accept it.
For others, the resource the lawyer lacks is time. Perhaps the firm recently accepted several significant cases that require all hands on deck. If the firm does not have time to add to the caseload right now, they might refer your matter to another legal professional.
Conflicts of Interest and Personal Reasons
Lawyers must abide by many ethical rules, including avoiding cases that might present a conflict of interest. For example, if a personal injury attorney realizes that their cousin or good friend is the driver who hit the prospective client, they might have an adverse interest in the matter. Attorneys should know how to identify any possible conflict of interest and reject cases that might put them in an unethical position.
Aside from ethical concerns, an injury attorney might have personal concerns about a particular client or case. During initial phone calls and consultations, the lawyer also decides if they want to represent you. If you seem like you might be challenging to deal with or your motivations for bringing a claim are wrong, they might decline to work with you.
Can You Make Your Injury Case More Desirable for Personal Injury Attorneys?
Often, you cannot help a conflict of interest that you did not even realize existed until your initial consultation. You also cannot alter the facts of your case to create a valid claim. However, in many situations, you can take steps to increase your chances of a lawyer accepting your case.
Gather and Organize Evidence
If you have medical recommendations, diary entries about your pain and suffering levels, logbooks of missed work, or even videos of the crash or your injuries, always present these to a potential attorney in your consultation. If you work to gather as much evidence as possible, a lawyer will see you are serious about the case and will be a good client to work with.
Do Not Have Excessive Expectations
Many people have inflated expectations of what they deserve in an injury claim or regarding their representation. This can be an immediate “red flag” to a lawyer as they might suspect they are dealing with an impossible client who will never be satisfied. Such clients can reject fair settlements and extend the legal process much longer than necessary which law firms do not want.
To manage expectations:
- Lawyers are trained and experienced professionals so trust their opinions.
- Do not expect an attorney to respond immediately whenever you send an email or make a phone call as detailed responses can take time.
- Do not tell the lawyer that you want millions of dollars and will settle for nothing less if your case is not that valuable.
Do Not Wait to Set up Your Free Consultation
As discussed above, timing is important in personal injury claims. If you wait to consult with an injury lawyer, you might make grave errors that jeopardize your case or miss a deadline that eliminates your right to compensation altogether.
Contact local personal injury law firms as soon as you believe you need legal representation following a crash and injuries. By acknowledging that you need professional help early in the process, you can improve your chances of success which often improves the chances a lawyer will accept your case. Reach out to a personal injury lawyer.