There’s an unfortunate misconception in personal injury law that attorneys who specialize in this area will take any case that crosses their desk.
The reality is that personal injury lawyers are very picky about the cases they take because whether or not they get paid depends on it.
There are certain reasons that personal injury attorneys turn cases down, and we’ll detail those below and explain a bit more about this area of the law.
Understanding What Personal Injury Lawyers Do
Personal injury lawyers represent individuals who have been hurt, usually in an accident, and because of the actions or inactions of someone else.
These professionals work in tort law, which includes negligent and intentional acts. Personal injury lawyers work to pursue compensation for their clients who are accident victims.
Personal injury cases may involve car, truck, and motorcycle accidents. They can also include pedestrian, boating, bike, and mass transportation accidents, as well as premises liability like slip and fall accidents. Medical malpractice is part of personal injury, and nursing home abuse and construction accidents are also part of this broad umbrella.
When someone is hurt, they might be entitled to receive compensation for the damages they’re suffering as a result. These damages can include medical expenses, loss of income and earning capacity, pain, and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and more.
When someone hires a personal injury attorney, that person will investigate claims, gather evidence and negotiate with the insurance company on their behalf. They’ll also prepare pleadings if the insurance company won’t come to a fair settlement and begin the discovery process if the case is going to trial.
While the vast majority of personal injury cases don’t go to trial, when one does, an attorney will represent you.
How Personal Injury Attorneys Are Paid
Personal injury attorneys work differently than a lot of other types of lawyers.
They’re paid on a contingency fee basis. This means that when you hire someone to represent you in a personal injury case, you don’t pay them upfront. You also don’t pay them hourly. Instead, you pay them when your case is settled, or you receive a judgment if it goes to trial.
The overwhelming majority of personal injury attorneys aren’t paid if they don’t recover compensation.
They’ll usually take 1/3 of whatever your settlement or judgment amount is, plus any expenses.
This leads to why these attorneys have to be especially particular about the cases they take on. If they take on a case that has very little chance of recovering compensation, or it’s not going to be enough to make it worth their time, an attorney won’t take it.
In other legal situations, if an attorney is paid hourly or works in a similar way, they’re paid no matter the outcome of the case, so they don’t necessarily have to be as picky when deciding which clients they’ll work with.
So why, exactly, would a personal injury turn down a case?
Key Reasons Personal Injury Attorneys Won’t Take a Case
The following are some of the potential reasons for a personal injury attorney to turn down a case:
- The statute of limitations expired: This is entirely out of the control of the attorney when this happens. Every state has a statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is a deadline within which you have to file claims and lawsuits. If you don’t file a lawsuit before this time is up, you no longer have the legal right to pursue a claim. Even if the statute of limitations hasn’t expired yet, but it’s close, a personal injury attorney might turn a case down because they feel they wouldn’t have enough time to prepare.
- Conflict of interest: Sometimes, the reason a personal injury attorney will turn down a case has nothing to do with the case’s merits. They might turn it down because of a conflict of interest. Attorneys have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of each of their clients and it would be unethical for an attorney to take a case when there’s a conflict of interest. A conflict of interest can be anything preventing a lawyer from appropriately representing a client.
- Minimal damages: Within the realm of personal injury law, in particular, an attorney might turn down a case because the value of the damages wouldn’t be a justification for the required work. This goes back to the fact that these attorneys work on a contingency fee basis. The fee of a lawyer is based on how much they can recover for their client, and the more money recovered, the more the attorney earns. If the value of any damages is too low, the lawyer might not take the case because they wouldn’t be adequately paid for their time.
- Lack of evidence: In personal injury law, most cases are negligence claims. Negligence is the failure to behave with reasonable care to avoid causing injuries or death to another person. The burden of proof is on the plaintiff, who is the person injured. If an attorney feels it’s not going to be possible to prove all of the legal elements of a claim, then they aren’t going to be able to recover compensation, so they might turn your case down.
Other reasons for turning down a case include the following:
- The lawyer doesn’t feel they have the skills or expertise to take on your particular case.
- You withhold information or lie to the attorney.
- The attorney might not handle the type of personal injury law that applies to your case.
- The person may not have enough time because of other cases and their current workload.
- The case is too complex.
If you’re turned down by an attorney, it’s important to ask them why. There are certain reasons that could indicate no one is going to take your case, such as low potential damages. Then, there are other situations that are personal to the attorney, like a conflict of interest or their existing workload. In these cases, it’s worthwhile to talk to other attorneys who might be able to take your case.
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