Being injured in a car accident or other type of negligent incident can be devastating, and getting legal help for your injuries after an accident is not always an easy process. Finding a reputable personal injury law firm can be a challenge to some accident victims, and communicating the facts and important details about the case can be difficult for non-attorneys who have a limited understanding of how the legal process works.
If you have called several attorneys’ offices, spoken to lawyers or their paralegals, and all have rejected your personal injury case you may be asking yourself, “Why won’t any attorney take my case?”
Below is a list of the more common reasons that a personal injury attorney might decline or refuse to take on your case.
9 Possible Reasons Why Lawyers Will Decline A Case
Of course, we cannot speak to the exact reason that a different attorney has declined to take on your personal injury case. But we can tell you some of the reasons that a law firm might typically decline to accept your case. Some of these reasons include:
1. Outside of Practice Area
Lawyers typically don’t take cases in which they have no experience. It's beneficial to you that they turned down your case. A good attorney knows his limitations. If there is another lawyer that has successfully handled cases similar to yours then an attorney may refer you to that lawyer rather than take on your case.
2. Time Limitations
Some law firms get hundreds of calls every month from people that have been injured because of someone else’s negligence. Firms with a high call volume must evaluate a lot of cases to determine how they can be most effective and do the most good.
3. Low Damages, Harms or Losses
If you were involved in an accident but only suffered minor injuries (i.e. scrapes and bruises) you may not benefit from hiring a lawyer for your case. In most cases, it is not beneficial for an accident victim with a low level of damages to pay for an attorney to represent them due to the cost of hiring a lawyer.
4. Legal Costs
Any compensation you receive might be eclipsed by legal fees created by your case. Legal expenses (such as court filing fees, expert opinions, and medical record costs) may be more than what you can expect to receive in a settlement or court award. If the claim is small, then the expected recovery will be eaten up by attorney fees and expenses. Often times the expenses of a case can run into the thousands of dollars. If the expected value of the case is not high enough to justify the expenses, then most of the client's recovery will go to pay the attorney's fees and expenses. Many law firms will not accept a case where most of the settlement will be used to pay the attorney fees and expenses.
Serious accident cases can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees and thousands in costs. Contingent fee cases won't be taken unless the claim is very strong and the damages are signficant enough to justify the costs.
5. Liability Questions
Most injury attorneys will only take on cases where it's clear that the injury victim is not in any way at-fault for the accident. Attorneys have a serious obligation to evaluate all their client's claims to ensure there is legitimate evidence or a reasonable likelihood that evidence will be found supporting the claims. If the attorney does not, both you and your attorney may be sanctioned by a court for filing a frivolous lawsuit.
6. Little or No Medical Treatment
In a typical personal injury case, your medical records and medical bills are the proof of your injuries. Even if you have injuries but have not seen a physician, have not made all of your necessary medical visits and appointments, or documentation of medical treatment is unavailable, an attorney may have a difficult time handling the claim. All legal claims require supporting evidence in order to prove the claim, and in personal injury claims, medical records are one of the most important pieces of evidence.
7. Lack of Insurance Coverage
There won't be a realistic means to compensate you for your damages if the person who injured you does not have insurance or if you do not have uninsured/underinsured coverage. People of limited means don’t have the money to pay a judgment and most would most likely file for bankruptcy to avoid paying.
8. Conflict of Interest
An attorney is unlikely to accept a personal injury case in which his own interests would interfere with his ability to properly attend to your case (for example, if his or her family member were the at-fault driver in your case).
Another example might involve you calling an attorney’s office because you have a potential medical malpractice claim against a doctor, let's call him Dr. Jones. If the attorney has a client that is receiving treatment from Dr. Jones and/or Dr. Jones will be acting as a medical expert in another case handled by the firm, ethically the attorney cannot accept your case as his relationship and communications with Dr. Jones could be detrimental to either your case or that of the other client. An honest attorney will not take your case.
9. Out of State
If you were injured in Washington State you should find a Washington personal injury attorney to take your case. If you call an attorney that is located in another state he may not be able to help you unless he or another attorney in his firm is licensed in Washington.
Don't Give Up - Get A Second Opinion
If you were injured in an accident that was not your fault, have received proper medical treatment and have supporting documentation that can be used to validate the injury claim, and know your case has merit, then you should not be discouraged by attorneys' decisions to decline your case.
It's very important to understand that just because one lawyer or law firm declines your case for any of the below reasons, there is a chance that another attorney would have a different perspective. It is always a good idea to get a second opinion about your case even if it has been declined by another law firm.