A personal injury lawsuit can arise if a person is harmed because of another person’s negligence or purposeful action. Suppose someone is responsible for the harm or injury of another person in a car accident, for example. In that case, their insurance company should pay for the injured person’s medical expenses, their pain and suffering, and ongoing medical expenses.
If someone is formalizing a personal injury case, they can work with a personal injury attorney to do so. It’s much more common that a personal injury case is settled rather than going to court.
With an informal settlement, both parties agree to resolve the situation by paying an amount of money both find agreeable. In a formal lawsuit, there’s usually a plaintiff who files a civil complaint against perhaps another person or, in other cases, a government agency, business, or corporation. In the filing of that formal lawsuit, they are making an allegation that they acted irresponsibly or carelessly, with a connection to the accident or injury causing harm.
There’s a misconception that an attorney is always going to take a potential personal injury case, but that’s not the reality. There are reasons a reputable personal injury attorney won’t take a case, including the following.
1. There’s a Conflict of Interest
An attorney has a duty to ensure they’re putting their client’s interest ahead of other interests. If an attorney has another client and their interests could be in conflict with yours, this then creates a conflict of interest for the legal professional. If an attorney can’t act in the best interests of both clients, they can’t take a case.
One specific example would be if a lawyer were to agree to represent opposing parties who are part of the same case. A lawyer can’t reasonably do this without there being a conflict of interest.
2. Many Cases Aren’t Viable
A small percentage of people who contact personal injury attorneys actually have viable cases.
It’s not personal if an attorney turns you down, but these professionals work on a contingency fee basis. That means the attorney is paid only if they’re successful and they’re fronting client expenses.
The more complex or severe a case, the more expensive it will be. Some of the common mistakes car accident victims make that can hurt their case include failing to seek medical treatment, not gathering evidence at the scene, or admitting fault. In these instances, it may be difficult for an attorney to prove negligence and secure compensation for the client.
A lawyer could turn your case down because they view it as a poor investment for any number of reasons.
- Your injuries aren’t serious. The more serious the injuries, the higher the value of your potential damages. Even if there is a clear situation where negligence was involved, an attorney may not be willing to invest money in your case if they don’t think you’re going to get enough of a return. The value of a case is one of the most important things an attorney will look at as they decide whether or not to take it.
- It’s too hard to prove fault. Even if you have severe injuries that could represent a high value, if it’s too hard to prove fault, an attorney may feel you don’t have a case. You have to show the damages you sustained were caused by another person’s negligence, and this may not be possible.
- The defendant has no money. Even if there’s a strong case, if a defendant doesn’t have the money to pay your compensation, the case may not be worth the investment in the opinion of an attorney. If someone harms you, but they don’t have the money and assets to pay your judgment, you can’t collect. You would typically collect the judgment from the insurance company of the defendant, but if they don’t have insurance and they have no assets, the case is, once again, a potentially bad investment.
3. You’re Partially At Fault
If you were hurt because of an accident, and you are partially at fault, you have shared negligence in some states, so you might receive less compensation. Texas is an example. Texas is a modified comparative fault state, so the amount of money you’re able to recover is reduced based on the percentage you’re considered at fault.
If you’re more than 50% at fault in Texas, you’re prevented from receiving compensation, so in this situation, a personal injury attorney may decline your case.
Even if you’re less than 50% at fault, an attorney might still not take your case because the value of your claim is dropping by your percentage of fault.
4. Lack of Expertise
If you hear about a lawyer because of a personal recommendation or referral, you might go to them about your case only to have them tell you no. In the event that this happens, it could be due to the attorney’s lack of experience or personal expertise in the area of your case.
Even if you talk to a personal injury attorney, your specific case type could be outside their area of expertise.
5. You’ve Missed the Statute of Limitations
In personal injury cases, you have to adhere to the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is a period that begins once you discover your injury or you’re injured if you’re the plaintiff. You have to find someone to represent you within this timeframe. Once you start your lawsuit, you’re no longer limited by the statute of limitations.
State law determines the statute of limitations, and it can vary depending on the injury type. In Texas, the statute of limitations for injuries is two years. However, that changes for damages from libel or slander to one year.
If a lawyer turns your case down, that doesn’t mean that another lawyer won’t take it. It’s a good idea to ask the attorney why they’re turning you down. If it’s something like not having the expertise, being too busy, or a conflict of interest, another lawyer will likely take your case. If they don’t think you have a strong enough case or that your injuries are severe enough, it’s probably going to be harder to find a qualified attorney to take your case.