12 Reasons Why a Personal Injury Attorney May Not Accept Your Case
When you’re an injury victim — regardless of the details pertaining to the injury in question — having a personal injury attorney decline to accept your case can be a demoralizing experience. Many personal injury attorneys do their best to assist clients whenever possible. However, some mitigating factors can exclude your case from being eligible for a lawsuit, or can compel an attorney to simply decline your case outright.
Of course, different personal injury attorneys can view individual cases from varying perspectives. Hence, while one personal injury attorney may deny your case, another might just as readily accept it. If you’re seeking to file a personal injury lawsuit, here are some considerations that may impact whether or not an attorney will agree to represent you:
12 reasons why a personal injury lawyer may decline your case:
(1) The accident does not qualify as an instance of personal injury:
An instance of a personal injury (or committing a tort violation) is defined as an injury which occurs due to someone else’s fault, negligence, or intentional harm. When you first consult with a personal injury attorney, one of the first steps they will take is to evaluate the circumstances pertaining to your accident and whether or not it was due to any negligence or an intentional act on the part of an at-fault party.
Proving fault by an individual is one of the key issues in a personal injury case. If a personal injury lawyer deems the task of proving fault to be unlikely or impossible, they may decline the case.
(2) Not economically viable:
The primary reason for filing a personal injury lawsuit is to secure the victim financial compensation for losses incurred due to the accident. Such losses can include the cost of medical treatment, lost wages, and any pain & suffering related to the accident.
Personal injury lawyers primarily work on a contingency basis. This entails clients paying their attorney no money up front. Rather, personal injury attorneys will receive a percentage of the total awarded compensation. When considering personal injury cases, attorneys will evaluate the facts of the accident and consider how much out-of-pocket costs they will likely incur against the potential value of a settlement award.
(3) Too Much Exposure:
With social media, the risk of legal exposure is much more significant today than ever before. While we’re all aware that any information posted on the internet is forever public, some accident victims fail to realize that anything they post — specifically on social media channels — can be used against them in their personal injury case.
The opposing counsel in your lawsuit will investigate your social media postings from the time of the accident. Pictures that contradict the severity of a claimed injury have the potential to completely change the dynamics of your case. As an example, if you are involved in a car accident and are claiming a spinal injury that has dramatically affected your mobility and way of life, and then proceed to post a picture of yourself playing basketball on social media, your case essentially becomes untenable for your personal injury attorney.
(4) You share partial fault for the accident:
Under California’s Comparative Fault Law, a plaintiff injured in an accident can recover some damages, even if they are partly to blame for the accident. This law predominantly applies to personal injury cases. The most common types of accidents involving comparative fault claims include:
- Car accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Premises liability incidents
- Slip and fall accidents
- Product liability injuries
- Medical malpractice incidents
Determining the extent to which you are partially at fault for the accident can be a deciding factor as to whether or not a personal injury attorney will accept your case.
(5) Your accident occurred out of state:
It is recommended that you seek out a personal injury attorney who is based near your home location, but where your accident occurred can affect whether or not a personal injury attorney will (or actually can) accept your case. Where an attorney is licensed to practice (i.e. the specific states in which they are accredited by the American Bar Association) will determine whether or not they can accept your case in correlation with where the accident occurred. If the attorney is not licensed in the state where the accident occurred, they obviously will be unable to take on the case.
Additionally, even if the personal injury attorney is licensed to practice in the state where the accident occurred, where they are headquartered can affect whether or not they will accept your case. As an example, if a personal injury attorney is licensed in both California and New York, but their main offices are located in California — and the accident took place in New York — they will have to consider not only the potential travel expenses but the amount of time that could be involved in flying across the country to gather witness statements, take depositions, etc.
(6) You did not meet the statute of limitations pertaining to your accident:
You may have an excellent claim for a case that could potentially lead to a major settlement. However, if you fail to file a claim before the statute of limitations expires, a personal injury attorney has no choice but to decline your case.
Statutes of limitations for personal injury claims vary by state, so it is extremely important that you research and confirm the statute of limitations for personal injury claims in your specific state. In California, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of the injury. In states such as Florida, the statute of limitations is four years.
When you are the victim of a personal injury accident it is imperative that you contact an attorney as soon as possible following the incident. Even if the statute of limitations has yet to expire, but a considerable amount of time has passed from the time the accident occurred to the time you actually contacted a personal injury attorney, delaying that initial contact can make your case more difficult to win.
As time passes, evidence corroborating your claim becomes more difficult to obtain and verify. Witnesses often forget facts related to the incident after many years. Moreover, if you have recovered from your injuries (or if you neglected to seek proper medical care following your accident which led to further complications from your injury) it can make proving your case for damages before a jury much more difficult.
(7) Your case includes a conflict of interest:
If an attorney has a history of working with the at-fault party you wish to sue, or has a close relationship with said party, such a conflict of interest can prevent them from accepting your case.
As a general rule, personal injury attorneys reject such cases representing conflicts of interest citing ethical reasons.
(8) The attorney does not have experience or specialize in a case like yours:
Personal Injury law spans a wide variety of subsets: from sexual abuse, to car accidents, to medical malpractice, to libel, to product liability, and much more. Hence, one shouldn’t assume that all personal injury attorneys handle all subsets of personal injury law (i.e. your specific type of accident). For example, one particular personal injury attorney may specialize in medical malpractice cases, but have no experience with product liability cases, and therefore reject all related inquiries.
(9) Suing a government entity:
When filing a case against a government entity there are two issues for consideration:
Firstly, every state as well as the federal government operates under their own particular set of rules within the Tort Claims Act. The Tort Claims Act determines whether one can or cannot sue a state for their specific type of claim. If the Tort Claims Act does not permit your case, a personal injury attorney is left without the option to take your claim to trial or even attempt to negotiate a settlement.
Secondly, the Tort Claims Act sets caps on the amount of compensation for damages in specific types of accidents. Said caps vary from state-to-state and can also differ depending on which branch of government you intend to sue, be it a local or state entity.
For these specific government lawsuits, a personal injury attorney will consult the rules under the Tort Claims Act to determine any caps on damages that might preclude them from accepting your case.
(10) Pre-existing condition similar to any injuries you may have sustained:
Pre-existing medical conditions that are similar to an injury you may have sustained via an accident (e.g. a previous accident that limited your range of motion in one leg and a subsequent car accident that broke that same leg) can make a case for damages difficult to prove before a jury. The plaintiff bears the burden of proof and must convince the jury that any preexisting condition is unrelated to the injury sustained in the accident, and that the new injury warranted medical care that was previously not required.
Meeting that burden of proof can increase a personal injury attorney’s expenses in cases where expert witness testimony is necessary to prove the injury is not related to a pre-existing condition. Unfortunately, factoring in such additional expenses may cause a personal injury attorney to ultimately decline your case.
(11) The client is not a strong witness:
Witness credibility is of utmost importance in any personal injury lawsuit. A jury must find the accident victim to be honest and, though unfortunate as it may be, it also helps if they consider them to be likeable or personable. A client that is perceived as hostile or dishonest can sink a personal injury lawsuit on the first day of said client’s testimony.
Although personal injury attorneys always prep and provide guidance to clients before taking the stand, some are simply unable to articulate the details of their accident (the pain & suffering sustained, the facts of the accident, etc.) in a way that juries perceive as honest and forthright.
Moreover, clients with previous criminal records or prior convictions can cause jury members to ascribe (albeit unfairly) negative connotations to the client and their overall perception of him or her. Experienced personal injury attorneys will always consider a client’s credibility and past history before accepting a case.
(12) The personal injury attorney cites personal reasons:
In some cases, a personal injury attorney will decline a case due to their personal convictions or values. As an example, if an attorney suspects a client is motivated to file a lawsuit on account of revenge against the defendant, they may decline the case outright.
Furthermore, a personal injury may consider the facts of the accident to simply be unseemly, and perceive the client’s values as conflicting with their own. As an example, if a potential client is involved in an altercation at a bar and sustains a serious injury, but also has a history of involvement in such incidents and is suspected of initiating the conflict, a personal injury attorney may deem the case to be incompatible with their convictions or values.
What can I do to increase the chances that an attorney will accept my case?
It is always advisable to contact a personal injury attorney immediately following an accident. It’s also helpful if you’ve documented evidence to support your claim and have maintained meticulous records related to any injuries that required medical care.
Perhaps most importantly, however, is the notion of presenting an honest and legitimate case for an attorney to consider. If you are truly the victim of an accident that warrants a personal injury lawsuit, you should be confident that by being honest and presenting all the facts accurately and in a timely manner, a personal injury attorney will likely accept your case. Moreover, if they are inexperienced in representing clients with your specific type of injury, they will likely refer you to another attorney with such experience who will accept your case.