A personal injury case can be financially and emotionally draining. When someone is at fault for causing you harm, it can be difficult to know where to turn. Lawsuits are complicated. The process can be costly and time-consuming for everyone involved. However, with the help of a qualified attorney, you may be able to get your medical bills paid and be awarded additional amounts for any pain and suffering that was caused.
But, not all attorneys may be willing to take your case. While this decision could be due to your lawsuit being considered unwinnable, this is not the only grounds a lawyer has for turning a potential client away. The particular attorney may just not be a good match, or there may be other reasons involved.
Conflict of Interest
Lawyers are bound to follow what are known as conflict of interest rules. These rules specify that an attorney cannot represent someone if there is a chance that a previous client of the attorney would be a party to the lawsuit. In other words, if the person that caused you harm had prior dealings with your attorney, it would be considered a conflict for that attorney to take your case.
If this is the reason that the attorney declined your case, it has nothing to do with the strength of your potential lawsuit and you should consider speaking with another attorney.
It Does Not Qualify as a Personal Injury Case
Personal injury lawsuits are considered a specialized area of practice for attorneys. This means that the lawyers that practice this law must be qualified to pursue cases that deal with damage to a person, such as car accidents, emotional distress, assault and battery, and wrongful death.
This differs greatly from other areas of the law, such as estate planning and criminal defense. Further, even attorneys that handle certain types of injuries, such as medical malpractice and defective products, may not have the expertise to handle other personal injury matters.
You’ve Talked to Too Many Attorneys
Generally speaking, it is never a bad idea to get a second opinion on the strength of your case. However, if you are repeatedly turned down by lawyer after lawyer, it can be a red flag to a personal injury attorney.
This can lead to the assumption that your case is lacking in some way. One way your case may not be strong is due to limited evidence. In personal injury matters, while each lawsuit is unique, an attorney needs to have some form of corroborating witness testimony, documents, and/or photographs/video in order to prove the case. Your word over another person’s may not be sufficient.
Likewise, even if you have strong evidence, it may be that the potential payment for winning your case is too low. For example, if there is no insurance company involved, the person that injured you may not have enough money to pay the judgment you are owed. This is referred to as being “judgment proof,” and could lead to an attorney declining your case.
Note that personal injury lawyers typically take these cases on what is known as a “contingency” basis. This means that they front all of the costs of the lawsuit up front with the expectation that they will recoup this money through either a settlement or court award. As opposed to the certainty of an hourly fee, contingency cases require an attorney to perform a thorough risk assessment before taking a case.
Too Much Time Has Passed
It is important to note that personal injury cases are subject to the applicable statute of limitations. A statute of limitations is a law that specifies the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit. This is to ensure that someone that may need to defend a lawsuit is able to maintain evidence that they would need for their defense.
In California, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of the injury. However, there is an exception to this rule which applies in cases where the injury was not “discovered” right away. In these cases, you would have one year from the date of discovery. While this is rare in personal injury matters, an example would be the finding of toxic materials, such as asbestos, in your house years after it was left.
Bear in mind that it is important to pursue your lawsuit as soon as possible, even if the statute of limitations is not in danger of expiring. This is because witnesses’ memories fade and evidence gets lost or more difficult to track down. Attorneys may be less willing to pursue a lawsuit for these reasons, and it could be a reason why your case gets declined. For that reason, it is important to speak with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after an accident.