It’s frustrating if you’ve taken the time to reach out to a personal injury lawyer about what you think is a solid case only to be turned down. Contrary to popular belief, most personal injury lawyers aren’t “ambulance chasers” trying to take on any and every case. Many reputable firms, including our own, need to carefully consider whether to accept a new client or not. So, we’d like to pull back the curtain a bit and share a few reasons why a personal injury lawyer might not take your case.
First, please know that if we don’t take your case, it doesn’t mean that we don’t care about what happened to you. Far from it! Over the years, we’ve had to turn away potential clients with heartbreaking situations. Second, it’s our belief that an injury lawyer who turns down your case should be clear and honest about why they’re saying no. If you’re not sure why you got a “no,” ask.
In brief, here are 9 reasons why a personal injury lawyer won’t take your case:
We’ll discuss each in the sections that follow.
This might sound obvious, but injury lawyers represent injured victims. In other words, the injury must have been caused by someone else. Even so, finding and proving that the other guy was at fault isn’t always clear-cut.
A lawyer might decline your case if there are concerns about liability, such as:
Every injury case has a deadline for when you can file a claim. In legalese, this is referred to as the “statute of limitations” (or SOL). In the State of Washington, most injury claims have a 3-year statute. However, there are some exceptions that can shorten or extend that limit. If you are beyond the statute, it doesn’t matter how valid your case was, you cannot file a claim.
Sometimes, a lawyer will decline a case if it’s getting too close to the SOL. Often, it takes time to perform discovery to learn the facts about a case and who’s at fault. For that reason, a lawyer may choose to decline your case.
(Side note, this is one reason why it’s important to reach out to a lawyer quickly after you’ve been injured in an accident!)
A lawyer could decline your case because there is a conflict of interest. For example, suppose he is representing another party in the same incident. In this instance, the lawyer has a moral obligation to protect the interests of his client.
If you’ve been told there is a conflict of interest? You may well have success in reaching out to another personal injury lawyer in your area.
Some of the hardest cases we turn down are those where there are simply no funds available to receive a settlement from. To be sure, this can certainly feel unfair if you’re left on the hook for someone else’s carelessness!
For example, suppose you were walking across an intersection when an uninsured driver struck you. Typically, we’d go after the driver’s insurance company to pay for your medical bills, lost wages, pain, and suffering. If there is no policy in place, we may be unable to help. (If you have uninsured motorists’ coverage, this could be a different story.)
Now, it’s possible you could sue the driver directly. Suppose the jury finds in your favor and awards you a settlement. Even if this happens, if the driver lacks financial assets, it’s unlikely you’ll see any money.
A lawyer must be licensed to practice law in the state you are seeking help. If a lawyer turns you down because you’re in a different state, ask for a referral. They may be able to help.
Personal injury is a wide umbrella that encompasses many different types of cases. And not every personal injury lawyer will have experience or skill in handling every case. Some cases, such as product liability, false imprisonment, defamation, or sexual abuse cases, are more niche within injury law.
If the lawyer you spoke with won’t accept your case because it’s not something they feel comfortable with, ask for a referral. Alternatively, do a web search and identify another injury lawyer who mentions your case type on their website. Injury lawyers are generally not shy about highlighting what types of cases they accept. (These may be referred to as “practice areas” on their website.)
A lawyer may decline your case if your injuries are minor. For instance, suppose you were bitten by your neighbor’s cat. You saw your primary care physician who treated the bite in a single visit and prescribed a topical antibiotic. The wound healed with no scars. In this situation, a lawyer might not be keen on accepting your case.
Remember, any case a lawyer accepts will involve time and money on their part. They will want to make sure that any settlement you receive will fairly cover your medical costs, their fees, and address your pain and suffering. If your injuries are minor, you stand to lose money after a lawyer’s fees and medical expenses are paid on a small settlement! No lawyer worth their salt wants that for a client.
It’s possible that you have a very good injury case, but the firm is unable to accept it given their current caseload. When we accept a new client, we carefully consider what’s going on with our current clients. Do we have upcoming trials or arbitrations? Depositions? Did we just take on several new cases we need to begin investigating?
Besides time, there’s money. Most injury firms, including ours, work on a contingency basis. This means that we pay for all the costs related to your case upfront. We’re hedging our bets that we’ll be able to win you a settlement that will help cover our costs at the backend. But certain cases require substantial funds to properly investigate. For instance, medical malpractice cases can quickly run into the tens of thousands of dollars during the discovery process, the part where we’re just trying to learn the facts of what happened. This ultimately means we accept a limited number of these types of cases.
If your case has merit, we recommend reaching out to additional personal injury firms. You may be able to identify one that has the time and resources to assist you.
We’ll try to put this last reason as gently as possible. The attorney-client relationship is one that is likely going to last several months, or possibly, years. If the lawyer gets a sense that you may be difficult to work with, they could turn you away. What are some “red flags,” as far as lawyers are concerned?
Of course, this goes both ways. If you don’t get a good sense about an attorney at your initial consultation, it’s OK to seek another consultation before signing that fee agreement.
There are some steps you could take if a lawyer won’t take your case, and you’d still like to seek justice.
If you have gotten a “no” on your case from another firm and would like to contact us for a second opinion, please fill out the short form on our website or call us.