You’ve likely heard the stereotypes of personal injury lawyers lurking around in hospital emergency rooms or the scenes of accidents to give their business cards to victims. On the contrary, most personal injury lawyers have to be selective about the cases they take on for several reasons, including their billing method and protecting their time and resources for the clients they can help.
While there is no way to know whether an attorney will take your case, here are five reasons why they say no to some claims.
The Contingent Fee Billing Method
Let’s cut right to the chase: If a personal injury lawyer takes on a case and they lose, they don’t get paid. If they don’t get paid, their legal team doesn’t get paid either. There is no compensation for the time or the resources used in the process of attempting to win the case. If they lose too many cases, they will not stay in business. They don’t take cases they don’t feel they can win.
This billing method used by most personal injury lawyers is called a contingency fee. As explained by the American Bar Association, this method involves the lawyer and the client entering into a contingent fee agreement at the start of the case. This agreement outlines the services that the lawyer and their team will provide and states that payment for these services will be a percentage of the settlement or award received. The attorney’s pay is “contingent” on a settlement or award.
The Attorney Does Not Specialize in That Type of Claim
Personal injury law is a wide field of claims, and different claims can require different procedures or skill sets. Not all personal injury attorneys specialize or have experience in personal injury practice areas. If you’re seeking an attorney who can help you with your medical malpractice claim, you likely will not seek the assistance of an attorney who only works with car accident cases.
Most personal injury attorneys want to help as many injured people as possible and develop a specific skill set needed by their clients. They also don’t want to waste the time of someone they are not in the position to help. If your case involves a practice area they lack experience or interest in, they likely won’t help you.
The Statute of Limitations Has Expired
If an accident has injured you, you only have a limited time to seek compensation through the personal injury claims process. Each state has a statute of limitations or deadline for filing these cases.
For example, in Texas, the statute of limitations on most personal injury claims is two years from when the accident occurred. The statute of limitations sets how long the claimant may file their personal injury suit in court. If the statute of limitations has expired, the claimant can no longer seek compensation for their injury through the court.
Most (95 to 96 percent) of personal injury claims settle outside of court. Why does it matter, then, if the court no longer will allow you to file a lawsuit? Can’t the client’s attorney continue to work on settlement negotiations with the at-fault party’s insurance provider?
Here is the issue: Most personal injury claims begin with a demand to the at-fault party’s insurance provider for the claim’s value. The insurance provider receives the claim and will assign an adjuster.
The adjuster’s job is to investigate the claim and determine how much the insurance company is responsible for paying. Insurance companies are in the business of selling insurance policies to make money, not paying high settlements to those injured by their insured.
In order of preference, the insurance adjuster would like to see:
- A reason to deny the claim
- A reason to reduce the claim
- A claimant who accepts a settlement for less than the value of their claim, as this will stave off the expenses and time involved in litigating the case in court while allowing the insurance provider to have a say in resolving the claim rather than leaving liability and compensation to a judge or jury.
In other words, the two things the insurance adjuster is most trying to avoid are a high payout and litigation. Litigation is an option if the insurance company fails to pay the demand or offers an out-of-court settlement. If you take the threat of litigation away, such as if the statute of limitations expires, you take away any reason for the insurance company to settle the claim.
The Facts of the Case Are Not in Your Favor
Determining liability is not always a simple task of showing one person’s negligence caused another person’s injury. In reality, many accidents feature negligence from multiple parties and can even include negligence on the part of the injured person.
In most states, if a person is partially liable for causing their injury, they can still seek compensation from other at-fault parties. For example, Texas allows personal injury claimants to seek compensation from an at-fault party proportionate to that party’s percentage of fault. If you are more than 50 percent responsible for the accident that caused your injury, you cannot seek compensation from other liable parties.
A personal injury attorney will often decline the opportunity to work on a claim if the person seeking the compensation was clearly more than 50 percent liable for the accident.
The Lawyer Has a Conflict of Interest
A personal injury lawyer owes their client loyalty and independent judgment. There are, however, circumstances in which it is impossible to provide loyalty or independent judgment due to the lawyer’s responsibilities toward another client, past client, or third party.
Some examples of the types of issues that would constitute a conflict of interest:
- The attorney has the potential of being a witness in the case.
- The lawyer is doing business with the client that involves the subject matter of their case.
- The lawyer accepted a gift from a client in exchange for representing the case.
- The lawyer has provided financial assistance to the client.
Talk About Your Claim With a Lawyer
Law firms must make careful decisions when reviewing and accepting new clients. Contact an experienced attorney devoted to helping as many people as possible and find out if a lawyer can take your claim.