You’ve been injured in an accident. You think you have a good case. Your friends tell you there’s a good case and urge you to hire a lawyer right away. You call a few lawyers but no one wants to take your case. You are frustrated. You think the lawyers somehow are conspiring against you.
If your case is rejected, don’t take it personally. Lawyers are professionals but also businessmen. While they want to help people, they also have to consider the bottom line. Will the case result in a fee for me that will justify my time and effort? If no lawyer wants to take your case, the answer to that question is an obvious “no.”
What makes a case a bad case? Basically it all boils down to three factors:
1. Liability problems
2. Damages problems
3. Insurance problems
Liability refers to fault or negligence. If a lawyer can’t prove that someone or something is responsible for your injury, it doesn’t matter how serious your injury is.
Damages refers to the injury or loss you suffered as a result of someone’s negligence. Usually damages are the monetary recovery from the negligent (at fault) party or, more accurately, his or her insurance company. “Compensatory” damages, as they are called, can include pain and suffering, medical bills, lost income, emotional distress and property loss.
This is where most cases fail and it is undoubtedly one of the hardest things for many accident victims to understand. If there is a case with clear liability (found a hair in my soup) but no damages, no lawyer who knows what he’s doing can afford to take that case. Personal Injury lawyers work on a “contingency fee” basis. They get paid a percentage of the settlement amount. They just can’t afford to take cases without significant damages.
Insurance problems refers to when a negligent party lacks insurance coverage. Without a way to collect from the defendant, lawyers avoid those cases like the plague. What good is having a client with serious injuries, caused by someone’s negligence, where the lawyer can win the case but can’t collect any money for his client, and hence, earn a fee?
Lawyers will sometimes reject a case where they do not think they can prove negligence at trial. This can be shortsighted, however. I once had a case where a boy was injured in his high school’s shop class. He ended up losing the tip of his middle finger. The mother had spoken with two other lawyers before she contacted me. The reason the other two lawyers rejected the case was because they did not think they could prove any negligence against the school. And they were probably right! But when the mother told me she had been contacted by the school’s insurance carrier, I knew I could do something good for that boy. Because his injury was serious and because the insurance company was one I knew liked to settle cases. I was able to settle the boy’s case for close to six figures within about six months… in spite of the “iffy” negligence against the school.
The moral here is that if one lawyer rejects your case, you should get a second or third opinion. Not all lawyers see cases the same way as you can see from my example. But, if every lawyer is telling you the same thing, there probably is no case worth pursuing. You might, at that point, want to try pursuing a claim on your own if it is a simple matter. Small claims court is usually a good option.
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