Hiring a personal injury lawyer typically is not as easy as calling the first one you find online, getting an appointment, and receiving an offer for representation. Many personal injury firms only take a limited number of clients to better focus their attention on each case. Others look for specific things in cases they take, such as serious injuries only. If you are having trouble getting a lawyer to take your case, one of these reasons could be why.
1. No Apparent Breach of Duty
Almost all personal injury claims center on the legal concept of negligence. For a victim to be eligible for compensation, someone else must have negligently caused the accident. There must be one or more parties that owed a duty of care to the plaintiff based on a special relationship, such as doctor-patient or manufacturer-consumer, at the time of the incident. There also must be evidence of a breach of duty, or someone’s failure to fulfill the standards of care.
It is unfortunately not enough that something bad happened, or that you suffered severe injuries. To have grounds for a case – and for an injury lawyer to take your case – your incident must involve one or more parties who breached a duty of care to you, and by extension caused your accident. If a lawyer reviews your case and cannot identify a probable defendant, he or she likely will not take your case.
2. Injuries Are Too Minor
Personal injuries must be relatively serious for them to be worth the time, money, and effort of filing a claim. Otherwise, a plaintiff could lose more money than his/her injuries are worth in legal fees and court costs. Claimants can often file minor injury claims (those worth less than $10,000) on their own, without help from a lawyer. While some lawyers will take small claim cases, most set a bar as to how severe a client’s injuries must be, or how great the incident must have impacted the client’s life.
It does not matter if someone else’s negligence almost killed you or could have caused more serious injuries. The courts will only look at the actual damages the victim suffered. If you did not suffer serious injuries or any injury at all, a lawyer likely will not take your claim. For example, if a defective teapot cracked and almost burned you, but you did not actually suffer any burn injuries, you could not bring an injury claim against the teapot manufacturer. Speculative damages will not help you secure an attorney.
3. Expired Statute of Limitations
You may have all the elements of a strong personal injury claim, but if you have waited past your deadline, you will not find an attorney to take your case. In California, the statute of limitations to file a personal injury claim is two years from the date of injury or one year from the date of injury discovery. If your claim is against the government, you have just six months to file a claim with the allegedly at-fault agency.
Missing your deadline almost always means the courts will refuse to hear your case. Attorneys know this and generally will not accept a case with an expired statute of limitations. It is worthwhile to ask a lawyer about your case if you are unsure, however, since the courts will make exceptions in some circumstances. Cases involving mesothelioma, for example, may have longer deadlines since it can take decades after initial asbestos exposure for tumors to develop. Criminal cases may also have extended deadlines.
4. Heavy Caseload
If an attorney rejects your case, it could just be that the firm or lawyer has already taken on its maximum number of clients for the time being. Smaller firms must especially limit the number of clients they accept at once. Ask the lawyer the reason for his or her denial of your case. Most lawyers will be forthright with their reasoning and may give you referrals for other attorneys better suited for your case. Speak with more than one lawyer about your case before giving up.