Why a Personal Injury Lawyer Declines a Case?
People wonder why attorneys will not accept their accident cases. This article is written to give a brief overview of the issue. After someone has been injured, they may believe they have a case but cannot find an attorney to accept it.
Finding legal help is often tougher than one thinks. To help you understand why an attorney may decline a case, we list below some things that may explain why an attorney will not take the case.
1. How the Accident Occurred
One of the earliest considerations by a personal injury attorney is how the accident happened. To hold someone financially accountable, they had to breach a legal duty. Or, in layman’s terms, someone had to do something wrong that caused the injury. This is called being “liable.”
If an attorney does not feel they can hold a defendant legally responsible, they will decline your case.
It is not enough that the injury happened on-premises or that the injuries are severe. The law requires liability to get damages.
An example would be that you were supposed to yield the right-of-way in a car accident, but the other driver impacted your vehicle. Who was at fault for an accident is a question the judge or jury must answer in Texas. Or, you were injured in a construction accident, and your employer bears responsibility but carries worker’s comp.
If the attorney feels the odds of winning the case are not great, they may pass on your case unless the damages are significant. If you pulled out onto the highway and were struck by a semi, failing to yield may place most of the blame on you.
To have a viable personal injury claim in Texas, the injured person’s lawyer must be able to prove that the other party was at fault. And that their client’s fault was less than 51%. This consideration is the first part of the business decision each contingent fee lawyer must make.
Texas is a Comparative Negligence State
Meaning that your part in any accident is measured against everyone else. Texas law says you take nothing if a jury finds your fault to be fifty-one percent or more. If your fault is less than 51%, your damages are reduced by that percentage.
If you may have been partly at fault, an attorney may decline your case because the monetary award will be reduced or eliminated depending on the extent of your fault.
Governmental immunity in Texas is another reason why attorneys may not accept personal injury claims against school districts or governmental entities. Because the political leaders have chosen to give immunity to schools in some instances, most lawyers can’t help with an injury at a public school in Texas.
In short, a personal injury attorney will analyze whether legal responsibility can be established and gauge the likelihood of success. An accident lawyer will also judge the time required against the expected fee to see if taking the case makes economic sense for the law firm.
2. The Injury is Not Serious Enough
Attorneys always hear, “I could have been killed,” which is not an element of legal damages submitted to the jury in Texas. This means that what might have happened is not something that will bring damages to your case. The case will be declined if the damages do not justify the attorney’s time and expenses.
The more experienced and successful the attorney, the higher the estimated compensation threshold.
Another saying that is a red flag to an attorney is, “it’s a matter of principle.” Generally, that claim does not put butter on the bread for the contingent fee lawyer. In short, a personal injury lawyer will evaluate the case and estimate the damages. If the estimated money coming out of the case is not high enough, a pass on taking the case is likely.
Personal injury lawyers in Houston are looking for damages to gauge the expected recovery for handling a case—speculative damages, whether financial or injury or matters of principle, do not help you obtain an attorney on a contingent fee basis. Hard damages do.
In personal injury cases, how badly you are hurt is an important factor in a case (second only to liability). If your injuries are minor, an attorney may pass on your case because the expected monetary compensation will likewise be minimal.
The experienced attorney will always estimate the time required to handle the case. If the return from the contingency fee is less than the lawyer’s hourly rates, the case will be declined.
The cost of developing the testimony to prove your injuries must be factored into the attorney’s analysis. Some cases, such as a defective product claim, are extremely expensive to the attorney. Those cases will require extensive injuries to justify the expenditure.
If the cost of the expected depositions and case requirements exceeds the expected return on the case and the risk factor, an attorney will likely not accept the case as a business decision.
3. You Have Talked to or Retained Other Lawyers
We believe it is essential for personal injury victims to select the right attorney for their case.
Choosing an attorney includes ensuring that the attorney has expertise in the subject area of the accident and that they are also a good personal fit.
Getting the best attorney for your case should be a priority for everyone. But, attorneys are wary of accident victims who lawyer shop. Finding a lawyer with car accident expertise is vital if you are injured in a car accident. Likewise, if you were in an accident with a commercial vehicle finding a truck accident lawyer is the way to go.
Nevertheless, many cases are turned down because the potential client appears to be lawyer-shopping personal injury lawyers based on their feedback on the case’s value.
It is almost impossible for an attorney to give a client an accurate case value before the attorney knows all the facts, including the insurance coverage. If an attorney feels you are simply looking for the most positive feedback on how great your case is, or worse, you are telling the lawyer how great your case is or how much it is worth, the odds of the attorney helping you are slim.
Victims should be careful of attorneys valuing a claim after the first consultation. This is especially true with catastrophic injuries, as insurance policy limits can limit the compensation. Talking with the best catastrophic injury lawyer near you is a good start.
An experienced personal injury lawyer knows that clients with unrealistic expectations are rarely satisfied.
If the law firm you are considering suspects your expectations are unrealistic, they will likely decline the case. If your assessment of the value of your claim is excessive or other expectations are out of line, smart lawyers will pass on the case.
The reasoning is that it is better to pick another client than do a great job for one only to disappoint that client.
You Hired a Lawyer Who Dropped You
Further, if you have been “released” or “dropped” from another law firm, the attorney will think twice about the case from either liability or unreasonable expectations. Worse, if the other lawyer who withdrew had issues with you or the case, does a new lawyer want that headache?
If a reputable personal injury lawyer drops your case, that is a red flag to other lawyers.
If your case were unacceptable for one lawyer, a second one would think twice before accepting the case (particularly if you selected an experienced attorney the first time). That is not to say that you can’t find another attorney. But when a lawyer hears, “a personal injury lawyer dropped my case,” the claims will face extra scrutiny from a new lawyer.
If you fired your lawyer, you might have difficulty finding a new attorney for the reasons above, and the new attorney may need to also fight with your first attorney. Increasing the work to resolve the case while potentially reducing their share of the fee.
4. The Economic Reality of Pursuing the Case
Personal injury attorneys take cases on a contingency fee basis. Because contingent fees are paid only if you win, the lawyer must make a business judgment on each case they agree to handle. For example, if the lawyer believes the case will take 50 hours of handling, and their rate is $450 per hour, their portion of the recovered money must exceed $22,500 for this to be a break-even proposition.
Add in the out-of-pocket expenses at risk and the risks of an adverse verdict, and their break-even number goes even higher. Some types of personal injury cases in Texas can take a long time to resolve.
Business Judgment of the Lawyer on the Case
Factored into that business judgment is the amount of time the attorney expects to spend on the case, the cost out of pocket for the attorney to develop the case, and the expected fee.
The attorney must consider whether the time, effort, and money are “worth it” for the attorney to handle. The more experienced and successful the attorney, the higher that number becomes.
In perspective, defense attorneys are paid an hourly rate for each minute they spend on a matter. The client must also pay all the case expenses upfront, and the defense attorney gets paid whether they win or lose the case. Personal injury attorneys must consider the risk, costs, and estimated attorney and staff time required for the case.
The Costs of Developing Your Case
When the law firm accepts a contingency fee case, it must consider its out-of-pocket costs to advance the case. This is money that the firm advances out of its pocket and may lose if they do not win the case.
There are some cases where the case expenses and the legal hoops they must navigate may deter even the most successful personal injury attorneys.
Examples would be a Texas medical malpractice claim and a product liability case. Because of the protections in the law for medical providers, most Texas families have difficulty finding an experienced lawyer in Texas for a lawsuit against a medical provider or hospital. For product liability cases, due to the burden of proof requirements, the damages must be extreme to justify the costs, expenses, and risks of a case.
Huge Damages and Little Insurance
Another problematic situation is when the personal injury victim has substantial injuries and a large hospital lien for the treatment. Not having enough money to pay compensation is a problem in many personal injury claims.
This can come into play when the available insurance to cover the damages is insufficient, and the hospital would receive the first money out of a case.
In short, attorneys who handle contingency fee personal injury cases must be business people and accept or decline cases after considering how much time and money they must expend to move the case forward balanced against the fee they expect to receive should they be successful and the risks in the case.
By taking a case on contingency, an attorney is betting their expertise and time and paying the case expenses to be adequately paid. If the attorney feels it is not a good fit with the client or that they are unlikely to be reasonably paid for the effort and exposure, they are unlikely to accept the case.
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